The China List: Tom Dixon, Industrial Design
Wallpaper* and China’s Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development Fund (CHSDF) present China By Design—a celebration of Chinese cultural heritage and the many global creatives who have been inspired by it. Explore the full list here.
Tom Dixon has always taken an iconoclastic approach to design. Initially known for his salvaged, welded furniture, Dixon went on to work as a creative director for the likes of Cappellini and Habitat in the 1990s onwards, and is now firmly part of the design establishment – a brand in his own right – without having lost his provocative edge. His own eponymous design studio was set up in 2002 and his pieces are on display in permanent museum collections around the world.
Headquartered in London’s King’s Cross, with a design studio, shop, showroom and restaurant, Dixon’s combines product design with architecture and interiors, courtesy of his Design Research Studio. His talent emerged in the 1980s, as a new strand of industrial design shunned the mainstream and focused on DIY culture, industrial crafts and recycled materials. Today the Tom Dixon brand produces its own lighting and furniture collections, as well as ‘extraordinary objects for everyday use’. The retail side of the business runs hubs in New York, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Milan and despite a growing collection of around 600 objects, Dixon is still preoccupied with the ways in which materials and manufacturing shape design, just as he did with his earliest works.
‘My fascination with China has been about how extraordinary the nation is at making things,’ Dixon explains. ‘My first encounters were 30 years ago in Shanghai’s industrial glass factories and Beijing’s lacquered furniture factories. However, most recently I visited the lantern makers of Chengdu and the LED producers of Shenzhen and saw a nation that can make and manufacture anything.’ His inspiration continues to come from a number of sources. ‘The things that I want to discover next are in a similar vein but more historic –like the Terracotta Army for instance – how on earth was that made?’§