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Women In Design: Caitlin Warther and Wendy Dixon, the dazzling design duo

Discover the work of design duo Caitlin Warther and Wendy Dixon of Water Dixon in our ‘Women In Design’ series

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By Piet Smedy | August 5, 2023 | Design

In our ‘Women in Design’ series this month, we shine the spotlight on remarkable women who have impacted the world through their creative work.

The story of Water Dixon is a series of fortunate events, a happy collection of auspicious coincidences – you could even say it was written in the stars – that led to the founding of perhaps one of the most directional artisan studios to emerge in recent years.

Co-owned by Cait Warther and Wendy Dixon, their eponymous-ish practice has brilliantly carved out a whole new niche in the collectible design space – that of a mirror and light-based sculpture. Both Joburg raised Cait, an English and Philosophy major at the University of Edinburgh before studying Architectural Lighting Design and Interior Design at Parsons, and Wendy, who has a background in brand communication and graphic design and holds a postgrad in business studies, met through a mutual friend.

Water Dixon founders Cait Warther and Wendy Dixon with Ziggy, a toy poodle, at their studio in Cape Town (Photographed by Karl Rogers)

Though neither had a traditional art background, their creative collaboration and experimentation with various mediums would result in their mirror-based work, the first of which was an installation at the Spier Light Art Festival. ‘It really felt like kismet,’ says Wendy. ‘From there, our studio took shape and evolved into a business and art practice.’

The process of creating these pieces uses the principles of surface chemistry and metallurgy, with Cait and Wendy combining two chemicals to create spontaneous and catalytic reactions, the remnants of which are captured in the layers of colour and brass on the surface of the glass. ‘Our works are a combination of technology, science, and magic. We think of it as modern alchemy,’ says Wendy. ‘We developed the process ourselves over the past three years, and it has become our signature.’ Cait admits that the journey has been one of trial and error, playing with different chemical solutions and combinations until achieving the desired result. ‘There is an interesting synchronicity in that we need sets of two: metals, chemicals, us both,’ she says. ‘It truly still feels like magic to us as the metals react.’ Before occupying their current studio at 120 Church Street in Cape Town’s vibrant Bo-Kaap neighbourhood, the pair kept a smaller space nearby, above a popular deli. ‘We very quickly outgrew our space above the deli, and when we had our second solo exhibition with Everard Read in November 2020, we desperately needed space to expand,’ says Wendy.

The Bo-Kaap showroom, workshop and office of Water Dixon (Photographed by Karl Rogers)

As luck would have it, a much larger space – just across the road, in fact – became available when the previous owners, e-com wine merchants Port2Port founders Nic Pudel and Tammy Tinker Pudel, moved out. ‘They had done a beautiful job with outfitting the space, which mostly worked well for us too,’ says Cait. ‘Today, we use the space as a showroom, office, and workshop.’ It is the ideal working gallery to display their ever-changing oeuvre, with many of the works named for constellations or galaxies – Andromeda, Cassiopea, and Cygnus among them. ‘We are fascinated by space and natural phenomena. The same metals and minerals in space are found, in trace amounts, in our blood and our lungs. They are the same metals we use to make our mirrors,’ says Wendy. The pair’s newest series of mirrors, Supernovae, has a base layer of copper, a base metal found in exploding stars. ‘Somehow, the reactions of the chemicals on the surface of the mirrors resemble phenomena in space.’

Production Thea Pheiffer