Dickinson is most well known for his fantastical, yet still functional, designs of furniture and accessories. He was not loved by all (in fact, quite his work is reminiscent of The Memphis Group’s designs in terms of not exactly appealing to everyone). Though all of his designs are varied, he used many similar elements in his work that helps make him stand apart, like African motifs, animal legs and body parts, metal used in interesting ways and even sometimes human bone motifs. He designed things to look good, but he also designed furniture pieces to shock the senses sometimes.
Some of his most favorite elements to work with in his furniture designs weren’t textures, colors or other obvious things, but rather scale, shape and finish. He would often gain inspiration from historical styles and designs, but then convert them to a modern style by playing with the scale. This would often give his furniture a casual feel, as well. And of course, he would often make creations that were unique and never seen before, like tables with metal skirts, animal leg chairs and mixing and matching of other unusual materials like galvanized metal or faux bamboo.
His most famous and most recognizable piece is without doubt the African Table. Made of white plaster, it’s an organically-shaped piece with not a lot of details. It has a curvy top that slowly bleeds into three legs that are actually in the shape of legs and feet. Not quite human, and not quite animal, the feet on this table—and the table as a whole—grab the attention and make you wonder.
Born in Berkeley, California, Dickinson did his design studies at the esteemed Parsons School of Design, and soon began work creating displays for a local department store in New York City. Eventually returning to California, this time San Francisco, he soon started doing design, delighting clients who enjoyed his off-hand and tongue-and-cheek approach to design. He was a hot designer from the 1960’s – 1980’s, and though he passed away in the 1980’s, and though his work isn’t for everyone, he has many loyal followers who keep his work in use and the prices high!