Here, we ask designers to take a selfie and give us an inside look at their life.
Occupation: Designer and founder of Vy Voi.
Hometown: San Jose, CA, with my summers spent in Sài Gòn, Việt Nam.
Studio location: New York.
Describe what you make: I design objects, lighting and soon, furniture. Mostly functional, but I’m exploring making things that just exist for fun, too. All works are made on-site in my studio.
The most important thing you’ve designed to date: Importance is relative, I suppose, but one of the overarching visions of my work is to showcase the richness of Vietnamese art—referenced and reinterpreted through my own design language. The journey toward that is what’s really important. At this time, the recently launched Nấm collection is the most important to me. But my next body of work will likely become the most important, as will probably be the next. And the next. And the next. It’s a continual effort to thoughtfully create and to tell more stories on the breadth that Việt Nam and I have to offer.
Describe the problem your work solves: I like to think of my work as contained comfort, with the intent of bringing a little more tenderness into everyday life. I want you to look at a piece and see its delicate structure, yet you can’t help but still want to touch and hold in some way. Each piece challenges you to be a bit more mindful about how you interact with it. I genuinely believe that the objects you live with can bring you a sense of security, and I hope my work makes you feel wrapped in your favorite quilt in a world that may often feel bleak.
Describe the project you are working on now: The last few months have been a whirlwind of exhibitions and running around, so I’m currently reorienting myself toward next year’s biggest projects. My brain is split into two halves at the moment: First, I’m expanding my lighting collection and developing my first line of furniture. Both collections will partly be made with natural materials native to different regions of Việt Nam. I’m very eager to defy the typical architecture of what each material has been historically used for, and test the limits of each. These projects require extensive teamwork with craftspeople that have retained centuries of material knowledge. It’s been a winding but rewarding venture of technical skills and cultural dynamics.
The other half is zeroed in on exciting housewares collaborations over the next few months—these will be announced in the fall.
A new or forthcoming project we should know about: I recently launched the Nấm collection, my first foray into lighting, during NYCxDesign at WantedDesign. It’s a four-piece collection that draws from the fleeting charm of organic occurrences: mushrooms sprouting, moss blanketing bark, sunlight peeking overhead. Seeing these slow, enamoring micro-interactions, I sought to capture this feeling through ceramic lighting.
From afar, the designs appear like abstract paintings. Individually, they quietly showcase their own unique character, inviting viewers to come closer to admire their naturally varied surfaces and transitions in color. The visual gesture of loose, painterly strokes mirror nature’s own unpredictable beauty, thanks to the spontaneous results of gas firing. No two pieces are ever exactly alike. Each design also speaks to a set way sunlight shines through: downward in Nấm A, upward in Nấm D, or in both directions in Nấm B and C. I love being able to merge the warmth of human touch with the functionality of considered form, a sort of reassuring calmness in your home.
I’m also part of a group exhibition at Mass MoCA that explores revolutionary moments in 20th-century history. It’s on view until April 2024.
What you absolutely must have in your studio: I want every space I occupy to feel like a place that’s lived-in and warm. It’s essential to have touchpoints that comfort and inspire me. So photos of my family, works by my friends, and objects that make me laugh. I really like to surround myself with meaningful—and oftentimes silly—things and don’t think too hard about placement. Music is a must too; I’m usually strumming along to HYUKOH or Everything But The Girl.
Outside of that: A pile of found objects that I aspire to grind up for material experiments. I will pick up stuff that I can’t bear the thought of being thrown away and hope that I can use it somehow in the future (which drives everyone around me insane).
What you do when you’re not working: I’m an incredibly curious person so I try to spend as much of my time on this planet just absorbing and observing as much as I can. My inner voice frequently yells: “Tell me more!” That manifests in so many varied ways: studying flora and fauna, watching how people interact with handrails, learning the commonalities in different languages. I get a lot of joy in diving into the macros and micros of how the world works. In another life, I was probably meant to be a zoologist.
Sources of creative envy: Less so envy, more so admiration: My Bà Nội, who was a jewelry designer extraordinaire (among her million other roles). So much of what I do is threaded together by her memory. Lê Thị Lựu, Pinaree Sanpitak, Peter Do. Ruth Asawa’s looped wire sculptures. Quasar Khanh’s Aerospace. People who push the boundaries of familiar archetypes and draw you in with new, magnetic details.
Also: have you ever seen salt licks sculpted by cows? Or how oceans craft cliff sides? Nature creates some of the most elegant work that you just can’t compete with!
The distraction you want to eliminate: Browsing eBay for knickknacks to (over)fill my existing shelves and for the future selves I want to produce. Do I need *another* non-working but perfect condition Walkman? No… but also…. yes?
Concrete or marble? Ceramic.
High-rise or townhouse? Townhouse with a connected studio. A large workshop to prototype new ideas… high ceilings, a large skylight, a lush backyard to grow persimmons… a full kitchen with plenty of storage, a custom dining table… Uh, that answers it, right?
Remember or forget? Reminders to remember.
Aliens or ghosts? Both are real, so I would like to make it clear that I am on both your sides. 🙏
Dark or light? The in-betweens: sunset and sunrise.