Tom Davies writes: Diary of a spectacle designer
Author: Tom Davies
By the sound of the traffic I can tell it’s around 3am. I’m trying very hard not to wake up fully and thoughts start drifting towards a sunglass collection I had worked on a few hours before. These are the sorts of thoughts which drift in and out my consciousness when I can’t sleep.
A few years back I’d made a sunglass for Brad Pitt that had gone on to sell well and I thought, “could I take that design further?” It had hand-stitched leather temples and was a nightmare to customise for different people. I had an idea: What if I used 3D printing for the sides on a new design? Well, that’s it. I’m wide awake.
I’m in China, reaching for my notepad by my bedside. I’ve got to scribble this down or I’ll have forgotten it in the morning. I look at the clock and its 3.30am. I make the mistake of checking my phone. Simon Jones (Optician deputy editor) has emailed me and is asking if I am interested in writing a column again for the magazine. So, here I am writing this instead of trying to get back to sleep.
There is no way to master jet lag, no matter what I’ve tried, and I’ve tried everything. I am on a plane somewhere long haul at least every six weeks. When you are awake you are awake. Tough luck. So, I am thinking about what I can write. I didn’t want to be the person who criticises celebrities again, like in my Framed column in Optician a decade or so ago. I design for a lot of famous people these days and it would upset me if some young upstart was ripping into my work.
I have an idea. Last year I was asked by a production company if I wanted to make a documentary about eyewear. We planned a few episodes and they were pitched to various TV channels. Then, after a consultation with my family, my kids didn’t want me to be on TV and Mrs Davies was very much against it. When you think about it, would one really want to be famous? Celebrity status seems to have a knack for wrecking marriages and inducing mental instability into children. So, it was a no from me. Besides, I’m too busy with my new factory in London and flying around the world.
But I don’t mind sharing what I’m up to with opticians. We share the same passion and have the same problems, so I thought I’d spend the time giving you an insight into what goes into being a frame designer and practice owner. Doing so much travelling gives me a unique persepctive into what’s happening in eyewear and retail around the globe. Sometimes I’m driving trends, but I also have to react to them.
In four hours, I’m visiting a manufacturing equipment producer. I’ve designed a new machine to make dry block acetate material for my factory in London. It’s a slow process bringing all the production back to the UK, but this machine should be quite exciting. I’ve brought a bag of lobster and oyster shells from a Michelin starred restaurant in London and I’m going to see if I can work it into the acetate, but that’s a diary entry for another day. After that I’m heading to a lab to see if I can seal some oil paints into an acetate frame I’ve made for Ed Sheeran. He saw a painting I’m working on and wants me to ‘splatter some paint on glasses’ in the same way. Well, I aim to please.