Anneliesse McKee

Anneliesse McKee is a woodcarver who makes wares carved from sustainably harvested wood and rooted in a love of vintage, minimalism, nature, and fine craft. She declared herself a woodcarver after making her first spoon. It worked. She now runs a full-time business out of her home selling the most magical wooden wares around.

What time do you get up? I try my hardest to wake up everyday around 8:30-9am but if I am being completely honest I strongly love sleepy mornings!

What is your morning routine? Having a morning ritual has been one of the most important lessons for me in working for myself and setting a schedule. Each morning I wake up, start hot water for coffee, let my pup Bruce out and water the garden. From there I make coffee and breakfast and get ready to begin.

What time do you start your creative work? Unless I need wood or I have errands to run I get started each day around 10:30 or 11. I love those early afternoon hours. It’s full of so much hustle and bustle in all capacities. There is so much potential in what can be accomplished. There are some days I feel completely taken back in all that can be accomplished in a day and other days, I only finish a single piece. I’ve never figured out what the perfect breakfast is to stay focused and energetic!

What, if any, is your daily routine? Once I start I sort of can’t stop. If I have errands, places to be, or anything that could take me away I have to get it out of the way first or last. 

It begins with copious amounts of coffee, a delicious breakfast, some gardening and then carving! Within carving there are numerous different steps. Carving, sanding, sealing, and sanding some more. Depending on what is coming up whether it’s a market, commissioned order, or those passion pieces I always try to get at least two hours of rough carving in.

“When I was just starting out I’d tell people, ‘I’m a woodworker.’ I’d only made one spoon. I set it up so that there was no way but to do it. I put myself in such a position that that’s all I could do. I’ve never felt so much conviction that this is what it is has to be. This is what I have to be.”

Do you have a dedicated space for your creative work? I do and don’t! I do have my shop but some days every surface of our home can turn into a work space. Some things drying, bags tossed everywhere, twine cuts all over the floor. I am in no way an organized person.

Do you have anything in your space to encourage creativity? I love to hang flowers around or have them in vases. I also have huge beautiful windows that encourage a lot of work within natural light. I have some artwork from a few people in town I admire and pretty much every wall is covered in wood blanks. Oh the possibilities!

Do you wait for inspiration or start regardless?  Some days I will just go out and sweep if I’m not feeling inspired. Or try to accomplish other tasks that need to be done. Writing, stamping bags, website photos, emails, orders, etc. I think going into business for oneself comes with so many small but fun details that it is hard to never be productive even in the things that don’t seem full of inspiration.

Why did you choose woodworking? I don’t know that I chose this honestly. In a cheesy way it sort of feels like it chose me. I’ve never felt so connected to something that I could also call a career. Schooling never held as deep of a conviction, no other hobbies or crafts never gave me as much passion as carving.

What about it lights you up? Having things that are both useful and unique. I think I’m also lit by the fact that this is something as old as time. With such an ever growing and fast paced world, keeping traditions alive and honoring them really makes me feel authentic to myself and what I’m doing.

Where do you get your ideas? Usually ideas come to me seasonally. I love to carve floral wares so spring and fall really do a lot for me. Seeing new blooms and fallen leaves, and how organically the move and form into their own is quite inspirational for me! Besides that a lot comes from traditional uses: what my grandmother had when I was growing up, wares I myself would love to have and use. There is also a really beautiful world of wood carvers that I find myself inspired by – Giles Newman, Ariele Alasko, Alekzandra Zee to name a few! 

What do you hope to say with your art? I hope that when people see a piece of mine they also hear a story. That they want to know more about the wood. That instead of filling one’s home with random consumer driven goods there is a more mindfulness behind each treasure. By supporting a maker it’s essentially putting money into your neighbors hand. There isn’t much we can control when we listen to the news on a global scale each day but this support and community is something we can be a part of. It’s something we can help, encourage, and nourish and that is so important on a small and large scale.

Best advice ever received? Some days you’re a bird and some days you’re a statue. One day you might shit on someone without even knowing and the next it may be you that gets shit on!

Biggest lesson learned so far? Always stay true to myself. It is incredibly important to stand behind what you do as a maker. There are a lot of opinions out there. There are a lot of really talented people. But every single human has something to offer. Vulnerability can be both a strength and a weakness but it’s always a brave notion to know yourself and unapologetically stand behind who you are. Who you are presently, who you may be in a week, who you may have been 5 years ago. Everyone’s on a journey.

I have to be really strict with myself. It’s not always fun. People think every moment is about the passion, about doing what you love. But it’s not always fun. It’s about remembering why it all began, what the end result is going to be, and then just pushing through it.

“That feeling in your heart that you’re walking on clouds, that’s when you know you’re doing it right. And that’s being dedicated to what you’re doing and being good to the people around you and staying true to anything that you’re passionate about.”

Best advice you have to offer? If pertaining to carving, it would be to try and try and try again. My first spoon is so beautiful but so pitiful. You always hear practice makes perfect from coaches, parents, etc but……. they were right!!! If I were to give life advice I could only think to say “decide what to be and go be it”. Beautiful lyrics from the Avett Brothers! We are all on our own paths and no one person has the right answer to what it is. Simply decide. Make the choice. And then do it. There are a lot of reasons to say, “Well not today, maybe tomorrow”. Be what fulfills your dreams. Be what feeds your soul. The rest follows. I PROMISE!

What’s your creative superpower? Story telling. A lot of talented people make wooden wares. A lot of people don’t want wooden wares. But I’m trying to bridge the gap between a product and a purchase. How is this spoon going to be in your life story? Why did you choose this specific piece? Why do you support makers over corporate? Why are you willing to spend more for a handmade good? A lot of these are obvious for some. But for others, it isn’t that simple. I think I look at the big picture and want to tell the entire story. The story of the wood and where it came from. The bee keepers story and how her (Sarah of Wild Mountain Bees) beeswax helps in my spoon process. The farmers story and how their eggs are sold with my wooden egg crates and how they keep their chickens. The love that goes into other passions. The collaborations and the stories of others and how we see ourselves connected. It’s all cyclical and part of one large story. The more people understand their hands in this giant quilt, the more mindful everyone becomes. The more they pass that on. That story, the heritage, and tradition. Story telling is incredibly important for me.

How do you maintain your creative energy? Coffee! Just kidding….. sort of! I listen to a lot of music. Most days it’s easy because I get fixated on making something. Carving takes quite a bit of time so it’s very easy to stay present in a piece.

How do you stay focused in a world of the internet, social media, and other distractions? If I am being completely honest…. I don’t! But I feel it is part of the entire process. I feel that within being focused, we tend to clutter our minds with everything that must get done. It can be daunting and can create so much anxiety. For me it’s the same feeling you have when you read an entire page in a book and then can’t recite five words. You’re present but unable to really let anything have depth. I also try to get emails, phone calls, and any other distractions out of the way before getting started. If it’s social media related I really only am on instagram and it can be fun to see what friends are doing throughout their days.

What books do you turn to for inspiration and guidance? I really love reading how to books as well as poetry. I have a dear friend, Luke Hankin, who has a company called Orison Books. I get to read his work which is constantly full of inspiration.

At what point are you done for the day? I am either done when the sun says so or when I just feel like I’ve spilled everything out that I can. Some days I not only see blisters and splinters but my mind feels fogged and that’s when I know that there isn’t anything else I can do that will be productive.

Do you have any end-of-the day rituals? I wish I did as much as I do in the morning. Between my husband and I, it seems our lives are always so busy between events for Burial Beer (my husband’s brewery), a market for me, meetings, and walking Bruce. Every so often we get to make dinner and relax!

What time do you go to sleep? We are usually always in bed by 10:30pm!

Five interesting facts about you? (OK six) 1.I have a dog named Bruce and a cat named Jebodiah and they run our home. 2. My favorite movie in all the land is Elizabethtown. 3. I have a sick obsession with eating Sloppy Joes! 4. I have a dream of having cereal with Ellen Degeneres and Shaq and making their cereal spoons so Shaq feels small and Ellen feels like dancing. I email her once a week about this! 5. I have a deep fear of free falling. That feeling when butterflies go from your legs to your throat…. that’s one of my buggaboos. 6. One of my all time famous people to admire is Cher. I find myself often saying, “What would Cher do?”

“Everybody wants to be so many different things. Just decide. Make a choice and stand behind it. If I keep saying this and I keep doing this then that’s what it has to be.”