Upon his most welcome return to Design Miami after more than a decade hiatus, we checked in on the inimitable design legend
He’s back! Yay! Design Miami/ 2021 opens next week in Miami Beach, and among the 40+ exhibitors you’ll find Tom Dixon Studio x Design Research Studio, the highly successful dual brands of the much-loved English designer Tom Dixon. More than a decade has passed since the legend last participated in the fair, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about this happy reunion.
Unconventional, independent, and tenacious, Dixon has traversed a path like no other since his career began in the 1980s—from welding furniture from scrap steel while playing bass in an indie band, to creative-directing major brands like Habitat and Artek, to building his eponymous furniture and lighting company with hubs in London, Milan, Hong Kong, London, New York, Tokyo, and Hangzhou. As if that weren’t enough, his Design Research Studio consultancy creates extraordinary activations and interiors around the world.
With so much going on, we felt lucky to catch a few moments of Dixon’s time to find out what we can expect to see from him at Design Miami and what’s on his mind in the lead up.
What are you showing at Design Miami this year?
The main collection will be MASS, a series of monumental furniture produced in substantial and highly polished rectangular brass tubes. The tube construction mimics basic furniture archetypes in a style that could be described as expressive minimalism.
What first sparked your interest in design?
I always liked making things from a young age. Bread or Meccano, music or drawings, I have always been interested in process, materials, and the act of transforming STUFF into THINGS.
Where are you right now, and what’s the most interesting object in the room?
I am hanging about in my lockdown studio, which is a huge industrial greenhouse complex on the coast in the south of England. The most interesting thing is a huge philodendron tropical plant. It was being cut out of a building as it had grown too big, and I managed to grab a couple of branches, repot them, and save them from their fate. They are now flourishing and slightly out of control.
If you could visit any designer (historic or contemporary) in their studio, who would you choose and why?
Well… where do I start? I was lucky to visit the studios of Sottsass, Mari, Castiglioni, Magistretti, Sori Yanagi all before they died, and it was truly inspirational. But I would have loved to visit Noguchi in his Japanese studio. Or else his friend Buckminster Fuller, who I love also because he was not strictly a designer but also an engineer, entrepreneur, and visionary futurist.
If you were new to collecting design, where would you start?
I would probably start with visiting the offsite shows at Milan or ICFF, or the college shows at Eindhoven and the Royal College of Art to spot talent early. I would find a historical movement that I love like Constructivism or Brutalism and research secondary figures that haven’t been celebrated enough.
Notable memory from Design Miami:
We showed one year just as there was a financial crash, and nobody bought anything. So we threw the heavy steel chairs into the sea (at Craig Robbins house) and fished them out a couple of years later encrusted with barnacles and seaweed and showed them again!
What’s inspiring you at this moment?
The outdoors, the pandemic, solitude.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
Tom Sachs told me to get myself a space just for me to make a mess—no assistants, no business motivation, just mess. He was right.