By Anna Hoeschen.
All images by Caitlin Cooreman.
Minneapolis-based designer Araya Jensen ambles through her newly repurposed basement, an egg-white studio, while her son Quentin (3) and daughter Avery (5) race through the screen door into the sun-soaked backyard. Quentin has just celebrated his birthday and the air pulses with residual excitement.
When Araya and I pause to talk about her designs and the space that houses them, she pinpoints her family as the motivation to keep working, even when things aren’t going as smoothly as she’d like: “Essentially, they go to daycare one day a week, and I’m with them all the other days of the week. When times get a little tough, I just remember that I get to be with them.”
I discovered Araya’s collection of dipped housewares for her line Wind and Willow at Forage Modern Workshop (see the Handful of Salt write-up on this design haven here) in Minneapolis. Since then, I’ve revisited her work many times. Spirited punches of color add a brightness and levity that, depending on your mood and/or how much you enjoy cooking, may be hard to muster in the kitchen. I’m such a sucker for the neon pink bowls and spoons, and I’ve learned that plenty of other people are, too: “Neon pink is the most popular. Growing up in the late 80s, early 90s, I thought oh-no. I didn’t want it to work, but it does.”
What informs your designs? My background is in interior design. I found my niche in kitchen and bath. I like it because instead of just pretty stuff, it’s functional, [too]. As a kitchen and bath designer, every day you’re dealing with wood. Wood is something that I stick with as a medium. I love wood grain, and the beauty and originality of product. I’m not huge into trends. I like the juxtaposition of the natural with the dip. It’s mixing modern and traditional.
What was your family’s take on starting out in this business? Most of them really had no idea what I was doing. I make wood, dipped business cards and that’s what my dad got most excited about. [Laughs] I don’t know if they thought of it as a career; it was more like, “You make crafts.” My husband is really supportive; he’s the biggest advocate for my work.
Are you selective about who stocks your designs? Forage was the first Minnesota company to approach me…They weren’t a showroom yet. I try to be selective and not do anything that’s huge or mass. I try to keep it where they are supportive of the handmade, because that’s where my business started out. It’s much more exciting to work with companies like that. The company’s expectations and philosophy are most important.
You’ve mentioned the importance of connecting with other creatives. How have those connections grown over time? Through Forage and the Martha Stewart Handmade movement, I’ve been able to meet a lot of makers in the area, and every single one I’ve met has been awesome, which also keeps me going. It’s such an inspiration to meet people who are working so hard, loving what they do and who are completely humble.
Photographer Caitlin Cooreman: http://lemonshoe.tumblr.com/
Wind & Willow: http://www.windandwillowhome.com/
Forage Modern Workshop: http://www.handfulofsalt.com/places-we-love-forage-modern-workshop/