We visited Amanda and Khiem in their studio space in Edwood Studio Co-op just off East 4th Street here in Austin. They started A&K Woodworking & Design one year ago in April 2013 after moving from Boston to Austin. They’re the newest members of the Maker Co-op, and they’re also really nice, laid-back folks who are easy to chat with on a warm spring day.
Their background in photography and woodworking (both graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design) laid the foundation for an interest in creating and designing. Moving to Austin gave them the opportunity to meet other makers and have access to studio space, Amanda explains, and gave them the confidence to make the jump on their own and start a business.
About A&K Woodworking & Design
The couple makes both larger, custom furniture items (credenzas, coffee tables) and smaller goods, like laser cut lanterns, cutting boards and intricate wood shelves. Currently they’re stocked at Uncommon Goods in New York and The Tinderbox in Houston. Amanda tells us that a surprising amount of new customers and clients have come by way of Instagram. Interior designers and fans of design have connected the couple with retailers like Uncommon Goods through social media.
About Amanda and Khiem
A change of scenery can lead to new inspiration and a just-go-for-it mentality, and moving from the cold winters of Boston gave Amanda and Khiem just that. They felt Austin had a more hospitable climate, literally and figuratively, for creative people who wanted to hone their skills and meet other like-minded folks.
A&K Woodworking was born out of their move, and a serendipitous stop along the way to George Nakashima’s studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Nakashima was a pioneer of Japanese and mid-century modern design. He was an architect, woodworker and furniture maker. Amanda and Khiem visited his studio and estate in New Hope on their way to Austin, and their visit spurred an urge to create.
The day they visited Nakashima’s studio, the estate had closed for the day. They were about to leave when they saw Nakashima’s grandson walking along the road. The daughter of the 20th century design pioneer opened the studio just for them, and they were blown away by the world Nakashima created.
The Japanese influence and Nakashima’s modern design elements show in subtle ways in Amanda and Khiem’s work, yet the aesthetic is all their own. A lot of their business has come from fellow Austinites who value quality, provenance and attention to detail in their homes. The couple noticed that people in Austin tend to pay more attention to curation and handmade goods for their spaces.
They recently did their first trade show with the Maker Co-op at the Renegade Craft Fair. Currently they’re working on custom pieces, such as coffee tables and credenzas, for individual clients, and are looking forward to Re:Make, a fair that brings together makers and designers in Austin and San Francisco. They’ll be at the fair, which is held at the Palmer Events Center, May 3rd and 4th.
Why Maker Co-op?
The couple heard about the Maker Co-op through Caitlin of Little Low, when she approached them about created custom recipe boxes. They say that the support and resources have been invaluable, especially being in their first year of business. Being able to talk with fellow makers who’ve dealt with common issues and frustrations can be a huge relief.
With any new endeavor, there will be challenges to overcome. Balancing the business side with the creative design component can be a struggle, Amanda and Khiem agree. Knowing when to turn down certain projects that may not fit their business can be difficult. Being around them, one would think they’ve had their business for longer than a year. They exude a natural ease, and talk excitedly about the pros of owning your own business.
They love the autonomy and personal interaction that comes from working with a client one on one, Khiem says. Both agree that having the immediate feedback and gratification is one of their favorite parts. Amanda explains that, compared with having work displayed in a gallery, they can design a piece that is immediately put to use in a customer’s home. Being able to make your schedule, even if it’s noon to midnight, doesn’t hurt either.
We’re excited to see what A&K Woodworking has in store. You can visit their page here to see their beautiful work.
Thanks to Amanda and Khiem for chatting with us!