INTERVIEW: Vito Selma, Furniture Designer |
January 17, 2012
A few months ago, when I received photos of Vito Selma‘s GEO table, I wasn’t sure what it was. The table was photographed from many different angles to show off its unique, geometric shape, which was very unique for a piece of furniture made of natural materials. It got me curious, and so when I heard the designer (originally from Cebu, Philippines) is supposed to visit Kne’Kash, the Israeli showroom carrying his designs, I seized the opportunity to meet and interview him.
What I found out was a designer not only madly talented and promising, but also passionate and caring about his designs – a trait that sometimes seems gone from the generation of ironic, self conscious designers. It was one of those interviews which are not only interesting and intellectually or visually pleasing, but just plain fun. I hope you will find it enjoyable, too.
Rooms and Words: Usually we see furniture like yours made of metals. What led you to choose natural materials?
Vito Selma: I grew up in the ’80s and spent a lot of my childhood in my parents’ factory. It was my backyard… My family makes traditional furniture, and since it’s all crafted by hand and everything needs to be perfect, there was a lot of leftover material. If, say, the two handles of a chair wouldn’t come out identical, they would need to start over and I could get the less than perfect one to play and create with. So my inspiration always came from the rough material. I’d never try to manipulate it. I listen to what it has to say and let it lead me.
RW: What draws you to geometry?
VS: I love math! I was a geek until I got to the age it wasn’t cool anymore… [laughing.] When I design a piece that is geometric, I really enjoy all the calculations. After all, everything in this world is math. Even your handwriting, the angle you’re holding the pen, the scroll of the letters you’re writing… And I love translating all that into design.
RW: What inspires you?
VS: First and foremost, the material. Wood, bamboo – any natural material. I love observing them and working with them. I’m very influenced by string art. I’m also inspired by traditional furniture and craftsmanship, like the peacock chair. In the past you could see it in every house, or at least patio, but recently it became harder and harder to find. I designed am outdoor furniture collection inspired by the peacock chair, and found the original family of craftsmen that used to make it, and asked them to make it for me using the same age-old techniques.
RW: The tradition of furniture making and craftsmanship in the Philippines goes years back and includes your family. What did they think when you went into design?
VS: I could never do this without them. Aside from the fact that growing up in the family factory inspired me to become a designer and taught me so much, my family was always so supportive. They provided me with material and showroom space. In fact, when I had a few pieces I went to the same fair where they’d exhibit each year and showed my own designs, and that’s how I got started. Until recently my furniture were in the same showroom as theirs.
RW: And does your family understand your far from traditional point of view?
VS: Not so much, but they still support me and believe in me. I’m really lucky to have them.
RW: You’re going to work for the Campana brothers! That must be so exciting, they’re legendary. What do you think about the current state of the design world?
VS: Yes, they’re amazing. I worked for designer Raffaella Mangiarotti for the past few months and also studied in Italy. I can’t say I’m extremely drawn to the current Milan conception of design. We’ve been taught to design ironically and from the head, while I like to design with my soul. Think about the Campana brothers, you can see how they love what they do. There are many designers I appreciate and even admired until they lost that personal touch. Actually, if there’s an upside to the economic state it’s that more designers design with their hearts and don’t madly expand.
RW: Now that you work for other designers too, what will happen to your own line?
VS: I just wake up a few hours earlier to work on it. That’s love.