When one thinks of vintage luxury automobiles, names such as Austin-Healey 3000, Volvo P1800, Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead, and Mercedes SL 300 immediately spring to mind. Regardless of our financial standing, we tend to ignore the extravagant and ostentatious nature of these vehicles, and instead admire their craftsmanship. They are the epitome of form and function, designed not only to get us there, but to get us there in style. Though most of us couldn’t afford the kind of luxury automobile collections, the likes of which baseball legend Reggie Jackson possesses, we might indulge ourselves of two or three, at least. But suppose you could bring that style and level of craftsmanship into your home, rather than your garage? Would you?
We’re not talking about hanging hubcaps from your chandelier, or a steering wheel from your lamp. Dean Jackson of Dean Jackson Designs, fuses the elegance of classic luxury automobiles and pod design into functional art. His handcrafted creations are some of the most coveted luxury items in world.
Your Great-Great Grandfather George Jackson started off making furniture back in 1844, then you come along and change the game, crafting unique custom furniture. Was it a business or creative decision for you?
The decision to pursue furniture making a career was made to satisfy both business and creative needs. In 1981, after my first year of university, I made the decision to complete an Honors degree in Fine Art, as it was the subject that interested me the most. The dilemma of how I could make a living at it was resolved during the following summer when I registered a business and started making decorative planters. Making “stuff” in my basement had always been a hobby, and my logic was that if I could apply my art education to my hobby, I’d be doing what I enjoy and making a living at the same time. Knowing that my ancestors were furniture makers made it feel right, so I plunged in and never looked back. I found the prospect of running my own furniture business very attractive, not just because of the challenges it offers, but also because of the new skills I would learn and the fact that no two projects would be alike.
Your Aeropods are inspired by your love for the form of classic luxury automobiles, the first of which (the Ferrari Red Aeropod) you created in 2002. Prior to that, did you have something else in mind? I ask because I wonder what might have been, had you not attended that classic car auction where inspiration struck you.
Before the inspirational car show I had been designing and building custom furniture for about 18 years. I always looked forward to working in a new style as required because it allowed me to explore different ideas and techniques. After that time, however, I felt the need to develop a piece of my own, one that was completely unlike anything that had come before it. I had built furniture for myself in an Arts and Crafts style previously, but reviving a movement was not an original idea, so it wouldn’t do. It wasn’t until I attended that classic car show that I realized it didn’t have to be wood at all, nor did it have to look or work like traditional furniture to be attractive and useful. I immediately started sketching and “found” what I was looking for.
Do you possess any of the classic vehicles you’ve designed your creations after?
I have never possessed any of the vehicles that inspire me because collecting classic cars can be an expensive hobby and, even if I could afford them, I doubt they’d fit in my living room. I also don’t think I qualify as a “car guy” because I don’t work on them myself, preferring g to focus on my art instead.
You created forty-nine of these Aeropods, mimicking the number of Fabergé eggs fashioned by Peter Carl Fabergé. Why Fabergé, and not some other number of significance?
The Faberge egg concept didn’t come into play until the first few pods were made. My intention at first was to make an attractive sculptural shell into which I could place modules for either liquor, wine or cigars according to the tastes of the individual. As I was making them I couldn’t help but think of all the other possibilities for the interior, and how I could use all my learned skills to make them into individual works of art. That’s when the resemblance to the Faberge’s creations became apparent; a series of individual sculptures containing surprises within a common theme. They were Carl Faberge’s best work, and AeroPods were mine. If only one egg had been made, no one would know about it, and if two hundred were made they would be less valuable. 49 was the perfect number to become known but not enough to flood the market. Limiting the number in this way is also a sign of respect for the people who do purchase one, as they know their investment will be protected.
Now you have other collections such as the Astropod, and Decopod. Did these designs follow your Aeropod?
When I first started sketching ideas for the AeroPod, I had in mind a “suite” of three different sized models to choose from, but it wasn’t until 12 years after the first one was made that I started on the AstroPod. I began exhibiting at art and design shows and needed to come up with something new to add to my display, so I designed the AstroPod to be like a vision of the future from the 1960’s, with many of the features that make an AeroPod attractive but at a much lower price point. Two years after that I developed the DecoPod as the third member of the Pod family.
What design and functions distinguish each collection.
The AeroPod continues to be the flagship of the collection with all its intricate detailing and creative interior options. Designed after the streamlined rocket forms that characterize automobiles from the fifties, they are meant to provide a special place for special collections, whatever those may be. It is a sculpture with a surprise, a tribute to the classic concept of luxury embodied by coach-built classic cars and the custom features that made them special.
They also represent the pinnacle of creative achievement in my career as an artist/furnituremaker, and require the highest level of technical skill and craftsmanship to complete. To date, models have been made in the following configurations: liquor cabinet, humidor, wine cabinet, jewelry chest, watch-winder, water feature and gumball machine.
Interiors are made in a variety of finishes including burl wood veneers and metal surfaces depending on the theme, and the function is only limited by the client’s imagination, as all are custom made to order. No two are alike and the series will be limited to 49 pieces in total. There are currently 17 AeroPods made.
The AstroPod is designed with the same material palate as the AeroPod, but acts more like a piece of furniture than a functional sculpture. Like a vision of the future from the 60’s, its style is Space Age and its presence in any setting is unmistakable. Sitting on its own custom-made chrome metal cradle and legs, the AstroPod comes in two configurations: a liquor cabinet/server or a wine cabinet, with custom options available as well. The door is a solid metal, sliding tambour that conceals an “engine turned” aluminum interior. They are not part of a limited edition but are custom made to order in any automotive colour.
The DecoPod was developed as an alternative for people who lack the space requirements for either an AeroPod or Astropod. It’s a wall sculpture designed after a covered rear wheel fender of a 1930’s era luxury car. The Deco period was characterized by a new love of streamlining that I have distilled into a wall-hung piece of functional art. Like the other collections, the DecoPod is made to order in the client’s choice of automotive colour, and can be customized to house any small collection of special objects, like collectables, perfumes, oils or keys. It especially makes a great “James Bond” like liquor cabinet for a few bottles of Scotch and some glasses. In typical pod fashion, the circular door opens with a push of your finger and gently lowers to a leatherette -lined tray for serving, creating a surprise for all to see.
There’s a company out of Spain, known for their amazing porcelain sculptures, and there were lamps at their showroom I had been interested in purchasing, but I took too long, and they were sold out, never to be made again. I would imagine the same applies to your Pod collections, yes?
It’s likely that the porcelain collection was made at one time and offered for purchase to anyone who happened to hear about it first. Fortunately, the pod collection is different. For one, with the exception of my show models, all pods are custom made specifically for the individual client. It’s my way of combining art with custom furniture and I have no desire to “stock” pods in a showroom. For me, the satisfaction of making a pod comes from knowing it will be meaningful to the person it’s created for in a lasting way.
It’s true that I have limited the production of AeroPods to 49, so, like the lamps, when the last one is made there will never be another. However, if each one takes half a year to produce, I’ll be making them for the rest of my working career, seeing as there are 32 left to be made. So it’s not necessarily a “snooze you lose” scenario with pods, unless of course someone decides to buy up all the remaining numbers in the series. AstroPods and DecoPods are not made in a limited edition, but are still custom made to order.
What is the process like, when creating a customized piece of furniture for a client?
Having furniture made for you is the best way to insure you get the perfect combination of style and function that suits your unique lifestyle. Many people are surprised that the art of furniture making is still alive and well, given the massive influx of cheap mass-produced offerings on the market. For those who are looking for something a more personalized and well-made, there are still craftsmen like myself who’s business it is to make it for you.
Furniture making is a problem-solving process that starts with a functional need to fulfil. The aesthetic element, what it looks like in the end, is determined by the context of the piece and your own personal style preferences. My job is to combine the functional and aesthetic needs into a cohesive design, then handcraft the piece specifically for you. This approach guarantees that your furniture fits you like a well-tailored suit, and will be a pleasure to look at and use for years to come.
It all starts with a phone call or email where you can briefly describe your project and we can set up a meeting. At our meeting we can discuss options and I can take some measurements that can be used to generate drawings.
The next step is to develop a design on paper that shows you what your finished product could look like. A combination of rough sketches and scale drawings can be used in this process, and a written quotation is developed for its fabrication. There is a fee for this process, usually between $200 and $500 depending on the scale of the project, but you pay nothing if you accept my quotation and proceed with the work.
The last step, fabrication and installation, begins with a deposit of roughly 1/3rd of the total cost of the project, which allows me to purchase some materials and get started. A rough completion date is given and your special project is carefully and precisely built to order. Stain samples are provided when necessary, and all finishing is done in the controlled environment of my shop. Furniture is delivered and built-ins installed in a timely manner. Then, hopefully, you’ll like it so much you’ll think of another project for me to work on, or you’ll refer me to some of your friends. Happy customers are my best salespeople, and have kept me in business for 36 years.
Are your products available to the general public, or strictly to the interior design trade?
I have worked with countless designers in the past and have always sought to make them look good in the eyes of the client by delivering the product they were looking for in a timely manner. However, I would say that 80% of my business is done directly with the client. Most of these clients are repeat customers and I’ve even started building for their grown children who were just young when I started with them. Others are referral clients who were given my name by existing customers or people who know what I do. I appreciate all business that comes my way without restrictions.