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Woodplay & Wanderlust: Award-winning Furniture Designer Vito Selma
The Cebuano wunderkind talks about his travels, inspiration, and design process.
By: Liana Smith-Bautista  |   Published on: Apr 11, 2012 - 4:40pm

Click for more photos of Vito Selma's works.


(“Play” isn’t a word anyone would think of when they see 28-year-old Vito Selma’s resume, but that’s exactly what’s at the root of his career as a furniture designer.


“My parents have been in the [furniture] industry for 24 years, so I grew up with their factory being a playground of some sort,” the Cebuano designer, photographer, and travel junkie shares with Spot.PH. “Every afternoon after school, I had to go there to pick up my parents, or on the weekends, I had my father bring me there just to play in the factory.”


While this childhood “playground” instilled a love of wood and furniture in him, though, it was through studying art that he discovered his talent for design. “Every summer, [my parents] forced me to go to art school to make sure that I adapted myself to different forms of art,” he says with a chuckle. Eventually, he shares, he joined a workshop by the Designers’ Guild of Cebu during his third year of high school. “I designed something, and I attended my first show. Then it got a nomination, and then I said, ‘Ah, maybe I can design.’”


Critical Acclaim

But despite his self-effacing smile and modest words, there are no “maybes” when it comes to the question of whether Vito Selma can design. Just a year after graduating from high school, he joined the Cebu International Furniture & Furnishings Exhibition and was nominated for the Best Product award for his Uzima Ottoman. More recently, he won the first prize for Industrial Design in the 2010 DOST National Invention Contest, and he was one of two designers nominated for the Katha Award by the Manila FAME organizers in the design and lifestyle event held at the SMX Convention Center in March 2012.


Vito earned his masters degree in industrial design from the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, Italy, just last year, and even though he hasn’t even hit his 30s, he is already earning a name for himself internationally. He shared that he would be launching his VS furniture line in Dubai right after he left the Manila FAME event. Then, when asked where else aficionados might find his furniture, he reluctantly admits, “You can find my stuff in about 30 different countries. In South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia.”


When asked about designers he looks up to, he is quick to name fellow Filipinos. “Kenneth Cobonpue, obviously,” he says with a grin. “For paving the way, not only for [other] Filipino designers, but also for Asian designers. I’m personally a big fan of Debbie Palao—she’s also Cebuana. She’s the Bamboo Lady. Every time I have problems with dimensions or materials I ask her. Bernice Montenegro—her works are very commercial. It’s a different side of design. It’s more about understanding what people want and creating that for them.”


He is also quick to name international influences, though. “I love the Campana brothers,” he says, naming Brazilians Humberto and Fernando Campana, who are known for creating artistic and sometimes controversial pieces and incorporating “waste” products like wood and fabric scraps or cardboard in their designs. “What I like about them [is] they said, at the end of the day, you have the like the design that you did. I mean, don’t be so influenced by what other people think about your work. Just make sure you love it.”


“With design, what I’ve learned from [the Campana brothers is] always start with the material,” Vito says. “I mean, who needs another chair? So what you can do is experiment with material, and from that experimentation, you can have different forms. I like starting with the material, and then I guess it evolves from there.”


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1 Comment
  • lara
    the allegra chairs are to die for!! the other pieces have amazing aesthetics as well. thanks SPOT for featuring Vito Selma :)
    Apr 12 2012 @ 09:46am     Reply  
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