”I’ve discovered the countryside and the joy of making things myself again”
We speak to Tom Dixon on Scandinavian design, lockdown lifestyle changes and his new CLOUD collection that debuts at Nordiska Kompaniet today.
11 Feb 2021

Starting today at 08.00 CET, influential British designer Tom Dixon will host a design tour through the Swedish capital with the intention of launching his brand new CLOUD collection. The part-digital, part-virtual, part-real life tour halts at ten different depots, with features from meteorologist, florists, whiskey manufactures and DJ:s. Mister Dixon himself has evaded the COVID-19 restrictions and travel bans by appearing as a hologram at the different stops. The pieces will be showcased for anyone to see at department store Nordiska Kompaniet’s iconic display windows from today, until 28 February.

The bulging vases, plates and bowls are made out of bashed and polished aluminium and are created by artisans in Rajasthan in Northern India. Their shape and demeanour have gathered both name and inspiration from, you guessed it, actual clouds. According to Tom Dixon himself, the fact that the collection was birthed in a covid-state-of-mind was more of a gift rather than a curse.

Has the pandemic affected your designs at all?

— During the lockdown I’ve been fortunate enough to have a greenhouse on the south coast, so I’ve spent most of my lockdown having more space, and more time, and more light, than I’ve had for many years. I’ve discovered the countryside and discovered the joy of making things myself again. There’s been something really nice about getting back to not having a business motive. Before the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time like everybody else, just rushing around the world, looking at stuff, trying to sell stuff or make stuff.

— What I think that we will see coming up soon is the output from that time spent not doing things from a commercial perspective again.

Where do you find the most beautiful clouds in the world?

— I’ve still got a lot of time for a British cloud, even last night just before the snow came — there were these clouds, quite heavy with the light coming through, and the sunset was something quite remarkable. But clouds can be quite beautiful all over the world, they can lift you in the most banal places as well because they are so shifting.

”What also interests me about Scandinavia, is that you’ve managed to maintain a singular aesthetic which is purely yours.”

You’ve hired northern-Indian craftsmen for this collection. How did that come about?

— I was doing a project with the Royal College and the British Council in Jaipur which was intended to save craft skills. These are people that specialize mainly in waterpots, those big Indian vessels that they have in villages over there. And I was always fascinated by the hammering of sheet metal. The dimension is interesting because there’s a lot of skills there that has broadly vanished from the west altogether.

Do you ever get inspiration from Scandinavian aesthetics?

— The way design really is intrinsic in history, particularly through Alvar Aalto, was fascinating to me when I first came to Scandivia, decades ago. Government buildings and opera houses were all designed and celebrated as being good designs — hospitals, prisons, and so on. In the UK it’s much more fragmented in that way. I think that our design excellence happened a bit more during the industrial revolution, and there has not been a domestic design culture here at all.

— What also interests me about Scandinavia, is that you’ve managed to maintain a singular aesthetic which is purely yours. I love the fact that there are still national characteristics in food, in design and in furnishing. it’s the reason why you travel, isn’t it? 

Speaking of Scandinavian brands, I know you’re friends with the Teenage Engineering people. Have you ever looked into designing tech pieces in any way?

— Not enough. I’m looking forward to my jump into consumer electronics. There has been quite a lot of discussions with people like that recently. So yeah, I’d love to do more. What’s interesting about Teenage Engineering is that, although they can be seen as a synthesizer company, a music company or an electronics company, they’re actually a design company. What they’re doing is simplifying a super-complex series of possibilities to something that is actually useful, through design.

 Do you feel the most pride as a designer when you see your design in museums, or when you stumble upon them in homes or restaurants?

— I think it’s more inspirational, actually, to drive down a street and see a lamp through somebody’s window where you weren’t really expecting it. I’ve walked into a discotheque in Bali and seen versions of my lamps redone in rattan. I used to hate it and thought “Ugh, there’s so many people copying this stuff” but it’s kind of nice, going into the general-looking field of things and seeing them being adapted. Because I’m always interested in the next thing and not the thing that’s in the museum.