Vivian Chiu Design: Magnificent Furniture for Your Home

Vivian Chiu

Vivian Chiu

Vivian Chiu has recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in the Furniture Design department. She was born in Los Angeles and raised in Hong Kong. Vivian was constantly surrounded by a busy urban landscape and learned to appreciate simple forms and organic materials. Despite Vivian’s age, she has already attracted an attention of people who got interest in her design projects. We also decided to meet and take an interview with Vivian Chiu and ask her some questions about Vivian’s creativity and interesting design projects. Thank you for staying with AstrumPeople and enjoy reading!

AP: Vivian, tell us about your first works. What did they look like?

VC: My first works were very conceptual. In high school my work was mixed media and concept based because that was what was pushed. I was mainly influenced by Sol Lewitt, Robert Rauchenberg and Andy Warhol. But I soon got very tired of the explaining and the writing and was more interested in the technical aspect of art and I think that was the beginning of my interest in craft.

AP: Do you have any formal education in design or were you self-taught?Vivian Chiu Design

VC: I was in the undergraduate furniture department at the Rhode Island School of Design. That’s pretty much where I had all of my education in furniture and wood working. The department was a perfect place for a young artists/designer because teachers were very open to ideas and the department in my opinion was more “fine arts” than design. Basically they taught you how to make things in wood, metal, plastics and fabric (upholstery) and then do whatever you want with it which was the perfect learning experience for me.

AP: What genre are your works?

VC: I don’t really know what genre I am in. I think “fine art furniture” would be the closest term. Although I am so early in my career that I don’t think I have enough works to determine a genre. My works are almost solely craft based and not conceptually based. If I did have a concept to my works that concept would be craft. I do like working in this genre because it is very open and I can border into sculpture or commercial furniture depending on what the project is.

Vivian Chiu DesignAP: How would you describe your works?

VC: I think my works are pretty interesting to me. I don’t even know what exactly I’m trying to say but they way I work is to try to push myself physically through woodworking. I try to make things as visually interesting as possible and would like people to question how things are made. I also like to show people the amazing qualities of wood and its versatility.

AP: How did you come up with idea about ‘Inception Chair?’ Did it happen after you watched the “Inception” movie?

VC: I came up with the Inception chair by accident I think. I work pretty inefficiently in that I basically doodle a lot and then extract ideas out of that. I was drawing squares within squares and the idea came to me. After that it was just a matter of whether I could do it or not. The name Inception came after but when I was designing it I did make the connection very early on and the name stuck. I think it also has many similarities with the movie because you don’t know what’s happening at first and presents some pretty interesting illusions.

AP: While looking at your works we had feeling of endlessness and and a kind of puzzle (we mean “Inception Chair, “Hypercube” “Pixel Chair” “Fu Lei Zhi” and etc). What is the idea you are trying to share with people? 

VC: I try to push myself physically with my work so naturally I work with patterns and converging lines. I try to make illusions and have the viewer question how the piece is made. I am a huge fan of the “second glance” and I hope that my work does that when presented in from of an audience.

AP: What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to create your furniture?Vivian Chiu Design

VC: My pieces basically start off as doodles and then I attempt to extract an idea out (which usually takes the longest). I then use TurboCad to find measurements (I rarely draw out the piece anymore and try to just see what happens). I then spend the rest of my time making and crafting the object. I like this process because I have started to enjoy happy accidents that happen when I’ve finished the piece. I do like to focus on techniques that are quite simple but challenge myself to do as much of a simple technique as possible. An example of this is the Pixel Chair required cutting over 4000 pixels and laminating them by hand in brick formation. I think many people could do it, but only a few would. I like to make things that people wouldn’t make but could.

AP: Would you consider yourself as an expert in design?

VC: In no way am I an expert in the field I am in. I honored to have all the publicity and am very appreciative of position that I am in. I am enthusiastic about being a professional studio furniture / woodworker and hopefully I can have my own studio one day and teach the craft.

Vivian Chiu DesignAP: What is the formula for success in your activity?

VC: I have been extremely lucky so far. All my success has been a result of complete luck as I was one of four people to be chosen to show their work at NoHo Design District earlier this year. The show alone sparked publicity and interest in my work. It was after that show that my chair became, if I can say, an online sensation. It was pretty spectacular because I was still in my final semester at RISD and I was online everywhere. It was very definitely very humbling. Right now I’m looking for grants and residencies to allow me to continue making work.

AP:  Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?

VC: My friends and family have been very supportive. Meg Callahan, Rosie Li and Eric Zhou from my class at RISD made my life easier and more exciting. My professors at RISD have been the most supportive mainly because I am interested in Craft and the ‘Hand-made’. They serve not only as supporters but as mentors and the teachers that still practice wood-working are definitely an inspiration for my own work. An artist that always inspires me is Richard Sweeney. His works are not only aesthetically amazing but are so technical and require a great knowledge of the material and its properties. I hope to conquer wood as he does with paper.

AP: Would you like to wish something to your readers and AstrumPeople?

VC: It’s crazy for someone to be asking me for advice since I just graduated. I guess I would just say life is too short to be watching TV and surfing the Internet.

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