For Ayako AratanI and Evan Fay, partners in the Detroit-based studio Aratani Fay, pursuing MFAs in 3D design at Cranbrook Academy of Art was an opportunity to loosen up. Aratani had already earned a degree in product design from Chiba University in Japan and spent seven years as an industrial designer with an office furniture company. Fay had graduated with a BFA in furniture design from the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both, however, sought to colour outside the lines, and ultimately chose Cranbrook for its blending of fine art with craft, along with its focus on individual expression.
“Cranbrook changed my path toward a more handcrafted and maker-based practice,” says Aratani, 34. “One thing that ties our work together is our fascination with irregularities,” adds Fay, 27. “Ayako’s interested in organically handcrafted objects and I’ve been focusing on intuitive construction methods, but there is a lot of cross-pollination. I’ve also been researching unconventional seating typologies, and am looking for new ways to push padding and upholstery.”
The designers maintain separate authorship of their individual creations, but decided to share a studio and show their work together after interning at the Dutch studio Joost & Kiki, which is organized in a similar way.
Since graduating in 2016, the former classmates have been making waves with pieces such as Aratani’s Click-Clock, an asymmetrical porcelain timepiece with integrated folds rather than numbers for judging the hour, and Fay’s Lawless Chair, a woven seat made by snaking upholstered foam sections around a metal frame. They have shown their work at SaloneSatellite in Milan, Collective Design in New York and the Interior Design Show in Toronto. Throughout it all, they constantly goad each other to do better. “We hold each other to pretty high standards,” says Fay, “which pushes us both to be better designers.”
Evan Fay and Ayako Aratani
Master of Fine Arts in 3D Design,
Cranbrook Academy of Art, 2016
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Furniture Design,
Kendall College of Art and Design, 2014
Bachelor of Engineering in Product Design,
Chiba University, 2007
Founders and principals, Aratani Fay