Aleksandra Zee, author of The Way of the Woodshop, talks about her inspirations and ways of creating art. She also lets us in on how she's dealing with and keeping busy during quarantine at home with her hubby in Oakland, CA.
How are you surviving Quarantine so far? You seem to have the perfect set-up for social isolation. We are drooling over your back deck!
"My hubby and I are trying to stay busy with home projects and limited time at the shop. The woodshop is my own private space but we are doing our best to limit time driving and being outside. So we have cut our work week in half which is really strange because up until a few weeks ago we were basically working 6 days a week. The slowdown is welcomed, with lots of rest, eating well and spending time really being present with each other. Our little cabin in Oakland has felt like a sanctuary. We love doing home projects so this time has really opened up the space for the little improvements we have been waiting to make. Like painting the upstairs, installing new light fixtures, and cleaning up the backyard after all the rain and weeds that winter brought. These times truly are teaching us to slow down, be present, be thankful for the roof over our head and really get creative on how to pivot the business into a new way of bringing in income".
What has your typical schedule been like so far during quarantine? Are you at least getting more time to work on your art?
"As for working on art, weirdly I have not felt very inspired. Maybe that isn't weird. We are all coping with this shift of life and the fear that comes along with it, and the freedom to create hasn't come yet and I am ok with that. I am not one to ever force work when it isn't ready, those are the pieces that are never successful. At the moment we have been spending half the week at home and half the week at the shop. (We as in my Husband Antrom and I, we run the biz together) Thanking my amazing clients who have placed orders with me lately that are keeping me afloat, we are focusing on fulfilling orders and not so much the creation of brand new patterns and pieces which weirdly was scheduled to be this time when I planned out my year in December, life always lets you know when it's time to surrender.
I have also been thinking a lot about the art making process during this time. With Instagram being pretty new, and pretty new to the art world and creating artwork and every process in life for that matter from walking your dog, to cooking a meal. Before instagram artwork was made on the timeline of the artist, whether it be an art show, new body of work or just when the inspiration hit. Each artist has a flow when they work and when they feel most inspired and when they hibernate and rest and gear up for new work. Instagram brings in this level of "I want it now" "I need to keep making new things" "If I don't make new things all the time people will lose interest" "I need to share something new and different every single day" "Make Make Make" Where there is a beautiful hustle in there, there is also the sense of urgency to not become irrelevant. Thinking about all of this makes me feel like I have maybe had it a bit backwards for the past little while, maybe a lot of us have. There is a beauty in the process of art and the time it takes to create it, find the inspiration to do so, test it out, make some bad art and then release a new collection.
SOOOO I am welcoming this shift in perspective and the grace it is bringing my practice. Who knows this slow down could soon yield my best work".
What inspired you to begin creating your art?
"I have always loved making with my hands. Right out of college I got a job working for Anthropologie doing window and in store display, it was a dream job right out of college and one I thought I would do forever. As I dove deeper into that job I noticed a drive to want to make work that was mine, inspired by my perspective on my materials and have my name on it. So I quit, and decided to try my hand at making it as an independent artist. My work has always been inspired by nature, being outside and connecting with the earth. The high desert is where I pull most of my inspiration and it is my favorite place to be and bring back home to my shop with me".
How has your art changed over time?
"My work at the beginning was very installation based, interactive, reclaimed and chunky. As I have grown and changed and deepened my practice I have changed the way I create. I am drawn to the more minimalist look, colors, material and feeling. I have made things more simple, streamlined and now with my new work I'm experimenting with function. My new sculptural work plays with artwork that can stand alone in a space or also be interacted with, stacked or used as furniture. I love the idea of simplified living, things that serve multiple purposes and functions".
Who are some of the other artists that have inspired you and your work?
"One of my dearest friends Katie Gong is one of my biggest inspirations. We both worked at Anthro together, quit around the same time, and have shared multiple studios together growing our own art practices. She is a woodworker and amazingly talented one. Her work has always inspired me, pushed me to be better and we have collaborated on so much fun and challenging projects. I love working side by side with her".
Some of the greats that always inspire me are
How would you describe your style? Who or what inspires this?
"First is comfort. I love to be comfortable and have my pieces be able to be in the shop or be out to dinner. Lots of white, I love shades of whites, beige and neutrals. I have always leaned towards a more simple approach to my wardrobe, beautiful pieces that are a staple in my closet. My fav looks right now is a flowy blouse with some white pants or blue jeans".
Do you have any tips for our readers in quarantine on how to tap into their creative side? Maybe your new book would be a great creative distraction?
"My book The Way of the Woodshop would be a fab distraction and welcome diving into creativity. It's all about the journey of a creative lifestyle from projects to inspiration sourcing to decorating.
I have really been loving the small budget friendly ways to brighten up your home while spending so much time in it.
A fresh coat of paint, new light fixture , or some fresh white bed linens have really made me feel excited about being home and loving on my space".
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