Forrest Lewinger of Workaday Handmade
Forrest Lewinger of Workaday Handmade, founded in 2012, is known for creating functional ceramics that embody a sense of playfulness. While originally pursuing music and sculpture, he was in need of extra work and was hired on as production assistant for a high-end ceramicist. After devoting every lunch hour to exploring routine and process by hand-throwing one blue pot per day, this mundane effort became the definition of work·a·day.
With his home and studio in Brooklyn connected, Forrest shared with us how lucky he feels to be able to have both so close to him while quarantining. Always a goal in mind, he prefers having the two elements of life conjoined, allowing him to practice ballet with his daughter and fulfill orders one after the other. The artist opened up about what’s been bringing him peace recently and recommended a thoughtful list of books, playlists, and podcasts to zone out to.
Have you started practicing a new daily ritual that you didn’t have time for or that you didn’t feel the need for previously?
I would love to say yes to this question, but time seems to have both expanded and contracted simultaneously with this whole thing. My routine has changed mostly because my wife and I split childcare during the days now. We speak to our family and friends via video chat. I never really liked Skype or FaceTime before but I like seeing my people's faces. That's new!
Did you start reading or watching anything recently that brings you comfort?
One of the lucky things about my work is I can listen to things for long stretches, so I do a lot of audio books. Two books I have going are Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I also have The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner, on my bedside table (which can really be a death sentence for a book because I end up reading it in the tiniest increments before falling asleep), but I love his writing so I think I'll move it to the couch.
Podcasts are an essential part of my listening habits too, but I go back and forth between wanting to know as much as I can about this moment and not wanting to think about it at all. If I want to think about the actual world I listen to Intercepted, Chapo Trap House, The Dig, Brian Lehrer Show, or Rising. If I'm looking to think about ideas, culture, or general feelings of positivity and optimism I go to Comedy Bang Bang, Hi Phi Nation, The Kitchen Sisters Present, Popcast, or eflux.
Staying home has meant more time to be in the kitchen for us. Have you been cooking? Have you discovered any nourishing recipes that are your favorite right now?
So much cooking right now! We made a really good fennel anchovy pasta thing we found on Bon Appétit. We just made a delicious lasagna out of that Alison Roman book Nothing Fancy.
“Taking breaks from the news is important. It can feel like a list of atrocities and that it's your personal responsibility to respond to them. Days where instead of consuming the news, I listen to music, read a book, and watch a good movie are the days when I feel the best.”
Any playlists or artists you can share for focusing while working, unwinding in the evening, or releasing pent up energy any time of day?
When my kid was born I started compiling songs I was listening to at the time — two years ago now; how did that happen!? — that just made me feel good. Will they make you feel good? I can't guarantee that. It's a nostalgic chilled out playlist for the most part, maybe you'll like it! (Find playlist here).
It can be hard to get exercise when we’re inside most of the day. Have you found fun ways to get physical activity in?
My daughter got really into ballerinas so we've been doing "ballet class," which consists of running around in circles in the living room.
Have you begun any unexpected projects?
Sadly, not yet. I'm just trying to keep up and to get as much of a grip on things as I can. I hope we can all come out of this and explode with unexpected projects! I know we can!
If you’re currently working from home, what helps you balance home life from work life? Do you have any boundaries between the two that keep you productive?
However hard this thing seems for me and my family, I am one of the extremely lucky ones where my home and my studio are connected. Work and life had smeared together already. It's what I've always wanted. When I am in the studio, I am really there and focused, and when I am in the house, I am doing all the domestic stuff. The proximity allows me to spend as much time as I can in both. I think dedicated space is important, which can be very small or even virtual. I think of creating a path of least resistance that leads me to my work. For me that means having all my materials within my grasp and having a cleared out space to do the work (floor space, wall space, table space, time, etc.).
How have you been staying connected to family, friends, and the outside world?
We are Zoomin' and Zoomin' and FaceTiming and Zoomin.' I downloaded WhatsApp to stay in touch with my international friends.
Any tips for boosting our immune systems and staying healthy?
I've been on the Echinacea Tea and constantly reminding myself to drink more water. I don't think there is a real way to prepare your immune system for something like this beyond the normal healthy stuff. Eat the rainbow, drink water, stay active.
Do you have any general/overall advice for remaining calm during this period? What has felt restorative for you?
Taking breaks from the news is important. It can feel like a list of atrocities and that it's your personal responsibility to respond to them. Days where instead of consuming the news, I listen to music, read a book, and watch a good movie are the days when I feel the best.
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Portrait by Sharon Radisch
Editorial photography by Chelsea White
Interview by Ivy Schneider