Both as a self-taught designer-maker in early 1980s London and as head of design at the Habitat retail chain and now Artek, the Finnish furniture manufacturer, TOM DIXON (1959-) has combined the creative with the commercial throughout his career.
Tom Dixon fell into design by accident when he found himself with “time on his hands” while recovering from a motorcycle accident. As an art school drop-out with no technical training, he taught himself how to become a designer-maker in 1983 after discovering welding when trying to repair his motorbike.
Born in Sfax, Tunisia in 1959, Dixon was brought to England as a toddler and grew up in London. After dropping out of art school in 1980, he played bass guitar in the band Funkapolitan and organised warehouse parties, before teaching himself welding.
Dixon’s D-I-Y approach to design matched the post-punk mood of the early 1980s. Having made his name – but little money – by making and selling limited editions of his welded furniture - chairs such as the S Chair and Pylon Chair - he tried his hand at retailing, by opening a shop, Space, to sell his products, then manufacturing through the company Eurolounge which produced his work and that of other designers, like Michael Young.
Dixon continued his collaborations with other designers in his “first proper job” as head of design at Habitat, where he has reissued archive designs by Verner Panton, Ettore Sottsass and Robin Day as well as commissioning new pieces from Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Ineke Hans and Marc Newson. He continues to initiate new projects as an independent designer and as creative director of Artek, the Finnish furniture manufacturer founded by the architect Alvar Aalto in the 1930s. “A kind friend once described me as a ‘vertebrate designer’,” Dixon said. “That means that I design from the bones outwards and am not really interested in surface.”