Wassily is shaking! As part of 2021 Detroit Month of Design, alumni and students from the prestigious Cranbrook Art Academy in Michigan 3D Arts program hosted an annual chair show, diving deep into the art form. Set amongst the backdrop of an industrial studio in downtown Detroit owned by Jack Craig—artist and co-chair—over 40 artworks were on display.
For most people, chairs have been seen as functional for millenia. The structure is often meant to hold seated weight at dining tables or DMV waiting rooms, not stand alone on its own as a sculptural art piece. Thanks to the modern resurgence of Pinterest-core favorites like the Wassily chair, as well as a renewed overall interest in interior design and home aesthetics, everyone wants in on the trend.
This year's chair show is meant to challenge the traditional notion of what a chair is. Anything can be a chair, really. From miniature ceramic pillow stools to fuzzy, millennial pink blow-up toilets and seated objects made out of multicolored carpet scraps, there was something on display for every indie kid and artsy student to enjoy.
The initiative comes at the end of Detroit Month of Design, a month-long endeavor held in September meant to bring the community together. Over the last few years, creative agencies like Design Core Detroit and artists have made it a personal mission to change the stigma surrounding the former motor city, transforming a once sleepy community into a vibrant cultural center.
Below, see our favorite chairs from the 2021 Detroit Month of Design's Cranbrook Chair Show.
Coil Chair by Eleanor Anderson and Forrest Hudes
The coil chair is the first in a series of collaborative furniture objects from Eleanor Anderson and Forrest Hudes exploring the relationship between structure and covering. In this piece, Hudes created a steel chair structure that Anderson then "upholstered" in this coil wrapping style. "We had been dreaming about different ways of combining our practices for a while and this chair show seemed like a great opportunity to explore collaborating on a functional and decorative object."
Tendril Chair by Breanne Johnson
"The fragility of my chairs prioritizes their relationship to art over utility, but both chairs hold corporal weight and respond creatively and artfully to the necessity of sitting, positioning them within the world of design and utility as well. It is important to me that they function, at least marginally, as chairs, even if embedded in that use value is an escalating relationship to decay. In this work I see the relationship between utility and art as less of a marriage and more of a conversation; these chairs were not built to withstand the test of time, but then, I'm not sure that utility and longevity are synonymous."
Marrow Chair by Hayden Richér
"My interest lies in the preservation of stark weight, mass, and their sculptural convergence into furniture. Emphasizing opposing ideas of gradual growth and weathering, my works often present a slow storyline along an almost tectonically scaled timeline—one of quiet, humble, and earnest growth. The "Marrow Chair" focuses on the simultaneous existence of both stoic catalysts and the evidence of gravity."
Soft Stool 2 by Jenna VanFleteren
"'Soft Stool' originated from thinking about things we sit on everyday that are necessarily chairs; like coolers, buckets, stumps, and toilets. I wanted to use material sensibility from one room in the house and apply it to another. Inspired by looking at historical home trends I chose the materials, textures, and color to evoke nostalgia, warmth, and playfulness."
Porifera Chair by Evan Fay & Ayako Aratani
"Through the process of cleaning, dyeing, cutting, and assembling, we transformed natural sea sponge into textured seat padding. With hand-drawn outlines and irregular cushion material, we sought a balance between metaphor and utility while showing honest craft on obvious construction."
NEO Series: Winzer Chair_001AP by Aaron Blendowski
"The 'Winzer Chair' is part of a series that draws on a rich history of furniture, archetypes, and narratives. The design references the legacy of a particular and familiar object, the Windsor Chair. Transforming the condition of the piece through merged timelines and genres, the gently reimagined forms have been adjusted to meet a new aesthetic. The use of vibrant color and subtle but divergent formal shifts allow the object to erode traditions set up by time-honored craft objects."
BCF Chair by Jack Craig
"In all my work, to start, I look to engage my surroundings as primitively as possible—everything is on an equal playing field as a stick or a rock. The modern landscape is an increasingly artificial one - my forest is the living room and I'm harvesting the carpet off the floor. Wall to wall carpeting is so ubiquitous it is easy to look past its strangeness, but its magic trick is as a kind of a false flesh. It is shaped by the economies of mass production but in mimicry of the warmth, comfort, and softness of animals. Once you start thinking of it as spongy tissue, more of the biology emerges—it becomes more sci-fi, more fantasy."
Photography: Manda Moran