If we had to elect the most Sight Unseen–like book ever published, Tom Dixon’s Dixonary might land at the very top of that list. In the intro he writes, “A book about me? I wasn’t sure I needed one — at least until I am dead, at which point people can write what they like.” But personally we wish this kind of book existed for all of our favorite visual artists. In it, Dixon pairs photographs of his own designs, dating all the way back to his early-’80s punk days, with the images that inspired them, and then tells the micro-stories behind each one. There are obvious pairings (Dixon’s Lustre lights with an oil spill, for example) and those that are more obscure (his 1994 Jack Light with concrete sea defenses from Yakushima Island, Japan). The book fleshes out the more well-known contours of Dixon’s story. For instance, we knew he was a welder, but did we imagine that meant he spent time in the early ’80s making chairs out of things like frying pans and ladles? Those early experiments — so far from the more polished work Dixon creates under his own label these days — are one of the most fascinating aspects of the book, so we’ve excerpted a few of our favorites below.
Top left: Dixon solder kit, manufactured by William Dixon, reproduced as line drawings by Saara Hopea Untracht, in Metal Techniques for Craftsmen: A basic manual for craftsmen on the methods of forming and decorating metals, 1968, by Oppi Untracht
Top right: Poodle Chair, 1987, Rubber inner tube, upholstery, brass
L: Rusty wheel
R: Victorian Chair, 1985, salvaged wrought iron, coal-hole cover
L: Copper elbows
R: Plumbing Chair, 1989, copper pipe, cistern floats, brass tray, lead solder
L: Slice, ladles and spoons: supplementary advertisement by William S. Adam and Son Ironmongers
R: Kitchen Chair, 1986, wok ladles, sheet steel, frying pan
L: Golden Oriole colored engraving by Alexander Francis Lydon (1836-1917), from A History of British Birds, 1851-1857, volume IV, by the Revered Frances Orpen Morris (18010-1893)
R: Bird Chaise, 1991, fir and metal frame, polyurethane foam
L: Gloucester cathedral
R: Etch Web Light, 2008, acid-etched aluminum
Excerpt from Dixonary reprinted with permission from Violette Editions.