A/D/O by MINI | Chris Chan gives a tour of The A/D/O Workspace

Chris Chan Inside the Workspace

Diving deep into Chris Chan's cultural foundations.

Deep into the night, after most people are asleep, the A/D/O workspace saws are humming as designer Chris Chan cuts wood for his sculptures. It is a meditative time to work and to experiment with new techniques, uninterrupted.

Over the past year this focus has allowed Chan to expand his collection and its reach. Filled with curated floral arrangements, his footwear vases have shown in more traditional settings such as galleries and Art Basel, while resonating outside the scope of the design world as part of a backdrop to a show at Complex, and as a trophy in a NIKE basketball game. Nostalgic and upbeat, Chan’s cubist vases have taken off.

“I am trying to say we are not really that different.”

When Chan was studying motion graphics at The Art Center College of Design in California, he began making wooden toys to animate for a narrative piece. Met with warm reception, this encouraged him to continue to make 3D work. Having started in graphic design, working at NIKE and other fashion brands as a designer, Chan never considered himself a sculptor. While he still does graphic work, his sculptural footwear vases are more personal: “I am trying to say we are not really that different. [...] Why I don’t do the whole body is so that we can all put ourselves in that shoe and see ourselves in the work.”

Footwear performs as a shorthand means of connection, a way for strangers to share appreciation and reverence for the same ideals or icons. Chan explained how as a child he saw shoes “as a cheat code of life,” that signified athleticism and ensured coolness. They were a way to “unlock this dream” of success. As he grew older, footwear has become a hopeful beacon and a reminder “of that initial drive of wanting something really badly and then blossoming into something else.” These sculptures stand as totems of a collective dream.

The way that Chan takes pictures of people’s feet for inspiration, makes vases of famous pant-shoe combinations, and determines floral arrangements is full of disarming humor. A Jordan vase filled with red roses, a juxtaposition of symbols, is the emblem of his lighthearted work. His contrast of maximalist forms and soft plants, something organic paired with something rigid, is what Chan sees drawing people in. 

“At the end of the day if I look at it and it’s kinda funny or I laugh inside or smile inside then I know I have got something.”

Text by Lily Saporta Tagiuri

Images By Justin Ryan Kim