by Luis Valdizon | Tom Dixon inconspicuously entered the design world as an art school drop-out in the 1980′s while trying to repair his post-accident motorcycle with no technical training. His works have since been collected by some of the world’s most top museums, including the London’s V&A, New York’s MoMa and Paris’ Pompidou. Just two months ago he was the recipient of the prestigious Maison et Objet Designer of the Year award. I was fortunate enough to chat with Mr. Dixon on the last stop of his North American lecture tour. The evening, hosted by Gastown’s Inform Interiors on March 3rd, was lively and tightly packed by a handsome crowd of design enthusiasts. What follows is the transcript of my conversation with Dixon and a gallery of photos from the evening.
Can you share some details surrounding the night in Milan when you slept on a public park bench, which resulted in the inspiration for your first season with Adidas?
It was my first visit to the furniture fair. I thought that I would be able to find cheap accommodation quickly and that just wasn’t the case. I had no idea of the scale of the fair. Sleeping on the park bench is not something that I can recommend. It’s never comfortable and the temperatures drop substantially in Milan. It wasn’t a great experience. I’m just hoping not to do it again without my own sleeping bag.
I think it’s funny that these sort of things still happen in Milan. Only two years ago there was the Icelandic volcano eruption and everything stopped. There were about a couple hundred-thousand people stuck in Milan and very quickly they didn’t have hotel rooms or residences. For the benefit of my own interests, it could easily happen again, so it’s better to be prepared.
Your release with Adidas has an unmistakable editorial presence in its packaging and presentation. What inspired this?
There’s no point in me trying to be a fashion designer. It’s not what these collaborations are about. What it is for me is sort of entering a new universe without any preconception. There’s a lot of fashion that’s very poorly explained compared to product design. It’s not very normal to give a lot of information on the packaging. I wanted to bring my experience in other trades to the fashion business rather than become a fashion designer. The graphic sensibility and the information on the pack is really about trying to communicate a bit more in a way that they don’t in the fashion business. I get very frustrated, for instance, when I go to a museum or an art gallery and I see this amazing stuff and I want to know more and they don’t tell you. I try my best to reinvent those trades in a way that best suits me. The collection addresses my inability to pack efficiently; so, it’s a personal problem. I think I design with myself as the customer in mind rather than try to be like a proper designer that should be solving problems for other people. I’m a-typical like that.
You shared an idea of being “a proper modernist” for the first time through your collaboration with Adidas. What did you mean by that?
Modernist? Did I say that? I think the advantage with massive companies that are experts in what they do is that they have access to many more resources, and everybody wants to work with them. It’s an opportunity to work with futuristic textiles and new manufacturing techniques. They are cutting edges in their respective trades in ways you’d never get the chance to if you were doing it in a conventional manner.
Can you speak on the role of mathematics in your design?
I went to a very bad school in the 70s where there was a lot of experiments in education going on. There wasn’t a great deal of discipline. There was very bad teaching, and I found the whole thing very frustrating. However, there was one short-lived period that I had a really great math teacher and it opened up this tiny little window in this other magical world which I’ve never been able to access since. There’s something about the beauty in everything matching up and everything being logical that I’m still inclined to seek. There’s something quite nice about geometry because it is perfect. It appeals to everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Muslim and like Islamic art, or whether you’re a scientist interested in DNA, or if you’re a child building Lego; geometry is always there. It’s underpins everything that’s constantly around us. There’s something rather fascinating to a designer about that, and if you do use geometry in your work it you often find that it appeals to other people as well.
You blur the line between the artist and the entrepreneur with little very backlash in comparison to, say, Damien Hirst. Why do you think that is?
Because he’s much richer than I am (laughs). I’m sure the backlash will come when I get really, really rich. For me, what was kind of nice about commerce – and I think that too few designers are interested in the kind of trading aspect of it – is that it’s what has allowed me to become a designer. The fact that I could think of an idea and the people would spend their hard earned cash on buying it off me seems like such a perfect way to make a living, right? It’s like alchemy, where you can turn something into gold. It’s not like I’m a super successful business man. I really like the idea that I’ve created a platform to have an idea and if that idea is good enough people will just buy it. It’s a great way to live.
What is your first memory of an encounter with an object that influenced your design aesthetic today?
I went to an exhibition at the V&A museum in London and I saw a video of an Alvar Aalto stool being made. It was plywood…pressed plywood with the glue oozing out. And it was that that sort of sparked something. I’ve always been more interested in the manufacturing rather than the actual objects. I don’t think it was the design objects that appealed to me. What appealed to me was the manufacturing process, so when I found welding and I learned how to weld then suddenly this whole world where one could create structures very quickly and very easily became apparent to me.
Did you grow up in a design-minded home?
My parents were design aware but they weren’t designers. One was a teacher and one was a BBC newscaster so they weren’t really involved with anything to do with design. Now that I think about it – and even your last question – it was a pottery teacher at my old school. The school was not exactly academic. It was a big school, but it had the luck of having a proper ceramics department and also life drawing class, which is quite rare in secondary schools. The combination of enjoying drawing and actually getting my hands stuck into the wet clay and turning pots and such was really the moment the form-giving and the practical element of design really got me interested.
You’ve talked about having a “child-like enthusiasm” in your design philosophy. How has your relationship with your children or experience as a parent influenced you?
Funny enough, my kids are even more conservative than me. I spend a lot of time trying to get them to try to be more child-like and they constantly try to get me to be more conventional. They’d really like to have a trad [traditional] Dad. That’s what they want they want, a trad Dad, not a crazy Dad. I guess it’s kind of role reversal in a way.
Despite two accidents, one of which ended your music career, I hear that you still ride bikes?
Yes, it’s pretty much a daily occupation. We’ve had a rough winter so I put them away. I’m a bit more fair-weathered now. By the time I get back, the spring will have started and I’ll get moving again. Fact is that in London traffic is so bad and the city is so big that honestly it’s the only way of getting on in your day.
With your latest venture into scents and now again with music, your design seems to want to cover all the human senses…
The beauty of music is that it allows you to communicate with people without using language. Previously when I was doing it in the beginning; that was my job. You had to go around with eight sweaty boys in a transit band and tour the country, but now I can do it for fun. Music really is superior fun.
The GOODS from Wildebeest
Vancouver, BC | Wildebeest is looking to hire an experienced leader to manage weekend brunches. The ideal applicant has local experience in brunch/breakfast service and is available to begin this month. Hours would be 9am to 4pm with competitive compensation and a benefits plan. Please note that this is a part-time position, limited – for the time being – to weekend brunches only. It would be well suited to an individual looking for supplemental employment in a progressive, delicious restaurant. Please email resume and cover letter in confidence to eat [at] wildebeest.ca. Read more
by Shaun Layton | When most of the people I know are asked if they like bourbon and Champagne, I know that their answer is going to include a mention of the Seelbach cocktail. The legendary Kentucky hotel that gave the drink its name has a special place in my heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the historic beauty a few times in the past, one of which was with Scout’s editor and some fellow barkeeps four years ago (watch the evidenceo). My head nearly exploded when I first saw the selection of American rye and bourbon inside the main floor bar!
The hotel itself is a lot more famous than the cocktail. The Seelbach was opened in 1905 by brothers Otto and Louis Seelbach. They had a vision of old world European hotels, importing materials from all over; marbles from France, linens from Ireland, and rugs from Turkey. The hotel sits on Muhammad Ali Way, about a block from the museum honouring the pugilist hero from Louisville.
Many notables frequented the hotel, including American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. He adored the place, not to mention its bourbon and selection of cigars. His experiences and run-ins with prohibition bootleggers like Cincinnati mobster George Remus inspired characters and scenes for his masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby”.
The Seelbach has a network of hidden tunnels and rooms, and it was a major hangout for Al Capone and his crew during Prohibition. A cool story on the hotel’s website claims Capone had a large mirror from Chicago sent in so he could watch his back during high stakes poker games.
Until 1995, when a hotel manager rediscovered the recipe, The Seelbach cocktail was all but forgotten. It was created in 1917, and lost some time during Prohibition. The hotel was reluctant to release the recipe until bar legend Gary Regan convinced them to let him publish it in his book, New Classic Cocktails.
1 oz Bourbon (I use Buffalo Trace)
1/2 oz Triple Sec (I use Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao)
7 Dashes Angostura Bitters
7 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
5 oz Champagne
orange twist garnish
Method | Briefly chill the first four ingredients by stirring on ice, add to a chilled champagne flute, top with Champagne (or a dry sparkling wine), garnish with an orange twist.
The recipe doesn’t call for chilling the ingredients, but I think this is necessary for a cold and balanced cocktail. I really enjoy serving this as a “gateway” cocktail for drinkers who claim they don’t like bourbon. It works like a charm every time. Don’t be alarmed (as I first was) at the amount of bitters; somehow everything magically comes together. Although Peychaud’s can be hard to find, there is no substitute (Bitter Truth Creole is close), so get some while travelling in the US or at The Modern Bartender in Chinatown.
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s L’Abattoir restaurant is looking for a competent busser/expediter to work 3 to 5 shifts a week on a flexible schedule. The restaurant will prove to be a great training ground for those looking to move up in the trade. Minimum restaurant experience unnecessary, but desired. The lucky candidate will really only need to be intelligent with a great attitude, a driven sensibility, and a yen for learning from some of the best in town. Apply to paul [at] labattoir.ca. Learn more after the jump… Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Ayden Gallery (88 West Pender) will offer an escape from Vancouver’s dreary winter this Friday night with the opening reception of its newest show, Paradise. Inspired by a recent trip to Maui, curator Colin Moore (above) asked fellow artists Luis Lopa, Aaron Moran, Russell Leng, and Ben Knight for their abstract interpretations of paradise.
While each artist has developed their own signature style – Luis lives in The Philippines and incorporates that culture into his work, for example, while Ben specializes in hand-painted signage – the vibrant palettes and laid back atmosphere will channel palm-tree breezes and crashing surf. To ensure the feeling, Colin is transforming the gallery into a temporary slice of beachfront, complete with tropical plants, a hammock, and approximately 25 pounds of tropical Skittles (complimentary!).
The reception starts at 7pm and the show – a welcome hint of spring to get us through the last grips of winter - will be up through the end of March.
The GOODS from Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Vancouver, BC | Everyone knows that the Italians are a passionate people – legendary lovers, great artists, superb wine-makers and amazing cooks who insist on only the finest ingredients. They don’t do anything by half measures and throw their heart and soul into the fine art of living well.
Starting Monday, March 3rd, Nicli will give you the opportunity to wine and dine like a true passionale Italian. Nicli is combining its amore of fine vino and Neapolitan pizza in a special three-course prix fixe Pizza Appassionato Menu for Two priced at $45. Each menu includes a shared antipasti, two pizzas and dessert. The Pizza Appassionato Menu is available only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for either lunch or dinner and it will change weekly to reflect the seasonal availability of ingredients.
If that isn’t enough to set your heart a-flutter, each time a Pizza Appassionato Menu for Two is purchased, one name will be entered into a monthly draw to win a very special bottle of wine. Each month will showcase a different wine and the odds of winning depend solely on how many menus are sold during that month. March’s wine is a very special bottle – Flaccianello delle Pieve 2009 (100 per cent Sangiovese) which retails for $250. The only stipulation is that the wine must be enjoyed with your next meal at Nicli.
Monthly draws will take place at 4pm on the last Friday of the month and winners will be notified within 24 hours. Winners will also be posted to our Facebook page. Details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | L’Abattoir is hiring for its front of house team. The service position starts at 2-3 shifts per week without any “I can’t work on Sundays cause I watch football” restrictions. The successful applicant will have a minimum of 5 years fine dining experience with appropriate wine and food knowledge. Apply to paul [at] labattoir.ca. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Wildebeest
Vancouver, BC | On Wednesday, March 12th at 7:00pm Gastown’s Wildebeest partners with Waldorf Wine Group to present “Meditations on a Tamworth Pig”. Join WE Vancouver wine columnist Kurtis Kolt as he hosts this remarkable evening focusing on a tour of Old World, terroir-driven wines. The kitchen team looks forward to presenting the unique, heritage breed Tamworth pig by way of their adventurous nose-to-tail, contemporary country cooking. Tickets for this event are limited and on sale for $99 per person, including tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made by emailing eat [at] wildebeest.ca. Menu after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Inform Interiors
Vancouver, BC | Inform Interiors is proud to announce the internationally acclaimed British Designer Tom Dixon will be at the Inform Interiors showroom on March 3rd 2014. Mr. Dixon will be discussing his work in the field of industrial and interior design, answering questions, and signing copies of his newest book ‘Dixonary’ published by DAP. This event is open to the public.
Born in Tunisia, Tom Dixon moved to England in 1963. He dropped out of Chelsea School of Art to play bass in the band ‘Funkapolitan’ before teaching himself welding and going on to produce furniture. Tom rose to prominence in the mid 1980′s as “the talented untrained designer with a line in welded salvage furniture”. He set up ‘Space’ as a creative think tank and shop front for himself and other young designers.
In 2000, Tom’s work was recognized by the award of an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen. Paris. Tom’s works have been acquired by the world’s most famous museums and are now in permanent collections across the globe including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Museums of Modern Art New York and Tokyo and Centre Beaubourg (Pompidou). Since setting up his own eponymous design company in 2002, Tom’s work has become even more prominent. The Tom Dixon brand gave Tom a platform to produce iconic designs such as Mirror Ball, Copper Shade, Wingback chair and Beat light. The company now sells in 63 countries with permanent setups in England, America and Hong Kong.
The Tom Dixon brand includes an Interior Design arm, Design Research Studio, which has designed Shoreditch House for the Soho House Group and the Joseph flagship store on Old Bond street, Restaurant at The Royal Academy, London, Tazmania Ballroom, a pool bar in the Central district of Hong Kong, Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant, Barbecoa. Most recently Design Research Studio won their first ever hotel project, redesigning the iconic Thamesside Sea Containers House in collaboration with US hotel giant Morgan’s Hotel Group due for completion late 2013. Learn more after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Wildebeest
Vancouver, BC | Wildebeest’s Ashley Kurtz, Melanie Witt and Josh Blumenthal invite you to experience the aromas, tastes and textures of winter in the Pacific Northwest at their second culinary event. Offering up a surprise eight course dinner with beverage pairings, ‘Elementa’ explores a modern approach to cooking in our region. Following autumn’s Elementa (one) at The Acorn, Elementa (two) is on Monday, February 17th at Ask For Luigi (305 Alexander St. in Railtown). Guest can expect an 8-course surprise tasting menu with curated beverage pairings from Wildebeest sommelier Justin Everett.
Using exclusively local ingredients sourced from small producers and organic farms, the focus of this second dinner will be on shellfish, which peak in winter months. The food style is minimalist new-Cascadian, using modern and classic cooking techniques to highlight the provenance of the ingredients. The goal is for guests to taste and explore time and place in the evolution of the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Tickets are very limited (only 20 seats) and include dinner, beverages, tax and gratuity at $140. For more info contact through Facebook or send an email to elementa[at]email@example.com. Read more
The GOODS from Pidgin
Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s Pidgin restaurant celebrates the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by offering guests their very own taste of “Putin’s Pride”. Fashioned by barman Robyn Gray, Putin’s Pride is a limited edition cocktail made with Mount Gay Rum, Cointreau, pineapple syrup, and coconut water. It is then garnished with rainbow ice cubes and rimmed with political controversy. Read more
The GOODS from Milano Coffee
Vancouver, BC | Just in time for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver’s Milano Coffee is offering something for the aspiring gold medal winner in everyone. The Gold Medal Espresso Tasting Trio, a flight of three gold medal winning espressos, is available for $6.50 for at all three Milano Coffee locations. The Gold Medal selection, as awarded by the International Coffee Tasting association, includes La Futura, Lucky 13 and Nuovo – all three complex and masterfully blended espressos signature to Milano Coffee’s Master Roaster, Brian Turko.
First in line is La Futura, a luscious, aromatic and intricately complex blend of 10 premium Arabica varietals. With vanilla and floral notes, it’s a smooth combination which leaves a lingering toffee aftertaste. Next up is Lucky 13, an extremely technical mix of, you guessed it, 13 coffee bean varietals expertly blended to create a dynamic and delicious espresso fusion. Rounding out the gold medal line-up is Nuovo, a marriage of eight premium rain forest, small farm and shade grown varietals creating one to die for espresso blend.
This artfully crafted team of winners is among eight of the high quality espresso blends available on tap at any of the three Milano Coffee espresso lounge locations around Vancouver. Come on in and get a taste for gold this Olympic season with Milano Coffee and the Gold Medal Espresso Tasting Trio. Read more
The GOODS from Timbertrain Coffee Roasters
Vancouver, BC | We are excitedly counting down the days to our grand opening on Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Complimentary house coffee and baked goods will be provided for our customers from 10:30am to 12:30pm. We are thrilled to launch our cold brew – a new addition to our menu – at the same time. This day will give us the opportunity to personally introduce ourselves and carry casual, yet informative conversations about our café’s values and visions. We greatly look forward to seeing you soon! Read more