Ray Chi thought he wanted to become an architect. He earned a degree at the University of Michigan and proceeded to Harvard School of Design. But he was restless. When his childhood friend, Chris Smith, told him he was in Milwaukee working on an independent film with Sarah Price (American Movie), Chi packed a U-Haul, and headed down the highway to an unknown city and a dislodged destiny. He worked on the now-
infamous film, eventually finished his architectural training, but never quite practiced the trade.
As an artist, he combines structure and function with whimsy, invention and, often, houseplants. For example, Chi’s blue and white chair was designed to look like a person reclining. And Chi’s desk provides a usable work space but adds a rock garden, a trickling water feature, wine rack and built-in still-life display to embed practicality with echoes of the mental wandering we might do at our desk, via nature, sensuality, or the promise of a glass of wine after work. It’s all there. Currently, Chi, who is also a cellist, is focused on video projects – commissioned documentaries on Pieter Godfrey and Frederick Layton. His historic house in the Harambee neighborhood hums with polyglot industry, from the backyard garden to his wife’s sewing studio. A happy mix of industry and invention pervades.