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.
by Andrew Morrison with photos by Luis Valdizon | The iconic Luke’s Drug Mart in Calgary is set to open its pop-up Lukes General Store within the always curious confines of Chinatown’s charming Space Lab (126 E Pender St) tomorrow. The pop-up comes complete with a Stumptown Coffee and products from Malin + Goetz, Baxter of California, Juniper Ridge, Mast Brothers, and more. It’s essentially a miniature version of what Luke’s does in Calgary, minus all the drugs.
And honestly, they couldn’t have chosen a better spot for it than Space Lab. Filled with character vintage items that are often as odd as they are rare and beautiful, it’s one of our favourite shops in town. Add the smell of coffee and the taste of chocolate to it and it starts to border on the irresistible.
For the grand opening, which opens to the public at 8pm and runs until 11pm tomorrow, Johnny De Courcy and The Death Rangers will be playing a live set and Trevor Risk (Ice Cream Social/Come Friday) will be on hand to spin vinyl indie pop until he’s told to stop. Attendees can also expect beer from 33 Acres to balance out the free flow of quality coffee pulled by expert baristas. Good times and weird finds!
Dig this restoration job of a photo taken of Coal Harbour in 1895 by r/vancouver user stumo, who writes:
“In the foreground, several residential streets can be seen. Note that the streets are dirt with ditches at the side, and the sidewalks are wooden. In the middle of the photo, several houses are under construction. The railway tracks that ran along Vancouver’s waterfront are just barely visible on the right (east).
Across the water on the left (west) is Deadman’s Island, still heavily timbered at this point. There is a single building on the left (west) side of the island. This may well be the smallpox hospital that opened in 1895.
Behind that is what is now Stanley Park. The rightmost (eastern) portion had been logged in 1886, and there’s a small golf course just on the other side of Deadman’s Island (not visible). The buildings along the shorefront on the right are various shanties and cabins, possibly the remnants of the lumber camp located on that spot earlier. These were removed over the next few years.
And beyond that is the sparsely-populated North Shore. I believe that smoke plume is from a sawmill, and that there are log booms visible as well.”
In a follow-up email, he explains how he did it:
“I restored and coloured the image using the open source program GIMP on Windows. All told, it probably took 20 to 30 hours or so, but that’s been spread over a year or two. The colour choices for the buildings were based partly on the darkness of the building in the B&W (IE dark is usually red or brown), but I also looked at a few restored Vancouver heritage buildings to get an idea how they were painted. But as I said, the colour choices are completely imaginative, as are the restored portions (like the bottom left corner of the plate, which had broken off). I’m not completely certain where this is. I’m sure that I’m on the right east-west coordinates, and I think that the intersection is what is now Hastings and Thurlow, but I’m not certain at all. The text accompanying the image at the Vancouver Archives said that it had been taken at Burrard and Dunsmuir, and that fits with my Google Earth recreation to see if the North Shore mountains lined up, but I’m still not 100% sure of it.”
Either way, it’s a superb job. Click the picture above to enlarge it, and click here for the B&W original.
UPDATE: stumo just sent over this update, and the sightline image below: “The photo was almost certainly taken from the first Hotel Vancouver on Granville Street, and the intersection visible is Burrard and Eveleigh. The closest modern intersection is Dunsmuir and Burrard, as Eveleigh no longer connects to Burrard due to the Bentall Centre.”
Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was ticketed by the RCMP last night for jaywalking in Burquitlam. According to reports, he’s ”shocked” and “embarrassed” by the $109 ticket, which he instinctively (but incorrectly) called “a waste of taxpayer’s money”. Lucky for him our own No. 5 Orange strip club is offering jaywalking ticket validation this week (as evidenced by the sign pictured above), though he probably gets enough jaywalking ticket validation to eat at home…
Is there a better way to start the year than jumping into the icy cold waters of English Bay with hundreds of inappropriately dressed strangers? Probably, but it’s likely not as uproariously fun. This year, we saw the likes of Batman, Thor, a pair of gorgeous newlyweds, Wonder Woman, fundoshi-wearing Hapamen, scores of “It’s so cold and I’m still so hammered, bro” brrr-os, and even a naked dude with just a tiny elephant trunk covering his confused penis (but not his balls) goes for a refreshing, celebratory dip. Because hello 2014.
It seems that just before before Christmas, Cadillac Fairview, the owner of Pacific Centre Mall, saw fit to let go 150 cleaning workers who lost their jobs just before Christmas. They were earning around $12 an hour with paid medical benefits. Meanwhile, the new contractors pay as little as $10.50 an hour, with few benefits (a living wage in Vancouver is $19.92 an hour, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives). So on December 21st, Unifor and Santa Claus brought the out-o-work cleaners to the mall’s food court for a flash mob performance of Christmas carols to bring attention to what they’ve had to go through at Christmas.
“We’re providing a bit of entertainment for the shoppers the last weekend before Christmas — but in a way that lets them know that for these workers, Christmas this year will be very difficult,” said Gavin McGarrigle, British Columbia Area Director for Unifor. “Cadillac Fairview says it has nothing to do with setting wage rates, even though up to 90 per cent of the value of any cleaning contract is labour,” McGarrigle said. “It’s the company’s decision to change contractors that is driving down wages and cost these cleaners their jobs.”
If you’d like to send messages of suppert to the cleaners, email fairnessforcleaners [at] unifor.org.
Last week we gave notice that Gastown’s Meat & Bread would be serving turducken sandwiches today and tomorrow. Just to be clear, that’s chicken stuffed in duck and then stuffed in turkey. It’s a culinary rarity, a carnivorous gourmand’s delight that’s seldom seen beyond the cloistered realm of the home kitchen and, very occasionally, artisan butcher shops. We could measure the incredible response that the post received in dry web statistics, but the real proof is in the line-up today, as evidenced in the Instagram shot above. We’re bummed that we missed out. See you in line tomorrow?
Our friends at MKDIR have just released a new video that romances Gastown’s Pidgin restaurant. It was clearly shot in summer (that light doesn’t lie), so expect to feel a slight tingling of longing when you press play.
The collaboration began last spring when Road 13 owners Pam and Mick Luckhurst brought winemaker J-M Bouchard to the eatery with dozens of tank and barrel samples of different grape varieties and aging methods. Together with Wildebeest co-owner James Iranzad, Wine Director Brooke Delves, and Sommelier Justin Everett, they sat down for a comprehensive tasting and blending session that would result in one light red (Gamay, Pinot Noir) and one Alsatian-inspired white (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer); both blended to complement chef Wesley Young’s cuisine.
Only 50 cases each of Wildebeest Red and Wildebeest White have been produced. For those that wish to take the Wildebeest experience home with them, a limited number of bottles will also be available at select private stores in the new year.
The good folks at Warren Lane Pictures documented the process in the video above.
Local dreamers Stewart Burgess and Julien Thomas have launched a campaign to have a public “parklet” inserted into the two parking spaces in front of the lovely Prado Cafe at 1938 Commercial Drive. The plan sees artist Jordan Bent creating an art piece for the parklet’s planter boxes (to be laser etched by Derek Gaw of the Laser Cutter Cafe) with the steel fabrication done by BCIT Ironwork students. The project has received $5000 in funding from Prado’s owner (yay, Sammy Piccolo!), $1000 from the Awesome Foundation, and a Parks Board Grant. They’re currently looking to raise the difference, some $3,500, via Kickstarter. If everything comes together like gravy, we can expect to see it open to the public this March.
by Robyn Yager | This week marks the opening of the long awaited Archive, the new retail adjunct to Revolver Coffee in Gastown. The Giannakos family hosted a party over the weekend, complete with copious amounts of meat, cheese, and Brassneck beer.
Archive will provide additional space for Revolver customers to sit and enjoy their coffees and give them the opportunity to learn and talk about coffee and coffee merchandise. With graphic identity by Post Projects and design by Craig Stanghetta and artist Ricky Alvarez, the expansion doubles the cafe’s capacity. Unlike Revolver, there are no four person booths in Archive. A long communal table runs the centre of the space instead, with a standing bar on the south side and individual seating in the window. Coffee merchandise and accessories are displayed on the cabinets opposite the standing bar, where one can browse various coffee brew methods, equipment, accessories, and resource books.
With the room painted almost entirely in black with the exception of the light wood cabinets, table, and bar, Archive is a completely different environment from Revolver; albeit still comfortable in its own right. The art installation that hangs above the standing bar sees the Dewey Decimal system broken up into ten framed art pieces; a testament to organization, systems, and an overall charming way to display the library classification system used in libraries around the world. Interestingly, it seems to run parallel to the way in which Revolver and its counterpart functions – in efficiency, organization, and elegance. A second art piece hangs on the north wall stating “Every one of us has all we need” in white acrylic letters with brown paper scored to give the piece texture.
Archive is open six days a week, Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm.
by Robyn Yager | The popular Main Street consignment store Front & Company is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year by featuring four of their favourite displays in one collaborative window exhibit. Ranging from 1997 – 2008, the exhibit features a collection of white dresses made from paper, a glass waterfall, a lead submarine, paper cakes and delicacies of every size, all elaborate and stunning in thir detail. Well known for their beautiful and creative displays, Front & Company’s work rivals that of big timers like Holt Renfrew and The Bay.
Diana Li opened the store in 1993, starting out as a small vintage shop with accoutrements traditionally found in thrift shops. The next 20 years has see it grow into much more than Li could have ever dreamed, expanding into a consignment shop selling gently used clothes in addition to samples, new clothing, accessories, shoes, and all manner of eclectic gifts. A smaller novelty shop can be found next door that specializes in home wares, gifts, cards, baby items, and jewelry. So raise a glass with congratulations to Front & Company! Here’s to many more years as one of Vancouver’s best shops!
Our friends over at Warren Lane Pictures just sent us the finale episode of their Return To The Restaurant Rumble documentary series for Aprons For Gloves, the boxing tourney that pit Vancouver restaurant staffers against one another for a fantastic cause this past summer. They’ve done a wonderful job. The scene with Chris Dzaka and his parents made us choke the hell up, and Chopper had us blubbering like crazy. And with the recent fire at the East Side Boxing Club, the tears didn’t stop there. Sigh. It’s quite the emotional ride. You can donate to the fire fund here and watch the previous three episodes there.