The story behind the Earth & Fire table tops for Tom Dixon, Milan 2016

Having worked with the Tom Dixon Design Research Studio over the years, Bill Amberg Studio were once again invited to partner up for another design showcase. For Fuorisalone 2016, we were asked to design and make the table tops for two of the four element-themed dining halls at The Restaurant, presented by Caesarstone and Tom Dixon. The team at Tom Dixon Design Research Studio approached us with the elements of Earth and Fire.

Intrigued by ancient materials, we were able to locate unused leather scraps from the storage of various tanneries we work with. The Earth table tops are made from highly characteristic sections of old leather; a shoulder panel from a cow hide. Representing the most natural grain of the animal, it is a highly irregular and tough section of the leather, qualities that make it the least used part of the hide and a by-product in the leather industry.

For the Fire table tops, we choose a black leather with a ‘waxy’ bloom texture on the surface that had transformed into a pattern that is more reminiscent of rock surface than a hide. Due to the surfaced wax, the leather was easily charred; a process we undertook to achieve the intricate charcoal-like texture.

A key process during the design was achieving a balance between the material and its final form. Unique shapes and formations inspire the various surface styles; some are sectioned off in patterns, whilst others have been laid with a single sheet of leather to highlight the intricate textures. By working with the leather in this way, we are also able to reduce the waste produced in the making process. By taking the raw and chaotic leather and cutting and applying it in an organised sequence, we disrupt the natural pattern of the hide, resulting in contemporary table surfaces.