Tom Dixon x 19 Chairs
19 Chairs built in 19 days delivered to 19 locations reworked by 19 creatives in the COVID-19 lockdown.
Tom Dixon has created 'FOIL' as part of 19 Chairs, a design project by brothers Tom and Will Butterfield who wanted to find new ways to be creative at home during the current climate.
Using just 27mm square sections of timber and wood screws, the brothers designed and built one chair every day for 19 days of COVID-19's lockdown.
They delivered the chairs to 19 leading designers across the globe (including Tom Dixon), and challenged them to reimagine, redesign or reinvent the chairs with an older person in mind.
Focusing on materiality and reflectivity, Tom put his own spin on the original chair design by using foil. FOIL is a testament to the flexibility and versatility of the industrial materials, including metals, used in many of his own products. He described his chair as a 'seat for Buzz Aldrin'.
We spoke to Tom and Will to find out more about their 19 Chairs collection.
Who are you?
Tom: 'We are two South London brothers, Tom (26) & Will (23) Butterfield, living at home under the same roof during lockdown.'
What do you do?
Tom: 'I am a Furniture and Product Designer who is always looking for unique and exciting ways to create better solutions without the fuss. I studied Art Foundation at Kingston School of Art, before moving to Newcastle where I studied Design for Industry at Northumbria University. Since graduating in 2017, I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark where I worked for two design studios, Normann Copenhagen and Johannes Torpe. Since returning to the UK in 2018, I have been working as a freelance designer for Tom Dixon.'
Will: 'Like Tom, I studied Art Foundation at Kingston School of Art, before staying on to study Graphic Design which I graduated from in the summer just gone. As a flexi-designer my projects often work in two halves, the big idea and the art direction, to communicate a clear and contextual narrative. I would describe myself increasingly as much an art director as I am a graphic designer.'
Describe yourself and your setup?
Tom: 'We’ve set up a mini studio in a small corner of our family home where we sit back to back. At the end of the garden we have a small workshop / garage where the manufacturing of the chairs took place. We have also taken over an entire room acting as our temporary “warehouse” where all the reworked chairs and artworks are being safely stored.'
What made you embark on this project?
Tom: 'From the damage caused by COVID-19, and as a freelance designer, it has been difficult to find work in these unique and uncertain times. However, with more time on my hands, it has marked as a great opportunity keep busy being creative. 19 Chairs is an itch that I’ve been meaning to scratch for some time now. At the back of our garden is our workshop, this is where I have been spending a lot of my time, thinking through making. When I spoke with Will about the idea of making chairs in lockdown he was certain that with some extra thought and a slight shake-up there was something bigger and better just around the corner waiting to happen.'
Will: 'Tom told me about his furniture building project, and I knew immediately that he was onto something. The creative industries response to COVID-19 is both admirable and vast. Even a global pandemic won’t stop us. Making 19 Chairs is a great achievement, but what is its purpose? In a collaboration of skills, Tom and I decided that 19 Chairs is a celebration. 2020 marks a year of change for everyone. It was for this very reason 19 Chairs was born. It’s time to work as one and celebrate creativity across the world, for us, in aid of two amazing causes, Age UK and Resourcing Racial Justice. '
What’s been your biggest surprise with the project?
Will: 'Connecting with so many artists and designers worldwide from all corners of the creative industry will always be an honour. We are forever learning each day especially when working with such inspirations to both of us. We have to work fast and flexibly, and luckily between the two of us, this is what we do so well. There is always an element of surprise when opening Instagram messages and emails from our collaborators, it makes it all worth while!'
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced with the project?
Will: 'Not to contradict myself, but working with 19 artists and designers is a mammoth challenge in itself! Don’t get me started on organising the shipment of the chairs overseas! I guess the main challenge is being just the two of us there’s always something to do and more. It’s kept us super busy, which we love, and we truly are learning a huge amount. '
If you were to do this again, what would you do differently?
Tom: '19 is a lot — but of course I wouldn’t change this! There are a few tweaks we would probably make were we to do this again but nothing major if I’m honest.'
What’s next for the project and the chairs?
Will - For now we are both fully committed to see 19 Chairs through to the very end, which at present is scheduled to be when our online auction and exhibition draw curtains towards the end of February 2021. However, off the back of 19 Chairs we have a couple of things in the pipeline that fingers crossed with come into fruition at some point next year. We’re both so excited about what’s to come and we can’t wait to share the news!
What’s next for you?
Tom: 'It's difficult to say right now, but I hope to jump back into working life with vengeance. I have loved working on side-projects such as 19 Chairs, and I hope to continue this even when I’m back at work, hopefully sometime soon. But as Will said, whilst we both go our separate ways in the New Year we hope to carry the legacy of 19 Chairs forward in the exciting just around the corner, stay tuned…'
Will: 'Being a fresh graduate, it’s a really difficult situation to be in and that’s not just me that’s all graduates. However, 19 Chairs has been a great way to keep my creative brain ticking whilst and staying creative at home. It’s been great working with my brother, but I’m really exciting to go abroad, if that’s possible, and build up my experience working in the industry. But for now, we must stay focussed on seeing 19 Chairs through to its finale in the New Year, most importantly raising as much money as we possibly can for such a special cause. '
From 20th-23rd May, all 19 Chairs, including Tom Dixon’s FOIL Chair, will be exhibited at Protein Studios Shoreditch. On 1st-31st May, an online charity auction will run, where each customised chair will be sold. All monetary profits raised will be donated towards Age UK and Resourcing Racial Justice.