• About A Girl: Aleksandra Zee

    Aleksandra Zee is a FORCE: the San Francisco-based woodworker dabbles in just about everything, from creating large-scale installations to furniture to small art objects all in her Market Street studio. But beyond her talent, what inspires us most about Aleksandra is her outlook on how to find and create work that you're able to get lost in — having a career you love so much that you "disappear into it." She talked with us about hoarding lumber, her daily rituals, and the unexpected benefits of being perpetually coated in sawdust. 
    Photos by Loren Crosier

    How did you initially get interested in woodworking?
    I fell in love working with wood when I was working with URBN, Inc. at Anthropologie as the in-store Display Artist. I was building things from fixtures to tables to abstract large scale displays out of wood and completely fell in love with the material. I began hoarding my own collection of reclaimed lumber that I would make tables and light fixtures out of. That pile grew and so did my curiosity and love for the material.                                                      
    Tell us more about your studio space.
    My studio space in on Market St. in San Francsico. It about a 10 minute bike ride from my house and is right in the middle of crazy almost downtown, Tenderloin area, so there is never a dull moment on the street in front of the shop. My space, that I share with Katie Gong who is an extremely talented furniture maker, is in the basement. We most definitely transformed our basement into a dreamy woodshop wonderland, packed full of all the necessary tools, dreamy light fixtures, and piles of beautiful lumber. Time vanishes when I am in the studio, it's the greatest. 

    Do you draw pieces out before you make them? How do you design?
    I don't sketch: I have a rough plan and I work organically and let my material pave the way for my piece. It is mediation for me, to let my material take form in front of me. 

    What piece of yours do you feel most proud of?
    I built a two panel 8 x 8 foot piece for a shop on Haight Street and it came out better than I could have imagined. I love the colors I chose and how beautifully every bit of it came together. Not to mention, it's huge! It took a good while to complete it, and my amazing boyfriend was the best extra set of hands on the project. Looking back it was so fun to a make and it came out every better. Now I just want to make huge pieces!

    Do you feel like you are always coated in sawdust?
    Yes! It always in my hair, which turns out to be a plus (extra volume :)) I find it in my socks even when I am wearing boots, in my purses, backpacks and pockets of my jackets, even Jack my pup comes home with a layer of sawdust we have to shake off before we walk in the door. But to be honest, I love it. I love my dirty boots and my dirty jeans, I work hard and its proof. 

    Can you walk us through a typical day-in-the-life?
    Life is pretty dreamy. I wake up in our spot in the middle of the Mission District with my boyfriend Antrom and our pup Jack. We get out of bed, head to get coffee at our neighborhood spot, and try to make it a point to sit and chill out with our coffee before we start the day. Then I head to the studio: I usually walk because taking in the city on the way to the studio makes me feel alive and connected to where I sleep and create. When I get to the studio I always dilly dally around for about an half hour figuring out what I will be making, organizing my piles or lath to be used for the day, and making Jack a perfect pile of things to chew on to keep him entertained while I work. Once I settle in I get lost in time and can create all day not knowing when it is at all. 

    That is what I love most about what I do: I disappear into my craft. I believe in being present with my work and letting that take me in the direction I need to be. I try to find a stopping point of either completing a piece or setting myself up to seamlessly continue the next time I return. My favorite way to end the day is taking our pup to the beach and letting him run like a tiny wild animal. Being in front of the ocean centers me and refreshes my mind, especially when it is chilly and feeling the cool salty air, it's magic. So having a mixture of sand and sawdust on me is a combo of a perfect day.

    How do you think your good friends would describe your aesthetic?
    Geometric, tribal, natural, modern, clean, reminiscent. 

    Is there any part of the woodworking process that is really boring to you or that you dread?
    Oh yes, after a supply run, unloading all of the lumber out of my car on Market and walking it down a flight of stairs to the studio. It takes forever, and I am too prideful to ask for help so I make a bunch of trips and usually fall once or twice. 

    Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what's on your playlist right now?
    The Beatles, Tame Impala, Eyes on the Shore 

    What is your working uniform? 
    Overalls and work boots everyday. 

    What are some dream projects? 
    Gigantic pieces! The bigger the better! I want to travel with my work, I would love to do huge installments in other countries and places I have always wanted to go. 

    What's the best advice you've ever received?
    Measure twice cut once. 

    What's the best advice you've given?
    Learn to be present. Being present and letting creativity flow through you will yield the most pure form of your art. Practice this and make it a way of life. 

    See more of Aleksandra's work on her website and Instagram
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