Building furniture and an online community
Anne Briggs (she pronounces it Annie) is a true woodworker for the Internet age. She has successfully established her skills and personality as a brand—Anne of All Trades. She uses YouTube and her own website to document what she does in her shop and on her farm, as a way to inspire people. While she claims she’s not an expert in any of her trades, Anne has excellent handwork chops. She can cut tight dovetails, build just about anything from a chicken coop to a Windsor chair, and forge a knife from Damascus steel. So far, besides woodworking, her trades include woodturning, blacksmithing, welding, organic farming, and beekeeping. More than 150,000 people follow Anne on Instagram, and her YouTube video on building a tiny house has attracted nearly a million views. Anne lives and works on a small farm in the Seattle area with her husband Adam and a menagerie that includes alpacas, miniature donkeys, goats, lambs, and chickens.
WM: How did you get started in woodworking?
AB: I always dreamed of having a shop like my grandfather’s, who shared the woodworking bug with me. When I moved to Seattle seven years ago, it was finally time to make that dream a reality. I bought my first tools and went to the library every day to check out books and videos on woodworking. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” by Chris Schwarz, was a life-changing read for me. A neighbor and my brother-in-law helped me get started, and I spent lots of hours chatting on Instagram with other makers about problems and strategies. But how I really learned the craft is how anyone learns anything—practice.
WM: How did you get from just plain Anne to Anne of All Trades?
AB: I had a tech job that was unfulfilling. All I could do at work was daydream about what I’d do in the shop when I got home. In 2014, I tried full-time furniture making, but quickly realized that working for pay was going to poison the thing I loved. So, I went back to the tech industry and obsessively pursued woodworking as a hobby. About that time, the folks at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle (pratt.org) heard about me through Instagram and offered me a job managing their woodworking program. The program was struggling and needed to be completely rebuilt, so I hired teachers who I’d want to learn from and scheduled classes that I wish I’d taken. I made a lot of awesome friends there, and honed my skills while my social media presence gathered steam. Then I met a Texas woodworker—April Wilkerson—who mentored me in creating a successful online business. By early 2018, I was ready to go full time as Anne of All Trades.
WM: How did you start acquiring tools?
AB: In the beginning, I bought tools on Craigslist, repaired them, sold them at a profit, and then bought something else. I went through eight or nine table saws, five or six chop saws, and eight lathes. I once traded a go-kart that I had made for a drill press. I built up my collection slowly but intentionally, buying tools one at a time, as I needed them.
WM: What are your days like?
AB: I start my day by catching up with my community on social media, then tackling a few farm chores. When my full-time assistant arrives, we head to the shop to start building and filming. At the end of the day, I’ll get back on the computer to write and edit videos, and keep making connections. Or I might carve a spoon, or work on a project until my husband gets home. After dinner, we hang out together, maybe play some music, or invite some friends over.
WM: Is social media an effective way to create a community?
AB: Absolutely. I believe humans are meant to have long-term connections, and the strongest connections come from shared adventure. What better adventure than creating something from nothing with another human being? The whole point of my business is to have a gathering place for people who want to make things with their hands, learn new skills, find inspiration, and follow their passion. I get emails from folks all the time who have built projects I’ve published. I hear from parents who were inspired to bring their daughters into the shop and have a new adventure together. This kind of feedback tells me that the community is growing, and it makes everything I do totally worth it.
Join Anne’s Community
To learn more about Anne Briggs, visit her website: anneofalltrades.com. There, you’ll also find links to her Instagram feed, Facebook page, and YouTube channel