candlesticks created during a School of Many Questions workshop
Candlesticks created during a recent class hosted by School of Many Questions Credit: Lesley Jackson

“Material artifacts are the most concrete things that surround us in our homes,” writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book The Meaning of Things. Most of us, particularly since the pandemic started, spend the majority of our time in our homes—giving the objects and environments therein an oversized role in shaping our moods, our days, and our identities. What if we had the knowledge or access to make more of those objects ourselves? If instead of buying the same mass-produced Ikea chair as millions of other people, we built one for ourselves, to our liking? 

The recently launched School of Many Questions aims to answer that question. Run by local designers Lesley Jackson, Alessandra Norman, and Danny Rosa, the design studio is offering affordable classes for making and designing utilitarian objects, with the goal of encouraging continual and communal learning. Current class offerings teach participants how to turn wooden candlesticks on a lathe, how to construct a chair with a cane-woven seat, or how to design and assemble a tabletop lamp (in a workshop titled “Illumination and Levity”).

At a soft launch event at the store Tusk in November, printouts (including an essay from The Meaning of Things, Bertolt Brecht’s poem “Questions From a Worker Who Reads,” and the Walter Benjamin essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) were available as takeaways. Impeccably made works from the founders were also on view: geometric-shaped lamps lit with round, multicolored bulbs, tiny side tables with embedded candleholders, and a wall-mounted cloud shelf smoking a cigarette, holding a copy of Marx’s Capital. School of Many Questions encourages us to learn the tools of production, positing that objects can be both useful and beautiful. Bread and roses, indeed.

Best of Chicago 2021 is
presented by

Green Thumb

sponsored in part by

Goethe Institut
Chicago History Museum

Refer to the closed final ballot to see all the categories and finalists that were voted on.