How A Woodworker & Artist Keeps The Creativity Flowing Sans Burnout
Anyone who works in a creative field knows that constantly thinking of new ideas can be taxing. Here, popular woodworker Aleksandra Zee shares her formula for keeping the creativity flowing day after day. Hint: It's all about going back to basics. Plenty of sleep, calming surroundings, and time off to recharge are essential for the California-based artist.
What does your workday look like? Do you work at a desk or have a more fluid setup?
I work with my hands and am usually standing over a table or my saw bench working on a piece of art. My days vary project to project, but they're usually the most hectic during the holidays. I would say that I work a solid six days a week for about seven to nine hours a day.'
What do you surround yourself with when you're working and why?
My workspace is truly a dream come true! I'm happiest when I am in my shop. It usually has a few pieces that are in progress, a large piece hung over my saw bench, a mini showroom, and artwork storage. It's always covered in a fine layer of sawdust...
I love how I have built out my space and how it is always evolving with each season of new work. I surround myself with calming colors that bring me back to the high desert where I draw most of my inspiration from.
What does productivity mean to you? Has your definition changed over the years?
Productivity means meeting goals, small and large. It can be a huge project on a smaller commission. When a piece is finished, picked up, or shipped out—that's productivity to me.
How do you set yourself up for a productive day?
I'm sure to get plenty of sleep the night before since my work is a bit labor-intensive and I use power tools all day long. I need to be rested and alert. The moment I start to feel like I'm pushing it is where accidents can happen and when I need to step away from the work for the day.
Where do you look to find inspiration for your work?
My inspiration usually comes from moments of stillness and my travels. The colors, stillness, big sky, stunning sunsets, and magical sunrises of the desert in particular really do it for me.
How often do you try to take breaks from work, and what do you do on them?
This year I was really busy finishing my book, getting married, and preparing for three trade shows, so breaks were few and far between. I work with my husband and no matter how busy we are, we try to take one mini trip a quarter to refresh, check in, and get inspired. I also make it a point to try to take off one "just for me" day a month, when I only do things that make me happy.
What piece of work are you the most proud of?
I'm so very proud of writing my first book, The Way of the Woodshop! It was almost two years in the making and came out this October with Harper Collins. I still can't believe it's done and out in the world. It was the hardest project I have ever worked on, and I am so happy with how it came out!
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.