PHOTO COURTESY OF: STEINWAY & SONS
Artist and designer Dakota Jackson (dakotajackson.com) is responsible for iconic furniture pieces such as the Saturn stool, the Library chair and Steinway & Sons piano collaborations. As his house celebrates five decades, Jackson—who recently debuted a Pacific Design Center showroom—discusses his storied career, starry commissions and latest collection.
1.When did you first develop an interest in furniture, and how did your background in performing arts and magic play into your work? The performative world was in my blood. Discovering my gift for crafting objects at 20, I immediately thought about the interactive aspects of furniture. You might say a ‘pas de deux,’ as in a dance between two partners, though here it is an individual and an object. A key element of magic is spontaneity or the illusion of it, as it is in dance or the theater. Inserting both the illusion of spontaneity and a sense of infinite possibly, tenets of magic, into objects elevates the experience.
Dakota Jackson Chess occasional tables, dakotajackson.com PHOTO COURTESY OF: DAKOTA JACKSON INC.
2.How did early commissions by Yoko Ono and Diane von Furstenberg impact your career? Yoko Ono’s desire to present John Lennon with the gift of a magical desk in the form of a Chinese puzzle provided the sense of infinite possibility that I felt as a magician. Parameters for me were never what a design was to look like, but the desire on my patron’s part for an unexpected experience. Again, magic was at play. For Diane, who has a unique flair for the romantic, I designed the bed, Eclipse. The moon (footboard), moving in front of the sun (headboard) created an aurora on the wall behind which came alive as the daylight was waning and vanished at midnight. Clients—many art collectors—wanted to live with my magical imagination. Each project not only presented new opportunities around a fantasy but the beginning of a window into my developing design style.
3.Which are some of your favorite pieces you’ve designed? Certainly many of the early ones, because they informed me of my talents— that there was a market for them, albeit limited initially. So I would say the Self Winding coffee table from New Wonders of the World; the Saturn stool, a direct response to dancing with Trisha Brown; the T-Bird desk from the Furniture as Deadly Weapons series. The Ké-zü chaise and club chair in the late ’80s, the Vik-ter chair of the early ’90s and, of course, the Library chair and its worldwide acceptance during the mid-’90s. On and on—Iko seating, in the early teens, the GUI table in the late teens—I’m out of breath. All told, about 6,000 different designs.
4.What inspired your 15 new collection pieces and the Dakota Jackson Piano Company you’ll be launching? The Chess Collection is about the simple beauty of the chess piece—the humble pawn and its delicate waist—the Chess Round and the Chess Oval. Checkers is a quick, brain twister of a game, which I imbued in the Chess cabinet and into the Chess occasional chair—a play on the grid, the checkerboard. What a watchmaker is to a watch is what I am to the piano. I look to reinforce intimacy not only between the musician and the instrument, but also the bonding of the musician to the audience.