From her home to her studio and personal style, Oakland based Woodworker Aleksandra Zee lives a lifestyle of beautifully curated simplicity. Pulling inspiration from nature and calming hues, Aleksandra walks us through what stimulates her when it comes to career, style and travel.
On your career…
What inspired you to start your artistry in woodworking?
I always knew I wanted to work with my hands, it was just the medium that took a while to come. I was a painter/installation artist in college, and my first job out of college was working for a major retailer doing window displays. The job was very hands on, installation based. I loved it, but what I really fell in love with was any project where I got to work with wood. After about 3 years I had the itch/draw towards making my own work, and possibly trying to make that my full time job. I ended up leaving my safe job to be a waitress and figure out my art career. It took a while but I found my way, found my style, and it has been 8 years now that I have been making art and hustling it!
How did you gain your initial training and experience?
Some I learned in college, but a majority of my training came from doing window displays. With each project we did, I learned an entirely new skill set. And then practice, practice, practice.
What inspires your pieces?
Nature, travel, quiet time. Stepping away from the shop, absorbing the fresh air and taking a moment of pause. Currently, most of my work is heavily inspired by the desert.
What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
Each day is different, it varies from project to project. Currently it has been my fiancé and I working together in the shop a lot, there are a lot of commissions and huge projects on the list and having an extra set of hands has been so great. We work really well together so it feels natural.
For readers who are interested in your workshops, can you walk us through what they entail?
Yes! So the workshops that I am currently offering are more woodworking based instead of making my artwork. I ran into issues with attendees taking the knowledge I share and stealing it, and copying my work and selling it so I have moved away from that. I have been teaching cutting board workshops lately and it has been a blast. Each student gets a raw, unfinished piece of walnut that they can customize by adding a hole to hang it, cut out angles on the edges and carve into it. The process is about refining the wood and taking the time to sand and condition it. It takes a while and it’s the greatest watching everyone get really into it. Hopefully in the summer I will add a few more things to the workshops, like a blanket ladder, or coasters.
You have a book coming out in October. What inspired you to write it and what can people expect from it?
I have a book coming out in October! It has been a year in the making, and it is part soul craft, empowerment, life story, and DIY. I am so excited to share more about it as the release date gets closer!
If you weren’t creating beautiful pieces and teaching others to create woodwork, what career path would you have chosen?
Science really inspires me, I am so intrigued with how delicate our planet is to sustain life. Being an astronaut would be the coolest! But I get so motion sick that I am sure that wouldn’t have worked
Describe your personal style in one sentence.
Simple, clean, modern.
What are some of your wardrobe staples?
Jeans, white shirts, and some yummy jackets. I have been really feeling a draw towards simplicity, well made pieces that you can wear with everything.
What is your work uniform?
Usually denim, or coveralls. I get so dirty in the shop that whatever I wear has to be able to get dirty.
You’re working all day in your shop and you have dinner plans, but no time to go back home and change. How do you take your outfit from day to night?
Dust myself off, swap the boots for a black or brown heel, and shake out my top knot.
I have been wearing less extra things lately - I have a few very special rings and my necklace that says Al on it that my future sis in law gave me.
You have a gorgeous, monochromatic home that you have carefully and thoughtfully curated – what inspires your décor?
Calmness. I want my space to feel like a place of rest, that is welcoming and relaxed with not a lot going on. I hate clutter, so everything has its place and we are constantly getting rid of things that don’t serve us.
Can you tell us a little about your most cherished pieces?
Another important aspect of how I decorate my home, is I love to know where things are made and who made them. I am so lucky to be a part of such a brilliant and talented community of makers, that filling my home with their work is easy to do. Some of my most cherished pieces are, the dining table that I made with my friend Katie Gong, the neon work by my friend Meryl Pataky, tapestry from Kuddkrig Home, and our credenza by Four Quarter.
How did you meet your fiancée, Antrom?
We initially met on Facebook haha, I asked him to come and meet me at a trade show. I had a booth at called West Coast Craft - he showed up and was the sweetest and most handsome, so we hung out a week later and never stopped. We are getting married this September!
How did he propose?
He proposed with a ring that he had made by Young in The Mountains with a diamond that my mother (who passed three years ago) gave me in a necklace when I was little. It is one of the only things of hers that I have. He popped the question on my birthday in Tulum. His plan was to take a sunset walk, but I was really feeling dinner and I kept ordering food and wine and was so confused why he wasn’t very hungry. While we were sitting there we watched a storm roll in and the lightning dance all over the ocean. He talked me into walking down the dark beach that would light up by the strikes of lightning in the distance. Out of nowhere he got down on one knee and I burst into tears and dropped on my knees to be next to him, hardly letting him get in a word. He caught me totally off guard!
Have you had much time to plan for the wedding? How’s it coming along?
Hahahah we are crazy and just picked our date! It is in September of this year, so the heat is on! We are trying our hardest to get organized and get all the vendors locked in. We are getting married at The Assembly in SF - it is so stunning in there and we are honored that our friends who own it are willing to have our wedding there.
Tell us about wedding dress shopping – did you know your dress the second you saw it, or was it more of a process?
I always knew I would go to LOHO Bride, my good friend Christy owns it and her taste is perfection. I fell in love with a romantic Cortana dress that I am so very excited about. And for my second look Odylyn the Ceremony is custom making me an outfit, it is going to be out of this world! I can’t wait!
You spend a lot of time with your dog, Jack, how long have you had him? Does he go to work with you every day?
I have had my little man for 6 years. He is my best bud and goes everywhere with me! He loves coming to the shop every day.
On Oakland and Travel….
What are some of your go-to restaurants/bars in Oakland?
Fav Sequoia Diner, Ramen Shop, Grand Lake Kitchen, Ordinare, Starline
Besides the fact that you live and work in Oakland, you seem to really enjoy it – what initially drew you there and what do you love the most about it?
Honestly studio rent in the city drove me here. The building my studio was in before was being torn down and I had the hardest time finding anything affordable. I ended up meeting my landlord who is now like an uncle to me and got this incredible space in Oakland for a reasonable amount. I have now been here for about 5 years. I love my shop and the stress of commuting got to me pretty quickly, so I moved across the bridge and it was the best decision I ever made. Life feels slower here, and more intentional with my shop being so close to my house. I am incredibly grateful to live in Oakland and the way my life has shifted.
If someone had 24 hours in Oakland, what would you recommend that they do?
Go for a hike in the redwoods, go to the Oakland Art Museum, eat at Ramen Shop, stop by Part 2 Gallery, visit Temescal and the cute shops, and catch a movie at Grand Lake Theater.
You’re a bona fide California girl, through and through. If you didn’t live in Oakland, where would you choose to live?
Montera, Mendicino, or Big Sur, with my other retreat in Joshua Tree.
Where is your dream destination?
What is your favorite destination [outside of California] that you’ve already traveled to?
New Mexico, Baniff, Spain, Italy
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