With dozens of artists, designers and craftsmen coming together to create unique scenes full of colours and shapes (and, in some cases, scents and sounds), one thing is clear: Vignettes Design Series is best viewed without any expectations. That’s especially true of the Vignette made by Kelvin Soo and Bob Fedina (team name: Kelvin and Bob’s).
The first view of their Vignette is of an exotic scene. A stencilled giraffe, gold-leafed palm tree and colourful, carved Tiki mask sit in front of a turquoise, pink and white wall textured like the underside of a blue whale. That’s the outside. To get in, you have to open the Tiki and crouch, where you’ll step on to a pristine tile floor in a regal room with ornate fixtures and the centrepiece: A pair of overgrown seahorses pulling a velvet chariot among animatronic waves. It’s many things — the most divergent and arguably most Instagram-able Vignette — but “expected” isn’t one of them.
“We wanted people to have different expectations,” Soo says. “So, when you come in and you crawl through an uncomfortable hole in the wall, you’re bent down, and then you look up and the ceiling is so high, it makes it grander, psychologically. And it’s like, ‘whoa.’”
The pair views their Vignette as a portal to the child-like and surreal, like a mash-up of Disney movies, going from rustic to refined, but the detailed craftsmanship and over-the-top presentation is also somewhat of a statement on the state of their industry, which they believe has gone too far in rewarding minimalism for the wrong reasons. “A lot of people go minimalism today but my take on minimalism is it’s a capitalist’s dream,” Soo explains. “They charge everybody for straight lines and a less-polished product, the maximum amount of money for minimal work, but craftsmen are dying out.”
And craftsmen they are, with long professional lives ahead, especially when you discover that everything, except the lights, tile and mirror, was made, painted and upholstered by team Kelvin and Bob’s. “Our philosophy is go hard or go hard. There’s no option to go home,” Soo says. “Being a two-man show, we wanted to make a statement that we could do the same job as a team of five or six. When they crawl through that Tiki and look up, we want everyone’s jaws to drop.”
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