LONDON – The three works by the celebrated designer Tom Dixon feature in the Made in Britain sale this April reflect the origins of his designs in the early 1980s. At this time Dixon was the bass player in Funkapolitan (look closely in the background at about 1:37 of this TV appearance), organising illegal parties with the band in Notting Hill in London. After signing with a record company they split up and Tom, following his passion for restoring vintage motorbikes, learned to weld in a friend’s garage. After he and fellow designer Mark Brazier-Jones had created a few sculptures, they decided to organize a proper show. In 1984 Tom bought a tonne of scrap and with Nick Jones (of Soho House fame) and Brazier-Jones, dropped it on the floor of a disused hairdresser’s on Kensington Church Street and welded it in the window until the exhibition opened; this was the first exhibition of Creative Salvage.

Tom Dixon. Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for PAD London Art + Design.

The manifesto, simply typed on a sheet of paper read: “We are convinced that the way ahead does not lie in expensive, anonymous mass produced hi-tech products, but in a more decorative, human approach to industrial and interior design. The key to Creative Salvage is […] the recycling of scrap to form stylish and functional artefacts for the home and office.”

Tom Dixon, Unique Planet Chair, 1986. Estimate £5,000–8,000.

Tom Dixon’s pieces were a reflection of the mid 1980s and the disaffected youth of the Thatcher era. His work emerged from the urban street subculture, inspired by the city of London, by music, by Duchamp’s ready-made and by Picasso’s objets trouvés. His pieces explore totem, fetish, emblem and symbol. They are diverse, either deconstructed sculptures, such as the Planet Chair, to be offered in our Made in Britain sale, or usable pieces of furniture such as the S-Chair, in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, which was also the first of his pieces to be produced by Cappellini.

Tom Dixon, Early S-Chair, 1988. Estimate £4,000–6,000.

From Funkapolitan to Creative Salvage to his current brand Tom Dixon, which sells in 65 countries with permanent set-ups in England, America and Hong Kong, it’s been a long journey since the ‘discos and motorbikes’ of the 1980s. But Tom Dixon’s commitment to innovation has remained a constant, and his work continues to surprise. “I hate labels,” he says, “they are limiting; people are always anxious to categorize me, but really it depends on what I am making that week; for example if it’s a comfortable chair then I am a designer but if it’s an uncomfortable piece of scrap then I’m an artist.”

Tom Dixon, Spiral Light, designed in 1988. Estimate £5,000–8,000.

The Made in Britain will be held on 1 April in London.