Miniviews series - No. 17 with Anne Briggs
You’ve landed on the seventeenth installment of the Maker Miniviews (mini, two question interviews) series. Learn more about these maker interviews and view a list of all Miniviews.
Anne has been honing her skills in the woodworking craft for quite a few years now. A major advocate of education and community-building, she is contributing to other’s learning and sharing of her expertise and skills.
Check out this interview with Anne Briggs of Anne of All Trades.
I'm a Maker Because...
Anne Briggs interview
What inspires you to keep making things?
"In short, people inspire me to keep making things. I love woodwork, I love blacksmithing and metal fabrication, I love gardening, maintaining our farm, and hanging out with unbelievably cute animals. But the catalyst for loving all those things was never the things themselves, but relationship with people who loved them.
I came to love woodworking because my grandpa loved it, and I started hanging out with him in his woodshop when I was three. As a kid, my need to be resourceful, to create my own entertainment because we couldn't afford the same stuff as some of my peers motivated me to keep making things.
I wanted to ride go-karts with my friends, so I had to figure out how to make one. I wanted to have sleepovers in a treefort with my friends, so I had to find some plywood and learn how to build one.
When I moved from Taiwan to Seattle 6 years ago, I wanted to get to know my brother-in-law, so I asked him to teach me about the thing he was passionate about, handtool woodwork. I then met a precious older gentleman named Frank who was an expert wood turner. I asked him if I could hang out with him in his shop and our conversations and projects quickly wandered outside the woodshop, to building a miniature motorcycle and creating an automatic watering system for my garden. He has taught me a ton about doing things myself and being resourceful.
Quality friends who challenge and inspire me propel me forward. If I spend too long working by myself in my garage, the making process starts to lose some of its luster.
But one late-night conversation with my friends Jason and Sarah Thigpen, at their dinner table, about possible collaboration ideas can spark enough project ideas and inspiration to keep me busy for months. Similarly, working alongside other makers gives me new ideas constantly.
My good buddy Nick and I came up with a list of projects about two miles long while we worked together building my new shop. Now that I have such a great community of makers surrounding me, both here in Seattle through Pratt [Fine Arts Center] and online on YouTube and Instagram and through my content business, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to make everything I'd like to make.
That sense of endless possibility can get overwhelming and even discouraging at times, but I've started keeping a list of projects I'd really like to tackle, and I keep it organized in order of priority. If some things get replaced by new, even more exciting ideas, I'm ok with that."
What one piece of advice would you give to other, budding woodworkers?
"You can't buy your way out of time well spent. Buying that new tool or watching that new YouTube video isn't going to make you a better woodworker, practice will. I am the queen of trying to find shortcuts, but there really is no shortcut to building skill. Don't wait until you have this tool or that material to try a technique that interests you, figure out how to practice with what you've got right now.
When you read about or see a video or Instagram post about a new technique, stop reading/watching and go try it! In making, hand knowledge (aka practice or experience) is far more valuable than head knowledge.
I cut my first set of dovetails in plywood with a ragtag set of antique tools. I learned how to restore old tools and properly sharpen a blade because I had no money, but I found some old rusty, broken junk I fixed up and used until I could afford to replace them.
Beyond that, the best advice I can give is to invest in some education. Taking a class, rather than buying a whole pile of tools, can actually save you money in the end, by helping you narrow down your "must have" tool lists, and, in the process, it will also expand your local community and give you reason to meet some new folks with similar interests.<
When it comes to tools, don't buy sets of anything. Buy one, and buy the best you can afford, and then use the hell out of it. Using that first tool will help you realize its shortcomings and help you define what exactly you need out of your next tool in size, form, and function.
Chisels are a great example of this. I use two specific chisels almost constantly. The rest of my "set" of chisels sits in the toolchest collecting dust, and I often wish I'd saved my extra chisel money to buy a different tool, a class on how to use my chisels more efficiently, or maybe even just more wood to practice with.
Anne is an authentic individual that is creating a sustainable lifestyle and focusing on building self-reliance, along the way. I’m personally very inspired by her thorough responses and unique storytelling technique here!
"Buying that new tool or watching that new YouTube video isn't going to make you a better woodworker, practice will." — Anne Briggs
Her advice here to other makers really is timeless and sound advice - you’ll grow most as a maker by actually doing and practicing your craft. Hands-on experiences or “hand knowledge” will always help you grow as a woodworker, designer, blacksmith, or with any craft you pursue, much more than anything else will.
Anne shared these images included in this post, had to share them with you! She puts out great quality content on her website, blog, Instagram, and YouTube platforms - be sure to check it out.
Thank you all for reading this article, now get out there and make things!