Q&A with Tom Dixon at IDS Vancouver

We sat down with world-renowned designer, Tom Dixon at his Fire Kitchen in collaboration with Caesarstone before the party opening night at IDS Vancouver and asked him a few questions about his collaborations, inspiration and his thoughts on the world design community.  Here's our transcribed interview.

Q: The Fire Kitchen is one of the four kitchens you had showcased in Milan earlier this year. if you can tell me where your inspiration came from.

A: Well typically it started out in a different place than where it ended up in terms of inspiration. Initially they asked me to do four different kitchen shows each in different territories, one in Las Vegas, one was in New York, and one I think in Israel and so I just started reflecting on cooking methods in those different places and so the departure of this specific one (the Fire Kitchen), was America and it's barbeque's. My vision of America is people standing around the barbeque and also no distinction between the cooking and the eating, more kind of like people milling around the hole process and that's what this is, a kitchen with no sides. It's not made to be up against the wall, it's designed for walking around.

The (four) kitchens would all have these different cooking methods and the idea was that
they then  would all end up in Milan and I came up with the idea that it would then be a restaurant where you, instead of sitting at one table for the rest of the night, which I get very bored at those kind of dinners that you go to, is that people would rotate every course into a different kitchen and be involved, engaged in the whole process.

And then the final inspiration came from when I started to separate out the four qualities of these kitchens and that's where I started thinking about the elements, making the four kitchens as distinct as possible, the cooking methods, colouring and just general aesthetic; the elements (earth, air, fire and water) just seemed like a good way to go. So basically what you're seeing here at IDSVancouver is one part of the kitchen (fire).

Q. On a totally different subject, we see that you're collaborating with Ikea next year on a seating piece, if you could elaborate or give us any details on that?

A. The collaboration is on something more like a bed, and this was my idea mainly because we would never be able to do beds, you know, it's a very specific typology of furniture. There's lots of sizing issues, etc., so we've never really touched beds, and it's really the only esssential piece of furniture you need really. So the idea behind this bed is to be able to hack and make it adaptable to different designs as you grow/change so my objective is to have this platform that I can add bits on and people can make it their own. Sort of like a hacking project is more the objective. It's got adaptability and that it's not disposable and you just take it through your life and adapt it as you change your living set up.

Q. Tom Dixon has 2 new locations (your first retail presence) in Los Angeles, CA and a larger-scale showroom on Howard Street in NYC’s SoHo neighbourhood. Any plans to bring a retail presence to Canada?

I don't think we're really that interested in entering into vast amounts of retail with shops everywhere, we're interested in having regional centers where which would be a bit bigger and where people can collaborate, a professional environment for architects and interior designers but also an amount of retail which makes it constantly refreshing and so I'm not sure about bringing retail to Canada, but I never say never, but I don't have any specific plan for retail in Canada yet.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future of design and community?

A. What has happened between when I started and with young designers or any designers now is that you have this kind of vocal community which is inter-linked and access to not only manufacturing methods but distribution which would've been virtually impossible for one to access you know, twenty years ago, right? So the community has become a sort of global community —that people share which can be quite a small and specific taste, which I think is great, so there's a really interesting new world developing, which is a series of people with like-minded interests which could be technology, ecology, whatever that can commune in a much bigger way because it's amplified by the power of digital. So if I wanted to launch a product 20 years ago I'd have to buy stamps, make an invitation, and that community would be tiny and very local physically/geographically, whereas now I can launch something online to the whole world at the same time, talking to someone on the other side of the world by live feed and it can cost literally nothing. So I think the community becomes very different and more abstract but there's definitely a much lower barrier to starting something for designers now.

I think also the reality for young designers, there's so many of them now, is there's a lot of work to be done for design really close to home as well. And I think design is thought that you have to go to a big company, and making things that way, but I think that there's every opportunity now for people to be more effective locally because they can also have much closer access to manufacturing whether that's physically close or because they can communicate more easily communicate with manufacturers/shippers more easily than before. And there's a more personal design emerging as just like in the music business, you don't need to go to a 48 track record studio and have a record company anymore you can just do it on your computer at home and distribute it online, same thing is happening with design, you digital methods of manufacturing now are transportable from the people to use on their laptops, and where machines that used to be really huge where you had to make tens of thousands of the same thing are now much more flexible where you can make small batches, and it's a really interesting world emerging.

Q. When we think of Tom Dixon, dark and moody comes to mind with all your blacks and coppers. And with that in mind, what are you gravitating towards in the future of your design with respect to surfaces, metals, etc., what is making you excited right now with respect to design?

A. Well you know we have been working a lot on slightly more complicated finishes which is the irridescent series (lamps, vessels, etc.,) but there's a more light industrial kind of element aesthetic that is coming through at the moment that we'll show in Cologne in October.

I'm not always moody, I can be luminous.

Thank you Tom!  Check out Tom Dixon at his Fire Kitchen in collaboration with Caesarstone at IDS Vancouver this weekend at the Trade and Convention Centre here in Vancouver.

Jan Halvarson

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