Karen Lee

is a designer who focuses on materials and objects, and is presently based in Detroit, MI. For CV click on the wormy shelf :-) ------->>

*object-oriented design* >>>
empathetic + open objects
simultaneity of being & becoming
her current body of work engages in objects that redefine their own roles in and relationships to the domestic landscape.

She leverages traditional craft processes and material combinations to explore new and unexpected forms of communal systems. Because domestic furniture serve as loaded social and cultural objects that typically act as an intermediary between people and space, what happens when their intended use becomes obscured or reconfigured? What sorts of new communal space or cultural realities are created?

IG: @bodegadog

Open to inquiries, commissions, collaboration, or even a friendly hello.

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b. 1991, San Francisco, CA


2020 MFA 3D, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI

2013 BFA Textiles with Honors, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Group Exhibitions

2020 (Upcoming) Stop Making Sense: Expanded Practices in Contemporary Craft, Center Gallery at College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI

2020 (Current) Never Normal Exhibition with Form & Seek, Wasserman Projects, Detroit Design Month, Detroit, MI

2020 Dezeen Virtual Graduate Show, Digital Show

2020 Cranbrook Graduate Degree Exhibition, Digital Show

2019 Experiencing Perspectives, Mercedes Benz Financial Services, Farmington Hills, MI

2019 SUBSTANCE Exhibition with Form & Seek, Detroit Design Month, Detroit, MI

2019 Outreach, Proximity Gallery, Digital Show

2019 Design Mutations, International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), Constellation Award, New York, NY

2018 Define: Materials Group Show, Portland Design Week, Portland, OR

Professional Experience

2021 (Expected) Adjunct Faculty for Graduate Color & Materials Design + Crafts and Materials Undergraduate Studies, College for Creative Studies

DCR 485 / DGR 685 Advanced Material Research Methods in Craft and Materials Undergraduate Studies + Color and Materials Graduate Studies

Studio II: Course 602 Brand Dialogues in Color and Materials Graduate Studies

2020 (Current) Adjunct Faculty for Graduate Color & Materials Design Studio III: Course CMD701-A, College for Creative Studies

2019 - 2020 Studio Manager for 3D Department, Cranbrook Academy of Art

2019 - 2020 Student-Led Fabrication Workshop Series Coordinator, Cranbrook Academy of Art

2019 Guest Critic for Industrial Design Class, Lawrence Technical University, Southfield, MI

2018 Guest Thesis Critic for Color, Materials, and Finishes Graduate Department, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI

2013 - 2018 Materials Designer, NIKE Sportswear, Performance Basketball, and Field Sports Footwear, NIKE Inc, Beaverton, OR

2011 – 2013 Textiles Artist Mentor, New Urban Arts, Providence, RI

2011 – 2013 Scholarships for Service, Americorps Member, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

2012 Project Open Door Amgen Fellowship, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Awards & Residencies

2020 Dezeen Awards Longlist for Furniture Design

2020 Cranbrook Art Museum Purchase Prize, Bloomfield Hills, MI

2019 Gere Kavanaugh Design Scholarship, Merit Scholarship, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI

2019 Artist-in-Residence, Conduit, Happy Valley, OR

2019 Constellation Award, International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), New York, NY

2018 Winter Artist-in-Residence, Penland School of Crafts, Asheville, NC

2012 Textron Fellowship Award, Rhode Island School of Design Merit Scholarship, Providence, RI

2012 Leadership Recognition, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI


2020 Dezeen Awards 2020 Furniture Design

2020 Artsy Editorial Feature

2020 Dezeen Virtual Design Festival Graduate Show

2020 Pink Essay

2020 Sight Unseen Saturday Selects

2019 DesignCore for Detroit Design Month, SUBSTANCE Exhibition with Form & Seek

Photo Credit: Clare Gatto

Never Normal

Curated and co-organized Never Normal show with Form&Seek in partnership with Wasserman Projects for 2020 Detroit Month of Design.

Never Normal is an exhibition that expresses the ever-changing viewpoint of the designer’s perspective on the built world. The future now seems inscrutable, provoking us to think of the possibilities and opportunities for change in human behaviors and our environment. Looking away from the conventional means of solving problems, the works in this exhibition seek to reexamine and reevaluate our personal relationships to our domestic landscape. Through craft or making, these designers are able to express value, preciousness, and care that offer intuitive moments of clarity on contemporary issues in response to the needs of a society in flux.

This exhibition features over 20 Detroit-based and connected designers:

Aaron Blendowski, Annie Meyer, Aratani Fay (Ayako Aratani & Evan Fay), Bilge Nur Saltik, Brett Evans & Karen Lee, Cody Norman, Donut Shop, Ebitenyefa Baralaye, END Studio (Elise DeChard, Sophie Yan, Kapish Kaur Cheema), EXTENTS, Hayden Richer, Irina Flore, Joonghan Bae, Joseph Parr, Kyle Joseph, Mark Dineen, Michael Neville, Nicholas Tilma, Phoebe Kuo, Simon Anton, Studio Herron, SUBSTUDIO (Hannah Dewhirst & Ingrid Schmidt), Sunny Kim.

Shown alongside works from artists: John Dante Bianchi, Maritza Caneca, Dorota & Steve Coy, Chris Hyndman, Summer Wheat, Adrian Wong, and Marela Zacarias.

Photo Credit: Clare Gatto

Untitled (Macaroni for Every Being)

In collaboration with Brett Evans
Wood, Ceramic
56" x 56" x 21.5"

Untitled (Macaroni for Every Being) attempts to find new communal object systems that oscillate between our known human understanding of them and that of the objects’ experience of inhabiting those structures. Some of these structural design experiments explore the ‘in-betweenness’ of objects in terms of their value as both functional furniture and as objects that can possess their own agency. ​With the end applications ranging from table top vessels to full scale ambiguous forms that could potentially be a low table, all objects utilize a mixture of traditional materials wood and ceramic.

Object / Subject

Wood, Glass
23" x 12.75" x 10"

Object / Subject features a multi-use object that combines both glass vessels and table top form.

Culture Club v2

Wood, Glass, Ceramic
40” x 14” x 34"

Culture Club v2 leverages traditional vessel making processes to explore nested systems within objects.

Part of Permanent Collection at Cranbrook Art Museum

Culture Club v1

Wood, Glass, Ceramic

Culture Club v1 aims to explore ideas of use-value through stacked radially symmetrical vessel forms.

Filtration Tests

Glass, Metal, Assorted Rocks

define: material

Curated and exhibited a group show define: material for Portland Design Week 2018 with Laura Wade.

Laura Wade
Parsha Gerayesh
Jacqueline Lefferts
Frank McGovern
Sam Newman
Georgina Kerr Mcdonald