Usually, Chris Schanck’s Detroit studio is busy with activity—dreaming up, prototyping, and finishing otherworldly furniture pieces that are created almost entirely from self-invented processes like flocking and alufoil. Rich in color, texture, and sci-fi inspiration, his practice is defined by its collective nature.
At the moment, though, while we’re all social distancing, Schanck is finding himself more alone with his thoughts, which has proved to be creatively productive. He shared with Whitewall that he’s also found the time to check in with his grandparents more often (great for perspective), relish a trip to the grocery store, and perfect the art of the cat fort.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
CHRIS SCHANCK: I’m good, feeling my way through it. Grateful that everyone close to me is healthy and safe but also worried about Detroit families that are disproportionately affected by this.
I have friends and family in the healthcare industry who are kicking ass and I’m very proud of all the hard work they’re doing.
My own days are quiet but productive. I’m indulging in hour long coffee in the morning before work and I’ve invented the perfect cat fort using a Kleenex box and blanket.
I’m finding myself extra thoughtful about my past, close relationships, and why I make the work that I do. Grocery shopping was already a social highlight during my work week before, now it’s extra special—seeing a few masked faces in the market is a morale boosting experience and something I sincerely look forward to.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, and watching?
CS: Listening: Anything by Laura Mvula calms and inspires me right now. I started a “chill2020” mix, new discoveries there include CASISDEAD, Loyle Carner, Jacob Banks, Camille Saint-Saens. My friends Charlie and Gary send me YouTube music videos every morning to get me out of bed, it’s really kind and makes me smile. Great hits like Head over Heels by The Go-Go’s, Seasons of Love from Rent, One from A Chorus Line, the list goes on…
Started reading Fewer Better Things, The Hidden Wisdom of Objects by Glenn Adamson. This book was meant to be read right now. For someone like myself who has a complicated relationship to things—I make very elaborate, loud and aggressive works of furniture but live in what some would say is a near empty and cold home. Adamson’s book inspires me to bridge my professional and personal relationship between making and living with things and to appreciate the transformational power craft can have on my own quality of life.
Watching: Fleabag! Late to the game on this, but oh so good. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is brilliant, she’ll inspire you to laugh, cry and move on. Andrew Scott crushes it and I’m a big Olivia Colman fan, here she plays a cringe worthy artist—she’s great! Check out the BBC’s Broadchurch for more Olivia Colman excellence.
WW: What are you cooking?
CS: Breakfast: Porridge with sliced fruit, coffee, water and vitamins. Lunch: Leftovers.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, chocolate. Dinner: Roasted veg, rice, beans, salads, hot sauce. Dessert: Peanut butter, yogurt, chocolate and tea.
WW: How are you staying connected?
CS: Talking with friends and family more than usual. Zoomed with my brother and sister and their families. That was fun, I’d like to keep that up.
Had a facetime hangout with an Insta artist friend that I really admire but had never met IRL.
I appreciated getting to chat with a new friend and it felt unlikely to happen if it weren’t for the quarantine.
Calling my mum a lot, she was in hospital for non-virus related problems but it still freaked me out and made me feel helpless. She’s out now and doing better.
WW: Oh, that’s so scary. Very glad to hear she’s doing better now.
Are you able to find the time to work in your studio?
CS: Yes, I’m very lucky my studio is close to home and I’m there most days. All of the assistants are on lockdown, so I have it to myself. It’s like the beginning, just you and an idea- I’m cherishing the solitude.
WW: How are you staying inspired and hopeful
CS: I started meditating a few months before this happened, that helps me breathe and find gratitude in isolation. For perspective I’ve been having long talks with my grandparents, Frances and Francis Schanck. They’ve been sharing stories about their experiences living through WWII as children, serving during the Korean war, and living through the Polio epidemic. They had some tough times but they’re grateful for all that they’ve lived through and experienced, and in their words, it’s time for me to experience things, too.