Pennsylvania: Staying true to oneself, while carving out a commercial lifeline is a delicate balance for designers and makers but a life epiphany for Daikonic’s Austin Daikon revealed the need to create and work with his hands.
Ever since, he has focused on his sculptural industrial-inspired aesthetic; designing and making handcrafted, modern and minimal lighting fixtures, including chandeliers, pendants lights, wall sconces and lamps.
…the trajectory of my life took a drastic turn. While in recovery, I was able to prioritise and made a promise to myself to stay true and to act on my inner intentions.
Your lighting is so unique, with a clean, industrial aesthetic that is all your own. Could you please explain a little about your work?
My intention is to design and build objects of illumination that express a richness and warmth -designs that nod to tradition but also push on the edges of what a light can and should be. At the heart of my design work is an interest in blending elements found in ancient sacred spaces like temples and stupas with the visual and material strength of industrial steel.
Please tell us about yourself and how you came to design?
After the shock and wake of discovering the need for emergency open heart surgery at age 23 (yep) the trajectory of my life took a drastic turn. While in recovery, I was able to prioritise and made a promise to myself to stay true and to act on my inner intentions. For me, this meant quitting my corporate sales position and creating an environment where I could work with my hands.
You are a designer-maker, with all your pieces handmade by yourself – do you find the process of making as much informs your ideas?
Working alone the majority of the time is a complicated experience to describe. Sometimes, it’s fun to have a shop companion around to bounce ideas off or simply to goof around with. In my current shop there is no landline, wireless internet or cell phone reception. No bathroom or running water and while frustrating at times, the lack of outside stimulation really helps me focus on what I want to do. Most of my ideas come during the night, though. When everything is quiet and dark stuff starts to creep around in my mind and by morning I am up and out. Trying, again.
What else informs and inspires your work?
I am always impressed by mid-century design, Bauhaus, arts and crafts… I just enjoy clean, sharp lines with minimal “fluff”. Designs that feel like a breath of fresh air. The American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss has always inspired me with his vision and timeless design.
Tell us about the Daikonic range? It encompasses chandeliers, table lamps and bulbs and you now also design sculptural air planters?
Having more ideas than time is one of those problems you almost want to have. But editing what I build into a cohesive collection might be one of my biggest challenges; when your a one man band you really have to be cautious where you put time and energy at all times. I definitely want a large enough range in my prices that anyone who wants a piece of my work will be able to afford it. I have to confess that I also have been flirting with some furniture designs – something I hope to bring to form in 2016.
You’re based in Pennsylvania. What is the designer-maker community like there?
For someone looking to build a life out of making, this is a great place to be. If I turn left out of my studio, I am within minutes of an area as deeply rooted in traditional practices as anywhere in the country; Lancaster County. I am pretty much a sponge when it comes to visual learning. So, when I need to figure something out, I hop in the car and pick the brain of our local blacksmith, Tony Birch. Who is awesome by the way!
If I head out of my studio in the other direction, I can spend an inspiring day in Reading or Philadelphia – I am practically sandwiched between them. Both are filled with highly talented and skilled workers from a time when industry in America was booming but today are struggling to keep busy. I try my best to utilise and support these original craftsman of America, they have a wealth of knowledge that is invaluable to makers like me and they are genuinely eager to share. You won’t find find them online and maybe not even by phone but if you knock on enough doors and you ask enough questions you will find a great American craftsman hiding in your city.
All photography via Daikonic