‘You keep enthusiasm up as long as you keep the pureness of the subject separate from the commercial reality,’ says furniture designer Jane Dillon, enthused by the advances in technology made throughout her long career. ‘I find it so exciting and wonderful and that’s phenomenal in terms of keeping the creative juices going.’ Now 57, her design career got an enviable start 30 years ago after she left the Royal College of Art and spent a ‘wonderful’ two-year stint in Italy working for Olivetti when the great Ettore Sottsass was head of studio. Returning to England in 1972, she set up in business with her late partner Charles Dillon, working for Terence Conran’s Habitat and overseas clients, including Spanish furniture client Casas.
In her time, Dillon has seen huge changes – not always for the better. ‘Thirty years ago if someone had said “what do you do” and I said “I’m a designer”, nine times out of ten they wouldn’t know what I meant. Now we’re at the opposite end of the extreme, with design being so bastardised as to ruin our profession,’ she says. She refutes ageist attitudes as a ‘total insult’ and instead feels the benefit of her experience in her new work. ‘Young people are less inclined to really understand the roots of things. As people get older they realise that things from the past can help you understand the present.’ Despite the frustration of not always being in a position to realise the new technological opportunities, she is as busy as ever with new projects, including a Web-based domestic furniture company and work for new furniture company Keen.