Weekly Local Biography

 Richard Dixon


The managing director of CDC Design Resource is a laughing American, Richard Dixon. He is a man who has lived on his artistic abilities all over the world, and a man who has hitchhiked across Northern Africa, just because it sounded like fun. He is also a man who has spent most of his life refusing to be governed by time. The bell for the beginning of class has remained an anathema for Richard.

He was born in Los Angeles, California “at an undisclosed year,” he quickly asserted. His mother was an artistic lady, whom he described as “incredibly talented” while his father was a Texas cowboy, who ended up managing movie ranches. “We lived on the old Mack Sennett ranch, fifteen minutes from downtown Hollywood. I would come home from school, saddle up and watch them making movies.” His academic results were varied. “Art and Music I was top, but for the rest of it - bordering on the bottom!”

After high school he went to college to become an art teacher, but he really did not know what he wanted to be. He graduated and managed only one semester. “When the bell rang, I had to be there. I hated it!” After this less than startling entry into the workforce he volunteered for the draft and was sent to Germany. I asked him if the army life was not even more structured and regulated, but he dismissed it with a wave of the hands, saying, “I became the Company Project Specialist. They left me alone as nobody knew what I was supposed to do. I used to go up into the hills and paint.”

After the end of his 3 years, he took an overseas discharge and with some friends bought a VW Kombi van to go to Khartoum! There was no real reason to choose Khartoum, it just sounded like it was OK. The trip continued by steamer to Cairo, where he met up with some people who had hitchhiked across northern Africa and others who had worked in a kibbutz. It was 1963 and he hitchhiked to Jerusalem and from there to a kibbutz. “I loved it! I stayed 12 months.”

However, Africa was still in the back of his mind, so he went back to the USA and worked as a laborer in construction sites for 12 months to save the money for the North African adventure. He then took a boat from New York to Tangiers and then, by himself, hitchhiked to Cairo. That took a month and then he went back to the kibbutz for another 10 months. Richard was following his own star and there were no bells for the beginning and end of the lessons!

At the kibbutz he met some Iranians who said they could get him a job teaching English in Tehran, so he loaded up his backpack, and with the (compulsory) guitar in hand, made his way across Turkey to Tehran, where he did indeed teach English as a second language for Iranians. This was probably too close to bells at the beginning and end of the sessions, so when he heard that the Iran-America Society was looking for set designers he took that on instead, happily working there for three years. During this stint, he met some international producers and when he volunteered that he wanted to experience theatre life in London, one said he would get him a job there as a stage hand. Richard didn’t care about the lowly position after being a set designer and jumped at it, working in London in Sloane Square.

One morning he woke up and said, “OK, I’ve done that. Now I’ll go home,” but it wasn’t that easy. He found that after having been away for five years it was very difficult to settle into reality again. That may have prompted his accepting a job with Disney Studios, a chance to work in the unreality of the cartoon world. He did that for two years and enjoyed his time there, but when he was invited back to Tehran, he took it, working as a graphic artist until the alarm bells of revolution were sounding, and he returned to California.

Back “home” he worked as a photographer and then bluffed his way into a position of a videographer, being sent to Saudi Arabia where he stayed for five years. “I had a lot of fun. It wasn’t too demanding.” While there he began to take trips to Thailand. “It was the antithesis of Saudi - it’s got no sand!”

After years of being a moth attracted to the next flame, Richard began to appreciate that there was a finite nature to life. “One of the reasons I traveled around so much when I was younger was that I didn’t realize there was a beginning and an end. I wasn’t running away. I was just running around, but I didn’t have much direction!”

He began to see that Thailand offered him the opportunity to create artifacts and America offered him a marketplace to sell them. He came to Chiang Mai in 1987 and opened a company (Siam Gallery) designing and developing products for export. In turn that led to designing hotel interiors (currently Richard’s company, CDC Design Resource, is working with designer John Lightbody on the new Chiangmai Four Seasons Resort Hotel) and the work just keeps coming in.

So he is here, enjoying life, his work, his music, the Chiang Mai Choral Society and finding that, “Every day is good for me, because every day you learn something. I wouldn’t change anything. Everything you do is what leads you to what you do now.”

I asked Richard if he had any unresolved ambitions and he replied, “At my age, I would just like to keep doing what I’m doing. I just enjoy the way things are. It’s not really hard work, because that bell don’t ring!” And Richard, we all hope that it doesn’t ring for you too.