Every so often you stumble across an artist’s work that is so lovely and seamless you unwittingly break from your daily schedule and spend the foreseeable future scrolling through an instagram feed. A&K Woodworking and Design from Austin, Texas have stolen more than a few hours from us here at Dream Of The Woods with their gorgeous handmade furniture and utilitarian ware – but, honestly, we don’t mind at all. Amanda and Khiem, partners in both life and business, are the team behind our hours of scrolling, and we were fortunate enough to chat with Amanda about all of the time, work, and love that goes into their company.
Amanda, you and Khiem are the heart of A&K. How did you two meet, and when did you realize that you were interested in working together?
Has your relationship together influenced your work?
Our work is definitely influenced by our relationship. We bought a house recently and I’ll wake up thinking things like “Hey, we need a sugar bowl. You should turn one.” and then next thing we know we are adding bowls and spoons to our line. Our life together and our day-to-day inspires what we create and what we are interested in. I am creative late at night and it’s not out of the ordinary for me to wake Khiem up and just start telling him about some idea I have that I need to share immediately. Sure, he may have no recollection of it in the morning but it helps me in my creative process. I think there are perks to owning a business with your partner and also difficulties. Separating your time between your business and your alone time can be really difficult. Owning a small business means being constantly on the clock. You’re always thinking about it. We will always choose our relationship over our business. First and foremost, this business came to be because we love making art together. We always remind each other of that if we feel bogged down or lost in work.
Your work has such a consistent aesthetic which is really starting to build your brand. Was that always your combined style, or did you reach this place through experimentation together?
We began making our pieces for our own apartment upon moving to Austin. I have always had a deep love for Mid-century Modern and on our way down we visited George Nakashima’s wood shop in New Hope, PA. We were amazed by his aesthetic and attention to detail. We love the clean lines of Japanese design. When we began to focus on creating a brand, it was important to me that it be cohesive. We developed our own look, our own logo, and talked about what it is we wanted to accomplish. Each year we talk about what we liked the previous year and what wasn’t for us. We’re learning everyday and get lots of different people reaching out to us with all sorts of ideas and requests. We have learned it’s okay to say no to a project if we don’t think it’s cohesive with what we are trying to work towards but at the same time have taken chances and found that things we never even thought about have helped sculpt our brand into what it is today.
You both moved out to Austin, Texas together after being in Massachusetts for some time. What was the intention behind that, and how has it affected your work and inspiration?
When we moved to Austin, it was more about the adventure of living in a new place than anything else. It was mid-March in Boston and we were freezing cold, over-worked, and had no time to make art. We were looking at each other wondering if this is what the map of our life would look like. The high-cost of living in Boston was taking its toll on us. We felt like we could never afford a studio large enough to make what we wanted and decided to just go adventure and explore. We visited California and scoped it out. We visited our friends who lived in Austin. When we landed they brought us to get tacos and queso. We were sold. Molten cheese? Yup. This was the place for us. The rest of our visit was amazing and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. The art scene here was flourishing and everyone was interested in collaborating and making art together.
A&K does custom work alongside what you design and build on your own. How is it working with clients to build their visions, and do you ever find that their ideas take your creativity in new directions?
We work a lot with chefs who need custom projects. We are currently working on a tortilla press for a local chef. This is something we would never have thought about making ourselves but out of necessity comes invention. We love hearing other peoples ideas or needs and helping them achieve those. We have really grown over the years from working with others. Lots of the clients and designers we work with have a love for our aesthetic and come to us because they have an idea but want to know what we would do to make the piece aesthetically our own. It’s so much fun.
I’ve been following you guys for some time now, and over the past year or so I’ve noticed that you’ve started getting quite a bit of attention. How has that felt, and has attention from any particular person or group surprised you?
We are always so excited when someone reaches out and wants to write an article about us or put us in a magazine. We can’t believe it. We were recently featured in “Edible Austin” a local publication here. We love this magazine and were so excited they wanted to include us. We’ve also been contacted by a few major brands to be featured in commercials. Perhaps in the future, but right now we are still wrapping our minds around being in print.
What are your plans for the next month, and also for the next year?
Our next month is dedicated to making lots of pieces for the holiday season. We will be participating in East Austin Studio Tour in November. It’s a tour of artist’s studios here in Austin, TX. People get to travel around and visit artist work-spaces and buy their pieces. It is always so much fun. We have participated for many years now and people come from all around the country to see what Austin artists are working on. Many of the studios are close together, so people bike around and have parties and gatherings. We have applied to a few artist holiday markets as well and will be working hard to make sure we have plenty of back stock for those. The holidays are always a crazy time for us. After holiday season, we’re hoping to take a trip somewhere tropical. We’ve never been anywhere like that before and think it would be a nice escape after the madness.
Finally – what have you learned about each other through your working relationship that you wouldn’t have by simply a romantic one?
I think we have learned how to communicate on so many different levels by working together. Some couples can’t even go to Ikea together with out having a meltdown. We both respect each other’s work ethic so much and I think seeing what each other brings to this business and how dedicated we both are is inspiring. Khiem is the hardest worker I have ever met. He works dawn to dusk and never complains. He has inspired me to work harder and be better. We’ve also learned just how special the quiet moments we get to share are, even if it’s holding hands while we drink our morning coffees. Making art with someone you love is special and we’re lucky everyday that we found each other and get to do what we love while sprinkling in road trips and adventures.
Dream Of The Woods Productions is run by Michael F. DuBois and Larissa Farrell, who consider themselves writers, filmmakers, and explorers of the heart. They strive to create work of authenticity and love, and spend their time roaming the shores of Cape Cod, MA. Follow them on Instagram , Facebook, or join their monthly newsletter!