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Maker Interview: Anne Briggs of Anne of All Trades

House One host Jenn Largesse interviews Anne Briggs of All Trades in this installment of the House One Maker Interview Series.

Jenn: Hi, guys. I’m Jenn from House One and I am here with the real-deal, Anne of All Trades. Anne, thank you so much for being here.

Anne: Thanks so much for having me.

Jenn: Can you tell us a little bit of an introduction to your channel and what people could expect to see if they stop by?

Anne: Absolutely. Well, I’m really into farmsteading, so you’ll see a lot of kind of do-it-yourself chicken-raising and gardening but my bigger focus on education lately has been on woodworking, furniture building, blacksmithing, welding, and fabrication. I do a little bit of everything but mainly with the goal of self-sufficiency.

How did you get started?

Anne: A few years ago, I was working at a tech company and, it just was a soul-crushing job and I needed something positive to do in my time after work. I started doing woodworking just for fun and I took some pictures on this cool new photo-editing app called Instagram, this was in 2001. It had just come out. I thought it was just an editing app. I didn’t know it was a sharing app.

Jenn: That people could see it?

Anne: Yes. And so then all of a sudden people started liking and commenting and I was like, “Oh, you’re seeing this?” But what came out of that is realizing that there’s other people that do what I do which is super funny to me now because I used to think that I was the only woman maker in the Seattle area. And it’s hilarious now because now I’m connected into an incredible community of makers. But it literally all happened through Instagram. And so three years ago, I tried kind of doing a little content business and totally and utterly failed but part of the greatest thing about this was that you can reinvent yourself so many times. And so, yes, it has continued to grow at a really steady pace and lately, it really picked up speed a lot and so I went full-time doing this basically just so that I can do what I want, make what I want, teach about it, share about it and hopefully inspire others to do the same because it can be truly life-changing to use your hands to create a tangible object.

Was there a project that got you started?

Anne: I needed to build some garden beds, garden boxes and things and a chicken coop, and I found scraps around my husband’s garage. He had lived in the house for a long time and he doesn’t do any kind of project, anything. And so, there’s randomly like all this wood and stuff and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I could use this to make some garden beds,” and then I read a few books about gardening and homesteading and furniture building all at once. We have a really good library by our house and I just got immediately obsessed. I went and checked out probably 300 books in a year about all these things and it was all downhill from there. I had a really awesome mentor pretty much from the start who really got me into the fine woodworking side of things but really, all I cared about was just, like I said before, doing something with my hands and having something to look forward to, moving my body and creating something that was tangible after I got home from work. And so I spent all day just daydreaming about whatever it was. It doesn’t matter what it was, but just some kind of project when I would get home.

What is your favorite project?

Anne: I have some favorite things. Definitely, some like the ax that I made in the forging studio at my last job is one of my favorite things to use now. It’s cool to have made some of the tools that I use on the things that I built. Those are probably my favorite projects. Things that also lend themselves to other areas of my life. Things that I’ve built around. Now we have a farm and those kinds of things where it’s one discipline that’s carrying over to another discipline. That makes me feel really, really cool. All my favorite projects are usually ones that I’ve built with other people. And so it’s a reminder of the relationship that was formed either around that project or through the use of that project or something. Classes that I’ve taken, a rocking chair that I made in a class with other guys that I really, really admire and love, a writing desk that I use every day but I took it at a community that’s like a homesteading community and that was one of the best weeks of my life.

Where do you find inspiration?

Anne: It was so crazy but I started my Instagram the same week as this other guy Jason Thigpen, he does Texas Heritage Woodworks and we somehow found each other that first week and we instantly became friends. And he and his wife were some of my best friends now. Another person that I met along the way was April Wilkerson whose one of my biggest inspirations and biggest supporters and encouragers now. I mean, literally everyone that I hang out with in Seattle also are people that I met on Instagram. Every class that I’ve ever taken, it’s because I found out about it through Instagram or I met someone through Instagram. I’m so thankful for the makers and other people that have taken the time to invest in a relationship with me and invest in my craft as well.

What is your best advice for new DIY’ers?

Anne: The biggest piece of advice that I always give to people when they ask me, “How do I get started?” or “What tools do I need?” Literally, just go out in a shop and try. It’s really funny, as a furniture builder, people are always saying how hard dovetails must be or that they can’t wait to try dovetails someday or they need the right toolkit to build and to cut dovetails. The simple matter of a fact is that I learned how to cut dovetails in an afternoon because I didn’t know that they were hard so they didn’t intimidate me and so I mean, I was just like, “Well, it’s just two triangles, you put them together and it’s fine.” So really, instead of… I think one of the biggest negatives about the internet today is that there’s almost too much information available. It can be like–

Jenn: Debilitating.

Anne: — debilitating because it really is like there’s so much available that really where do I start? And the most important piece of advice I can give anyone is to start. And then the second thing as far as tools go is to use the tools that you have to make some stuff and really explore what you are able to make with those tools. I mean, my friend, April, talks a lot about it. She’s just like, “Oh, people always say if I had that many tools, I could do that too.” But really, no, you should start with the tools that you have. If all you have is a pencil, great, go out and draw something. If you have a rusty old saw, cool, because even if it’s not sharp, you can still cut a piece of wood. You can make two pieces of wood, nail something on top and you’ve got a stool. And yes, so it’s just get started is the best advice and then, you know, build your toolkit as you need it, not because someone told you to buy this or told you that you needed that.

Jenn: I think that’s great advice and we really appreciate you being here. We’re such fans of your work.

Anne: Thank you.

Jenn: If you guys want to check out more of her work, you can check her out on Anne of All Trades and we just really appreciate you being here.

Anne: Thanks for having me.