COAST MAGAZINE: JANUARY 2009
Aaron Thomas almost lost his life on Valentine's Day last year. While working on getting his studio ready at the arts district in Santa Ana, the rooftop hatch fell and knocked Thomas off a 20-foot ladder. His skull and bones in his hands were fractured, and his knees were broken. "I remember when I was falling down, I thought, 'This [place] could be the last thing that I see."
For a while, he was in critical condition at the hospital, but Thomas survived the accident and continues to recover from it But he's not the same guy. "I've had a life-changing experience. I'm choosing what I want to really do in life," he says.
At the top of his list: Following his heart and instinct when it comes to his art, and tuning out the noise from others who might steer him toward a different path.
An artist who works primarily with acrylic and plastics, Thomas grew up understanding the medium through his parents' acrylic fabrication company.
By the time he was 26, he had taken over the business. He decided to treat acrylic as an art form, apprenticing under renowned acrylic and metal furniture designer Charles Hollis Jones.
"When we saw that the retro look was returning, we said, 'Oh, no! It's coming back,"1 Thomas recalls. He realized what he needed to do. "I had to get out of the '60s and "70s style and feel. But I had to take baby steps."
Thomas's furniture includes clever interpretations of classics such as an Eames-inspired lounge chair. A modern chair gets a chic twist when each part of it is imbedded with translucent components of a Louis XIV chair. But he also shows an avant-garde side in his lighting collection. One of the standouts, Chandelirium, is a pendant fixture with ribbons of reclaimed acrylic. Both the Louis chair and Chandelirium are collaborations with Thomas's partner, Anne Ewen.
More and more of Thomas's work is featured in boutique hotels. Thomas collaborated with Dodd Mitchell Design for the acrylic gaming and console table at the Gable and Lombard penthouse of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
More recently, he completed an installation of hydroponic tanks in acrylic, beech wood and stainless steel at the new Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. "To work with Philippe Starck was one of my biggest dreams," lie says. There's one dream he hasn't fulfilled yet, but he remains hopeful.
"It's a large public sculpture on the Northern California coast," he says. "You have the beauty of the trees, the sky and the ocean. To have that as a setting - that would be spectacular - that would be a victory of life."
For more information, call (949) 274-9766; aaronrthomas.com -LISA LlDDANE