Seattle Still Lifes, By Photographer Charlie Schuck
PHOTOS BY CHARLIE SCHUCK
Every creative scene has an unseen hand, the type of person who seems to know everyone, touch everything, and generally act as the glue holding it all together, all while falling just below the radar of the average outside observer. In the Seattle design world, Charlie Schuck fits that profile to a tee. A photographer and the proprietor of the former brick and mortar storefront Object — which he filled with commissions by designers from around the Pacific Northwest — he not only produces stunning product shots for locals like Totokaelo, Iacoli & McAllister, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, and Filson, he also curates exhibitions, like the recent pop-up Future This Now and an upcoming museum survey of regional talents.
He’s so committed to his role, in fact, that when we approached him about doing a story on his own work, he came back with the idea to do a photo essay on everyone else’s: “A still life series of personal items that speak to the influences of Seattle creatives,” he says. “Objects from those who produce objects. I asked the following eight designers to not think too much about it, but grab whatever seemed relevant at the time. Why do we keep certain objects and let others go? How do the objects we keep affect our design process and personal rituals?” Check out the (rather elaborate) explanations of the eight creatives featured below — including Schuck himself — for the answers.
ERICH GINDER, furniture and lighting designer
“Much of my work is influenced by the rural landscape northeast of Seattle, in which I was raised. For Charlie’s shoot I brought a sword fern from my back yard, a piece of marbled paper from my studio, one of the quilts I designed with the Cama Beach Quilters, a copy of Andrea Branzi’s Domestic Animals, and a folded-paper sundial. I dug the fern out of my backyard. I’m way into gardening right now, and western sword ferns are native to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve used marbled paper in my work since 2006; I like the process by which it’s made. This particular sample is being used in a new catalog Charlie and I are currently collaborating on for Professional Associates, my collaboration with John Hogan.
“The quilt is one of a dozen I developed with a quilting group on Camano Island for a restaurant project I completed earlier this year. I’m especially fond of the combination of contemporary fabrics mixed in with the scraps on hand at the quilters’. Andrea Branzi’s Domestic Animals collection was an early influence on my work. A friend of mine gave me this copy when I was starting my studio in San Francisco. The paper sundial is something I designed as an insert for a regional design magazine here in Seattle called Gray. It’s probably the only one actually assembled, as it proved to be somewhat tedious to fold.”
ALEKSANDRA POLLNER, ceramicist
“Tulips in my favorite vase, rocks overgrown with barnacles, crystals, cloth, and a book of Breugel’s paintings: These are objects with which I like to create vignettes of escape and beauty for a daydream. Daydreams are an integral part of my creative process, providing me with insight, magic, play, and above all lawlessness. These little objects of natural beauty, textures, colors, and patterns help spark my ideas. I think it’s impossible to live in the Northwest and be untouched by our surrounding nature and living history.
“As for the Breugel, he along with Bosch were two incredible visionaries, luminaries. I would have included Bosch too, but that book weighed more than 50 pounds. My older sister and I grew up looking through books of both of these artists. Their work is a landscape of the architypal world; the fantastical, gross, scary, and yet beautiful world of breathing metaphors. A great walk in the woods.”
ASHLEY HELVEY, textile designer and art director
“I grabbed these items based on their materials: wood, bronze, and aluminum. I’m mostly drawn to their shape and functionality and in some cases, multi-functionality. For instance, the clay tools can be used as a spoon rest, comb, or sauce dish, and the dough-scraper can be used to apply paint or grout. I appreciate objects that are simply designed but have a function.”
JAMIE IACOLI OF IACOLI & MCALLISTER, furniture and product designers
“I gave Charlie the the following objects, which I use to make my water situation every day: lemon, lemon squeezer, mesh sieve (to catch the seeds), charcoal filter, tumbler. I’m really into clean living these days, and I drink a ton of charcoal-filtered water, into which I put an entire lemon and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a drop of oil of oregano. It’s a ritual that I really enjoy (I quit smoking last year, on my 35th birthday) and it encourages me to drink so so sooooo much water — probably 6-8 pints a day. The more water I drink the better I function, and as the business grows, the more important this is becoming. The amount of water I drink is also indicative of how well I’m eating, whether or not I’m exercising as I should, and if I’m meditating as I need to. I need to be able to work super efficiently, solve problems creatively, be a great boss, be a dependable team member, and continue to develop a product line that I believe in and that excites me — all the while having time to hang out and do other things with my boyfriend and our dogs.”
BRIAN MCALLISTER OF IACOLI & MCALLISTER
“I gave Charlie some of the few objects that I keep out in my room. All of these items happen to be gifts that have been given to me over the last few years or so, minus the sage, which was included for good measure. The bookends and wine stopper were given to me by my mom, who has a way of finding some pretty interesting objects. I never thought I’d have petrified wood bookends on display, and that’s what I like about these — they were unexpected in a good way. The vintage wine stopper is another one of my mom’s finds. The small pyramid is a gift from a friend with impeccable taste, and it has been on my bedside table or windowsill ever since. It’s a power object with good vibes. The last two items are gifts from my dad: a small vintage pocket knife and a vintage Stanley foldable measuring stick. This is one of those tools that has incredible detail and craftsmanship, something you don’t see in average tools these days. It has beautiful brass hinges and an amazing patina. This is a piece that inspires me to create work that stands the test of time and looks good with age.”
FARIS DU GRAF, jewelry designer
“I think being back in Seattle has made me a bit nostalgic for my childhood, growing up here. So when I was looking for objects of inspiration, all of the items I ended up choosing have been around since then. They have memories of playfullness and creativity, something I always try to remember when designing. Crayons I coveted when younger; they were like the kids’ version of Pantone guides. Even now I appreciate their simplicity of ingredients, just wax and pigment. They’re still my favorite medium to doodle with and to pull inspirational color palettes from.
“The Aalto stool was once seating to tea parties and now serves as my studio stepstool. Its probably the most long-lasting functional object in my life, and its modernist sensibility resonates with me — my jewelry often reflects that same period of design. Art Kits from the Met allowed you to be curious. Two in particular, an Egyptian bead kit and a patterned rubber-stamp set, I adored. Both contained designs that I mimicked when younger and subconsciously reference today. Jordans were the archetype of my era — I grew up in the ’90s and played every sport. My Nikes were worn down until the tread had holes. They were as functional as they were a fashion and cultural statement, and I still wear them for the same reasons. And then there are my parents, a candle-making hippie from San Francisco and go-go dancing fashionista from Manila who fell in love with each other, and with furniture. I’m grateful for the sensibilities they’ve passed along and am inspired by their journey.”
JOHN HOGAN, glass artist
“The objects that I gave Charlie include several types of optical glass lenses and a wooden game. Two of the more triangular lenses are from a digital projector, and the larger clear one is from an overhead projector. The colored and faceted lens is an element from an old piece of stained glass. And the wooden pieces are from an old Chinese game called ‘Tower of Hanoi’ that involves stacking concentric disks on pegs. My work focuses on the optical qualities of glass, and it runs the gamut of processes, from blown and hot-sculpted glass to kiln-formed and heavily cold-worked glass. I try to make objects that can work well in groups and encourage people to play and arrange them, like a game. The Tower of Hanoi form has inspired a lot of my recent sculptural works and molds I’ve had made for lighting. The longer I work with glass, the simpler the work becomes.”
LADIES & GENTLEMEN STUDIO, furniture and product designers
“To outsiders, our studio’s shelves and desktops are cluttered messes of randomness. To us, however, this semi-organized chaos is one of the key sources of inspiration for our creative work. This photo represents a sampling of office supplies and materials that are front-and-center for us right now. In the mix is a series of beautifully useful tools we use daily, and whose simple functionality is something we take pleasure in and strive to emulate in our work.
“We’re also heavily influenced by the more elemental pieces shown in the image: a fresh ream of paper, unsharpened pencils, the end section of a color-coded dowel, scrap material cut-offs, and color swatches of all forms. Seemingly mundane scraps, these pieces attract us for the purity of their shapes, colors, and textures. So many of our products began serendipitously with us playing with these parts like building blocks to create new combinations and compositions. This composition represents the way our desk clutter comes alive in our heads as new configurations of shapes, colors, and functions waiting to be discovered.”
CHARLIE SCHUCK, photographer and curator
“This is a mixture of work tools and items from my office. I look to history and my natural surroundings to find visions for the future. These objects, flowers, and plants all serve as a reminder. The Apollo bust has been around since the first iteration of Object, a design space / store / gallery in Seattle that was created to showcase new Northwest design. Apollo is a reminder of the narrative and history that extends beyond the immediate. The pink hat is made by Maiden Noir, a local brand run by Nin Truong and Christa Thomas, who also run a bag company called Black Pine, own a coffee shop, and have started a number of other design and retail businesses in Seattle. The gold block is actually one half of a pair of vintage ’70s brass bookends — I keep it around just to remind myself that good design should be timeless. I’m always looking for the future classic when it comes to contemporary design.
“A camera and duct tape: What else does a photographer really need? Flowers. I keep these throughout the winter to combat the grey days. Resting on Apollo is one of my particular favorites, the king protea, a lovely beast of a flower which fills my mind with thoughts of prehistoric times and plants of the future. We have a few flower shops in town that get in the rare ones, like London Plane, Marigold & Mint, and Youngs. Underneath Apollo is some old space-themed wrapping paper from Seattle’s best store, Totokaelo. I came up with that design idea while brainstorming with its brilliant owner, Jill Wenger. I’ve always felt that the packaging and delivery of anything should be an experience ,and ideally something you can keep for another purpose if possible.
“The conch — long live the sea! I grew up on an island in the Northwest and have always lived near the water. I like to listen to the ocean thru my conch phone when hungover. The vase in the back is from China; my grandma gave it to me. We’re at the edge of the US out here. The next stop is Asia, and as such, it’s impossible not to be inspired by the intricate history, design, and arts of that land. The paperweight is made of marble or some kind of granite. I borrowed it from a friend about 2 years ago and he had borrowed it from another friend a couple years before that. It sits on on another item aquired under similarly dubious circumstances: A print from one of my parents’ many books, The Green Vaults by Menzhausen. I accidentally ripped that out when I was a child, then tucked it back in, and no one opened the book for some 25 years — until this past winter. I remembered it for some reason while recovering from Christmas dinner, and lo and behold it was still right where I had left it.”