Designer Tom Dixon, armed with a tiny tupperware full of sunflower seeds and a suspiciously healthy looking container of green juice, sat down at ICFF 2010 to chat about his latest limited-edition endeavor, Industry, a collection of light fixtures assembled piece by piece on the show floor by his personal production cadre, the Flash Factory.
Comprised of a winsome crowd of young design acolytes dressed in white jumpsuits and Wellies, the Flash Factory is Dixon's ode to the "miniaturization of production." Studiously assembling panels of digitally etched brass, the Flash Factory workers create pieces from Dixon's Industry line in real time, creating ready-made pendants and candle holders that are then sold on the showroom floor for $150 and $50, respectively. "I think it's important for people to rediscover the art of the process," explains Dixon, who creates the perforated panels in England. "It's a return to the medieval world of trade, a time in which things were made with a specific need in mind. Plus, people love to watch things come together; there's something special about understanding how things fit."
What first triggered this concept of real-time production for the benefit of a live audience?
My impatience. I designed a chair for Magis, and it's taken five years to come to fruition. In regards to the Etch lamp, we've been able to sell 500 in six weeks. It's about taking matters into your own hands again, as a designer. Waiting for someone to notice you, and produce the piece you've conceived, is a miserable state of affairs. Furniture and object design is old-fashioned—you churn out more than you need, you expend the energy to ship the pieces across the world, and then most of your stock ends up gathering dust in some showroom somewhere.
How quickly can an Etch pendant come together?
Well, it's like anything that requires assembly—the more you do it, the faster you go. We've found that the first one generally takes about a half an hour. After one gets going, and one gets a sense of how it all works, the pieces can be produced in about ten minutes.
The Flash Factory had an impressive show at Salone Internazionale del Mobile, and ICFF seems to be off to a grand start for you as well. After all that planning and ado, you must be ready for a bit of a rest. Do you have any plans to take some time off?
Well, I don't really like holidays and I'm fortunate that my hobby is my work. I'm off to Indonesia for a few weeks soon, but I'll probably get bored after about the first or second day. I'll spend most of my time visiting factories, I imagine. I get restless—which is precisely why I like to make things.