VITO SELMA

Carves out a space for Cebu de­sign in the global mar­ket place

Cebu Living - - FRONT PAGE - By DIANNE PINEDA Images by EDRIC CHEN of AT EAST JED ROOT

One wouldn’t nor­mally as­so­ciate Vito Selma with food. In fact, his im­pres­sive port­fo­lio speaks noth­ing of it. News­pa­pers and mag­a­zines al­ways talk about his in­ter­na­tional tri­umphs in fur­ni­ture de­sign; less is known about his culi­nary pur­suits, which is not an ac­ci­den­tal foray but has been a long­stand­ing in­ter­est lead­ing to his de­sire to open a restau­rant in Cebu.

“In ev­ery new city that I go to, I take a three- to five-day cook­ing course,” he shares. From con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing de­signs to cook­ing up recipes in the kitchen, Selma takes ev­ery­thing in from his trav­els abroad and brings it all back to what’s fa­mil­iar. “I con­nect ev­ery­thing that I do to the home. I al­ways try to lo­cal­ize the in­gre­di­ents and fla­vors.”

De­spite Selma’s tran­si­tion from wood to food, he has no plans yet to trade the wood lathe for a la­dle. De­sign will al­ways be his top pri­or­ity, he says, and even though the kitchen beck­ons him, his sec­ond home will al­ways be his fac­tory. “I spent my child­hood in the fac­tory. I grew up in the in­dus­try and have a lot of re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the crafts­men in the fac­tory and of Cebu, in gen­eral,” he says.

The way to Selma’s fac­tory in Can­du­man, Man­daue, is not an easy one. It’s off the main road, with nar­row, un­paved streets lead­ing the way. A huge red gate with no sig­nage opens to wel­come us vis­i­tors. As we walk fur­ther inside, pass­ing by crafts­men lean­ing over ta­bles and as­sem­bling pieces, a blast of hot air and the smell of freshly sawn wood hit us, the sound of ma­chines get­ting more dis­tinct as we draw closer to Selma’s of­fice. This is where his sig­na­ture works of fur­ni­ture are cre­ated. As long as it took us to get here, we all know that the trip is worth it.

“I’m very much in­spired by na­ture,” Selma says. “Ev­ery­thing from the ma­te­rial to the tex­tures and col­ors, I try to make things in their nat­u­ral form.” Inside his show­room is a col­lec­tion of archetypes rep­re­sent­ing his af­fec­tion for cre­at­ing pieces that stay true to the essence of wood. His works are ef­fort­less amal­ga­ma­tions of simplicity and com­plex­ity, of the nos­tal­gic and the ur­ban. Sim­i­lar to how his fac­tory re­veals the in­ner work­ings of each piece, his de­signs are un­abashed rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the naked­ness of the ma­te­rial, un­tainted by all things un­nec­es­sary. “That’s why when you look around, you won’t see a pop of color; ev­ery­thing’s very or­ganic.”

Selma wanted to ex­plore other pos­si­bil­i­ties beyond Cebu, and a move to Mi­lan to take up a Masters De­gree in In­dus­trial De­sign at the Su­cola Po­litec­nica di De­sign opened up op­por­tu­ni­ties for him to find his in­di­vid­ual voice in de­sign. He is quick to add, how­ever, that his great­est learn­ing came from his off- road trav­els and mis­ad­ven­tures. “I don’t mind get­ting lost,” he says with a chuckle. “I don’t open a map. I walk around by my­self, ex­plore things by foot. That way, I un­der­stand a city more than when I see it in a mag­a­zine or through things peo­ple would tell me to visit. I saw the Eif­fel Tower on my third trip; I booked an apart­ment where the French live, where there were no tourists. A lot of my de­signs in­cor­po­rate in­spi­ra­tions from my trips abroad, if not from na­ture.”

Bare es­sen­tials

It was as if his predilec­tion for get­ting lost to find deeper un­der­stand­ing flowed into his cre­ative process, as Selma al­ways tries faith­fully to learn and dis­cover the many po­ten­tials of wood. When­ever he talks about his ma­te­rial of choice, his ex­pres­sion turns se­ri­ous. “I find that there is beauty in things that are still some­what raw. When you make a ta­ble and paint it red, then that

VITO SELMA TURNS OLD SCRAP

MA­TE­RIAL INTO LOW TA­BLES COATED IN GOLD (UP­PER LEFT), THE CHAIR WITH AN IN­TER­EST­ING

BACK DE­TAIL IS FROM A COL­LEC­TION IN­SPIRED BY THE WAVES OF THE OCEAN (ABOVE). THE EIGHT FOOT EX­TRA LARGE PEA­COCK GRACES THEIR NEW­EST

COL­LEC­TION (OP­PO­SITE PAGE).

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