Erin: What are you curious about?
Annie: Everything! I love learning how and why things work, and then applying that knowledge to creating art. Although I work primarily in wood, I love exploring other mediums and integrating different materials into my work.
Erin: Describe your work and describe your process.
Annie: My work consists of mostly functional pieces that come out of a need for something I don’t have, or want to make better. Sometimes my work is ironic or humorous; I try not to take the subject of my art too seriously- I save that for the craftsmanship. My process usually follows function first, design second, then manufacturing last. I assume that all things are possible to make if I think about it hard enough.
Erin: How did you first get into woodworking and and what was your first piece you ever made?
Annie: I have always been working with my hands- ever since I was little. I was a Girl Scout for about 10 years, and that was pretty heavy on the crafts. In addition, my grandfather and I would make things out of scrap wood together in his garage. I went to SUNY New Paltz for art, and while trying various disciplines I discovered woodworking and realized that was ‘it’. It was the perfect blend of math, science, physics, art, design, mechanics, and functionality. I found it was immensely empowering to be able to create pieces that served a function and could be used every day, and, it all came very easy to me. My wood teachers were also very instrumental in making me appreciate the craft and cultivating my passion for it.
My first piece I made is called The Mandrake, and it’s a sculpture carved out of a solid piece of black walnut with a small copper plant holder in it. For this project, we were only allowed to use hand tools, so it was carved entirely with chisels, rasps, and rifflers. Even the large hole down the center had to be drilled with a hand crank drill, which was no easy task. That project was also a good lesson in sanding, since I didn’t really know when to stop or move on, and ended up sanding the tips of all of my fingers down until they bled. I definitely figured out how to sand more effectively after that.
Erin: You are a member of a collective of wood workers sharing studio spaces in the old Third Ward building. How does this collaborative environment influence you and your work?
Annie: I really enjoy sharing a space with so many creative people. A handful of my shopmates were some of the original members of 3rd Ward and had moved upstairs once they outgrew the space downstairs. I work with a lot of ‘guy’s guys’ (I am subjected to a lot of ‘bro’ conversations), but they’re all really good people, and we all are more than happy to help each other out. Our collective includes people that specialize in electronics and lighting, photography, cabinetmaking, prop and set design, upholstery, metalwork, powdercoating, and everything in between. It’s been immensely helpful to have such knowledgeable people to work around, as it expands my ability to work with different materials, learn new techniques, and of course, share tools that I otherwise would not have access to.
Erin: We first met at Tools for Working with Wood and we see you have some very fine tools. How important are good quality tools and what’s your personal favorite?
Annie: I am so proud to work at Tools for Working Wood- they are world-famous toolmakers, and some of the last high-quality toolmakers and suppliers in the country. Good quality tools are incredibly important- for any craft! I always say that cheap tools cost more than expensive tools, since they will break more often and you will need to replace them, or they will slow you down from working more efficiently. Woodworking is a lot of fun, and it can only remain that way if you are working sharp, and with the right tool for the job.
I am a big fan of our Gramercy Tools line- nearly all parts are manufactured in the US and all final assembly happens in our Sunset Park workshop. I have a small collection of Gramercy rasps and rifflers that I use for carving, but my most favorite tool of all time is my 6” Woodcraft metal ruler. I’ve had this ruler since my first wood class in college and it’s been incredibly important to my work, since it essentially creates my ability to be accurate and consistent. I’ve lost this ruler a few times, and every time I do, I absolutely lose my mind and put up missing signs around my shop and call people who might have seen it last. It always finds its way back to my tool pouch, but I really can’t rest or feel at ease until we are reunited. I know it sounds silly to get so worked up over a 6” ruler, but it’s got a lot of sentimental value at this point, and has seen me through a lot of great projects.
Erin: We often see wood workers building large pieces. Conversely, we see you focusing on finely crafted intimate pieces. What is it that inspires your ring boxes?
Annie: I love love love working small. The smaller the better. When I’m working, my mood is always proportionate to the size of the piece- the bigger the piece, the crankier I get. I think it’s because I feel like larger sized pieces demand more attention- attention that would be better spent on smaller pieces to ensure perfection. The other reason why I like working small is because I can finish a piece quicker and get that awesome feeling of gratification and accomplishment. Woodworking is fairly time-consuming, so working small enables me to have a higher rate of production.
My ring boxes were inspired by the fact that I needed a discreet and minimal way to store an expensive ring I had purchased from MaeVona when I still worked with them. I’ve actually made a few of these for men requesting a minimal box that won’t bulge in their pocket so they can carry it with them discreetly and surprise their girlfriends with an engagement ring. There is definitely a demand for tiny work!
Erin: If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be with and what would it look like?
Annie: I would probably say Maurizio Cattelan because I love his sense of humor. It would probably be a performance art piece in the form of a giant prank.
Erin: You also dabbled in ceramics...clearly working with your hands is a must. How do you carve out enough time for your own work while doing all that you do?
Annie: It’s funny that you ask how I manage my time, because I did take ceramic classes for about 6 months, but had to give it up because I no longer had time for it! I admit time management isn’t one of my strong points, but in the end, I make things happen. Being a freelancer is both enjoyable and maddening all at once- you have to juggle a constantly shifting schedule, run errands, go to meetings, produce work, and have a life all at the same time. Despite these aspects of freelancing, I would never return to having a 9-5 job. Nothing beats being your own boss!
Erin: When you’re not working with wood, what are you up to?
Annie: Pretty much all of my free time is spent at my shop. I am a true workaholic when it comes to woodworking- partly because it’s so time-consuming, and I’m also addicted to getting that ‘hit’ of accomplishment when I finish a piece. In my spare moments I like to cook vegan food, spend time with my cats, work out, play the piano, and listen to audiobooks while I carve wood in my bedroom. I also have to make time for errands, meetings, emails, social media, and other tedious business-related tasks. I’m basically always working.
Erin: If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Annie: I’m not sure if this is a superpower so much as it’s a desire to not be a muggle. I would like to be an animagus and be able to turn into a bird of paradise, because they’re the fanciest birds.
Erin: What’s your dream project?
Annie: My dream project would probably involve making a complicated image with marquetry, which is something I’ve been wanting to learn for years, but haven’t had the tools or time to devote to it.
Erin: What are you working on next?
Annie: I’m currently working on a mirror series- both hand and wall-hanging. I’m also going to start experimenting with lighting and LEDs.