Tom Dixon: Funk and Furniture

Over the last weekend at the ICA’s Off-Site ode to London’s subculture, we got a chance to hear designer Tom Dixon speak about his practice and among other things give us insight into his journey from a rocker to one of Britain’s most respected industrial designers.

Dixon was part of the band Funkapolitan in the 80’s and you can spot him strumming his bass guitar behind the lead singers, through most of this video.

But Dixon had to call it quits and give up the band after he injured himself in a motorcycle accident. And that’s when he began to use the welding skills he had picked up while repairing damaged motorcycles, to weld salvaged furniture.

It’s interesting to us to explore how successful creative people made their start, and what made them pick what they now do best. And Dixon is a good example of one such person who found his calling in a non conventional but serendipitous way.

As he writes on one of the very first few pages of Dixonary, his 2013 book that traces the inspiration behind some of his iconic pieces of furniture –

‘Honestly I can say that I was never a punk. By 1977 I had already learned to play a bit of bass guitar, but it was more disco than punk, so I was disqualified. It didn’t bother me because there was already a lot of spitting at gigs. But you couldn’t help but admire the attitude – and note that with a total disregard for the rules and regulations and with minimal musical aptitude the Pistols were able to top the charts while being banned from the radio. That rubbed off on a whole generation of British youth and gave us licence to create – without certificates, university courses or parental approval. The subsequent bands, clubs and then furniture that I got involved in were all informed by the lessons in independence that came from the music business.’

Dixonary is filled with many other Dixon gems. And at it’s very root shows that inspiration could come from anywhere, even if it is poodle inspired couch.

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And lastly one of Dixon’s statements that has remained with us several days later is when he said, ‘For me, if I can produce something people keep for a few generations, then it’s a big step towards sustainability.’

It’s not everyday that you hear designers say this, and it’s a good ethos to imbibe.

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