Aya Kakeda


Tokyo, Japan

Aya Kakeda draws and creates an imaginative world for clients all over the world. She likes drawing colorful patterns and characters. She also takes her imaginary friends to travel, and exhibits in galleries and museums throughout the world.

“I take my imaginary friends to travel the world.”

What did you get in trouble for as a kid? Anything adults told you to avoid that’s actually a big part of your life now?

I daydreamed a lot growing up, which for my parents was a bit worrisome, since I was just looking out the window or I wasn't responsive. But now I think this daydreaming habit is connected to what I do professionally. The imaginary friends I had as a kid still come out in my drawings, and the habit of being in the imaginative world helped when I became an artist.

Listen to music while you work? Anything special in your work space that unleashes your creative juices?

Usually no music — I put on NPR. For some reason I can get into the zone when I'm listening to a person talking rather than music.

What was your favorite thing to draw as a child? Why did that lodge in your head?

I liked drawing imaginary friends, and I also liked drawing/making cats, even though I didn't have a cat as a child. I remember making a sculpture of a blue cat with patterns in my first-grade art class. Maybe my love for cats as a child made me a cat lady as an adult, haha.

What’s your biggest art inspiration? This may not be visual. Like, anything!

Dance, costumes, folk art, folktale and reading books.

Where do you work? What’s your workspace like? Any objects you’ve had a long time?

I do illustrations from my home (sometimes I bring them to a cafe!). And I also have a ceramic studio for my sculptural work. In my home studio, I use my great grandmother's shelf, converted into my desk. And the room I work in was my grandma's tea ceremony room. It's nice to be connected with the ladies of my family. Even though they are no longer here I feel their presence.

How does creativity run in your family, even if it’s not design-related?

I didn't have any artists in my family but my grandfather really loved taking photos. He had a collection of cameras and always took photos of families and nature. My grandmother was a tea ceremony teacher, and when I visited her classes I enjoyed the beautiful ceramic and bamboo objects, seasonal flowers, patterns on the kimonos of the guests, and yummy Japanese sweets which were beautifully crafted.