Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawing

Подпись: ® The Fresh Fat Chair is made by arranging hot strands of extruded Provista PETG co-polyester over a mold and then allowing it to cool into a web of more than 40 pounds (18 kg) of plastic. Credit: Ashley Cameron then someone else does the model and it gets sent to a manu­facturing facility. This project was multidimensional.”

The Fresh Fat Chair—and the table and bowls—collapse all these steps into a single, spontaneous piece of design performance art. Dixon subverts the industrial process of plastic extrusion by tak­ing the hot polymer strands as they come out of the machine and draping and weaving them over a rough mold where they cool into the shape of furniture. The Provista PETG co-polyster plastic solidifies into a glistening structure that looks as delicate as a glass house but is actually solid and stable. “They’re all individ­ual,” says Dixon. “The makeup, or pattern, is variable according to how it comes out and according to the people who are making it. Everyone has different handwriting.”

The Fresh Fat line of furniture is the result of a competition to de­sign a window for the upscale department store, Selfridges. Dixon says, “I actually made a small factory, which included a plastic ex­trusion machine that threw out hot, plastic spaghetti. There was an activity where designers were invited to come along and make unplanned objects from this stream of plastic. It was fascinating to see how people react to making an object. This project brings together craft and design. I’ve always been interested in craft and making things myself by hand or just for fun. I think this is absent from most people’s lives. Designers are facing the computer and not the actual object.” For Dixon, the immediacy of this process is a central part of its allure. “I love machinery and industrial processes but also making things by hand. There’s nothing nicer than having an idea and completing it in a day. I think in modern man, that’s impossible to achieve these days. Most people are in­volved in only a part of the process. There’s something really nice about seeing the completion of an object.”

Dixon also sees this way of manufacturing as a portent of things to come. “There’s a logic to this,” he explains. “My view is that shops today are where people come to buy goods. The IKEA model has been the future, where customers are forced to go to a warehouse. The next logical step is that they go to the manu­facturing floor where they actually participate in the creation of the goods.” For Dixon, creating products in the way he makes the Fresh Fat furniture has distinct benefits for retailers and con­sumers. “I moved the factory into the retail store. The dream sce­nario for retailers is to hold absolutely no stock and just produce the item when the customer pays for it. You don’t over – or under­stock, but are just making to order. One day, you’ll be able to react only to what the customer wants instead of what you think the customer wants. This is a reflection on the future of shopping, and the ideal situation for the retailer.”

Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawing

Qas the hot strands of plastic material come out of the extrusion machine, they are draped and shaped over a mold to create the form of the chair. Credit: Gideon Hart

 

Q Each Fresh Fat object is made individually by hand, so the patterns created express the unique “handwriting” of the person manipulating the plastic. Credit: Gideon Hart

 

Q Tom Dixon takes the hot plastic direct from the extruder and spreads it out over a very simple mold that is a rough inverse of the chaise lounge he is creating.

Credit: Gideon Hart

 

Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawingGone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawing

Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawing

Left: The Fresh Fat Chairs come in a more upright dining version, and a more reclined easy chair. Dixon says the process of collapsing creation and manufacturing into one step reflects the future of retail. Credit: Gideon Hart

 

After the initial success at Selfridges, Dixon has taken his extru­sion machine on the road and set up his unique brand of design – theater at a Renaissance church and the Victoria and Albert museum. “It’s taught me a lot about making things and the added value of objects,” he says. “It’s taught me something about the psychology of design. I will be using more industrial machines and diverting machines in my work. I think the future of design in general is to involve the customer more in the process.”

For his Fresh Fat line of furniture, he experimented with a few shapes before settling on two chairs, a table, and bowls in two sizes. “It’s been surprisingly successful considering it’s an experi­ment,” he notes. “People are surprised you can sit on them. At first they treat them very gingerly. They think the chair is made of glass because they’re not used to seeing plastic used in this way. They treat them with respect, but this is something incredibly tough and hard to break.”

Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawingПодпись:Which is yet another somewhat subversive pleasure for Dixon about this chair. “There’s something special about being able to use plastic,” he says. “As a young designer, you don’t really ever get the chance to make something in plastic because of the high tooling costs. And then there’s the issue of, is plastic a throw away product or not? We’re using forty to fifty pounds of plastic in the chair, which means you can’t throw it away. You’re in a po­sition where you’ve got this thing that’s almost as heavy as you can carry, so it’s no longer disposable; it’s a precious item. The

50 DESIGN SECRETS: FURNITURE

truth is that plastic is a petrochemical, it is a precious material, and it should be treated that way,” Dixon points out. “People normally see it as a disposable material. I just try to generate larger shapes, and use the plastic in a very permanent way.”

Because the chairs are made one-by-one, Dixon can scale produc­tion up or down as needed. “This product is somewhere between industry and craft,” he notes. “It’s not a supremely practical chair. It’s very heavy. It’s not that we’re going to sell hundreds of thou­sands of them.” But after all, these chairs are about the quality of the process more than the end product. The Fresh Fat has even brought new pleasures to the people on the manufacturing floor at the extrusion factory. “They look on this as slightly mad in the be­ginning, and then they start enjoying the process a bit more,” Dixon
says. “We’ve had some great times in the factories where we’re lib­erating them from what becomes a very dull job watching plastic tubing come off the line.”

Or perhaps it’s just Dixon’s enthusiasm that is contagious. When asked what was most surprising about the process, he says, “It was the joy of making things again. It was seeing people who hadn’t actually made something for ages, responding to the un­known. This machine is just throwing out hot plastic that you have to manipulate with gloves. You can’t really predict what you’ll make, you can only try to form it. It’s like having a first go on the pottery wheel; it’s a little out of control. There was something so nice about the freedom and the immediacy of it.”

Gone so much out of design,” says Tom Dixon. “Most designers are not involved in the manufacturing at all. They do something on the screen, S0ni60n6 else cleans up the drawing
© The Fresh Fat collection includes two chairs and a coffee table in clear plastic, and two different sized bowls in clear, vivid red, or black. Credit: Gideon Hart