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3 Questions for Tom Price

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We have been intrigued with the concept of Tom Price‘s Meltdown Chair series ever since we saw one last fall and then again at IMM Cologne. We took a look at the video on his website that shows him creating the Blue Rope Meltdown Chair and realized we could not wait any longer: we had questions to ask and needed the answers. We especially wanted to know more about Price’s Cast Light.

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Hose Chair – detail

We’ve seen the Blue Rope Meltdown Chair and the Tube one. What is next in the series? What are the ideal surroundings for these chairs?

I have a lot of materials in mind to test, but I’m not too sure which will make it to the status of ‘next in the series’. The beauty of the process for me lies in the unpredictability of how the material will react to prolonged exposure to heat and how it chooses to melt and reform itself.

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PVC Hose Chair

The PVC Hose chair is a good example of this: I really wanted to get the hose to melt clear because it creates very beautiful swirling elliptical patterns on the melted surface. I knew that the hose was prone to burning so I put a lot of time and effort into trying to get the former to heat as evenly as possible over the whole surface in order to eliminate any hot spots. In spite of all my efforts the material just ended up doing what it wanted and burnt itself to a cracked black charcoal-like surface. I was initially very disappointed but then, on closer inspection, realised that an amazing surface had been created. Although the seat looks very brittle and crumbly it is in fact very stable and flexible and the brutal contrast of the black charred seat to the remaining clear hose created a real drama that the other chairs don’t have.

So, I guess my answer to your question is that the next in the series remains a mystery – I’ll leave it to chance.

I have no idea what would be the best surrounding for these chairs but, as with most things, they should be in an uncluttered environment as I think they have enough to express without trying to compete with other bits and pieces. I have sold some chairs to private collectors and some to galleries so I think they work well in both domestic and public settings.

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Cast Light – detail

The concept of solidifying light to create your Cast Light sculptural lighting was a stroke of brilliance. Had you planned this out, or was the idea something you stumbled upon?

This project was born out of curiosity. I had been exploring different ways of creating three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional images and realised that what I was working with was essentially varying degrees of light. So I decided to see what would happen if I took that literally and put an illuminated light bulb in front of a 3D scanner.

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Cast Light

I was very doubtful as to whether anything would happen but as I dimmed and brightened the bulb I noticed a change in the shapes emanating from the scanned bulb. I wanted to explore this further so repeated the experiment with a more sophisticated scanner and very small bulb which I sanded down to eliminate the possibility of picking up glare from the glass (this normally produces wild spikes in the 3D computer model). When it was switched off the scanner produced a model of the bulb in its familiar shape. This was important as I needed to be sure that whatever was picked up when the light was on would not be interfered with by the bulb itself.

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Blue Rope Meltdown Chair

After several attempts I finally managed to capture a ring of light hovering around the bulb. This was only possible when the bulb was at its dimmest – emitting a very soft orange glow. As the bulb got brighter the ring and the bulb started to disappear. The discovery and capture of the light was a combination of persistence and chance. I’ve tried the same procedure with different scanners but have not been able to capture anything.

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Your concepts range from works that take form as three-dimensional objects that start off as two-dimensional images to the very hands-on production of meltdown chairs. Which way do you prefer to work? Do you need to combine these two ways of approaching design?

I like to work in as many different ways as possible. It helps to keep my ideas fresh and means that I am always discovering new things. I will go through long periods of being chained to my computer after which I really need the antidote of manual labour. It all helps to keep my working life in balance and my mind stimulated.

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