Into the Woods with Aleksandra Zee
In-demand Oakland artist is elevating the profile of female woodworkers—and inspiring others to take up the craft.
“I feel alive when I’m in the woodshop,” Aleksandra Zee says.
When Aleksandra Zee was working at Anthropologie as an in-store display artist, she realized that she loved building abstract wooden installations. “I thought, Hmm, I have to figure out how to make a life out of this,” she remembers.
Now an independent Oakland-based woodworker, Zee has clients such as Kimpton Hotels, Berkeley’s Tender Greens restaurant, and stylish private buyers clamoring for her distinctive wall hangings, tabletops, and headboards, made primarily of redwood. Known for her geometric designs and a color palette inspired by the high desert, Zee sells original and commissioned works, and has attracted nearly 125,000 Instagram followers.
Recently, she’s also ventured into making functional sculptures that she calls Floats, inspired by minimalistic design and architecture. “They can be stacked on each other or used as a table or a bench, or maybe conversation pieces in the living room or outdoors,” Zee says.
A longtime Bay Area resident, Zee relocated to Oakland four years ago. “I love living in the East Bay,” she says. “The yumminess of the culture and the community of artists that San Francisco has started to lose … is really strong over here.”
When she isn’t working on her own projects, Zee tries to ignite creative passion in others. She teaches woodworking classes at her studio, and on October 22, she’ll release her first book, The Way of the Woodshop. “It’s my spin on what it’s like to live a life of creativity—the ebb and flow, the beauty, the whole process,” she says. “I can’t wait for people to get an intimate look into my work and why I do what I do.”
For those eager to make things with their hands, the book offers numerous projects, from cutting boards and coasters to more complex endeavors, such as a daybed. “We also dye some napkins, and there’s an organic wood butter that you can make at home,” Zee says.
To celebrate the book launch, she plans to host several events. “I want to invite people to get to know me in person,” Zee says. “I’m looking to do a dinner in my space, a few workshops that revolve around the book, and a retreat in Mendocino that will be part workshop, part meditation, and some delicious farm-to-table meals.” aleksandrazee.com.