The foundation for Vagujhelyi is rooted in the concept of improving oneself—to become optimal. This includes all aspects of life, including the physical and mental. Diego Villarreal Vagujhelyi, whose eponymous collection of dumbbells launched at SIZED's New York exhibition, INDUSTRIALISM, is a new venture for Vagujhelyi, who has gained a following for his photography. Vagujhelyi spoke to us about the inspiration for the work and the transition from 2D to 3D.

One of the first things I tap into is the physical, so I wanted to create something that becomes part of the daily routine to excel. With the dumbbells, I wanted to evoke a relationship between the object and the person holding the object, in which the user can express physical self growth while identifying with their inner core values of aesthetics and expression.

The idea surged during Covid, with my fixation to create something sculptural. I found myself running at the beach near the house I was staying at in Puerto Rico, thinking, what could be the first item? I came with the idea to create my own dumbbells that are striking while also comfortable and ergonomic—something that could be part of your day-to-day while also inspiring you to work out. Working on the self while establishing a sense of self simultaneously.

The constant of Vagujhelyi is the idea of improving both habits and experiences. I believe anything is possible if you work towards it. If you align yourself with your purpose, the possibilities are endless and will constantly expand.

In relation to my photography, it just comes as extension of what I want to bring into this world—pieces that I want to support my time in the earth. My observation of my own homoerotic experience and my artistic vision combined with the idea of growing and expanding into other complimentary fields help me move forward in my practice.

The prototype for the dumbbells were done in Puerto Rico, piecing things together like sticks and coconut shells to begin to create a visual for myself. Later I worked on them by hand in my basement in Alabama, where I created several prototypes.

The dumbbells are produced in Milwaukee and then hand-polished at a different facility. I just finished the last details, shaping the handle individually to create a larger sense of uniqueness with each piece. The logo engraving is done in New York, and the wooden box we are packaging them in is from the wood my stepdad has logged—it's a very family affair. Each dumbbell is made with solid 304 grade stainless steel and weigh 20 pounds each.

Images by Diego Villarreal Vagujhelyi


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