WildCraft Studio School Spotlight
April 19, 2017
Founded by Chelsea Heffner in 2013, WildCraft Studio School started small—offering about 15 classes from her personal studio in White Salmon, WA—but has now grown to currently offer over 100 workshops from multiple locations. Today we’re spotlighting this amazing organization—showcasing the history, educational philosophy, classes offered, and participation in SDA’s Making our Mark: Past, Present, and Future, 40th Anniversary Conference.
WildCraft is one of the first schools in the country to make curricular connections between traditional craft, textiles, Native American arts, foraging, and herbal medicine. Chelsea has had a longstanding interest in alternative education models, especially ones with hands-on learning that gets people outside (especially when that outside is the stunning Columbia River Gorge). Her motivation to combine these practices comes from a “belief that resourcefulness, creativity, and a meaningful relationship to place are integral parts of the human experience, deserving of more space in contemporary life.”
Since its humble beginnings at the White Salmon Studio, WildCraft has expanded to a Portland Studio as well as multiple Offsite locations, like the Oregon Coast, Sauvie Island, and John Day Fossil Beds. Offering workshops in craft, land-based knowledge, and native art, WildCraft strives to provide a hands-on, haptic education to creatives, students, and anyone who wants to break away from the hectic nature of their daily lives.
“Many of these workshops focus on craft practices that have become nearly obsolete in contemporary society, offering students the opportunity to connect with the larger history of making useful objects by hand. Some of these workshops teach a skill through a cultural perspective, passing along not just technical knowledge, but a deeper understanding of cultural production.”
Land Based Workshops:
“These workshops utilize the rich and varied landscapes of the Pacific Northwest as sites of learning… provid[ing] opportunities for people to understand the landscapes of our region through the lens of sustainable harvest, traditional, and medicinal uses of plants.”
Native Art Workshops:
“Our Northwest Native programming offers educational experiences that demonstrate the profoundly deep and significant connections between craft, culture, and landscape. In collaboration with Northwest Native artists, WildCraft has created an educational platform for the original craft traditions of this region to persist and thrive.”
While I was in graduate school, I had the fortune of being able to intern for Chelsea and WildCraft over the summer in 2015. It was an amazing opportunity to assist with the textiles workshops offered in both White Salmon and Portland—getting to share the knowledge already I had as well as get to learn new skills through the visiting instructors. The commute through the Gorge helped me clear my head, escape from the city, while still being in a creative atmosphere. Getting to work with Chelsea helped me push my creative practice further by being ok with slowing down and focusing on the craft at hand.
A significant announcement for WildCraft is that they are submitting their 501c3 application, and will likely be approved for non-profit status in a few months! With their goal to provide a unique type of craft education to the greater community, this new switch to non-profit status will further help WildCraft’s mission. Connecting students with the innate creativity with hands-on classes and workshops encourages a stronger understanding of someone’s place, culture, and tradition.
For Making our Mark, WildCraft will be leading Wild Color: Natural Dye & Sustainable Practices:
This hands-on presentation will demonstrate—using sustainable practices—how to extract color from multiple natural dye sources. Topics included are: discussing sustainable harvesting practices, washing and mordanting fibers, processing materials for the dye bath, and sampling the dyes using wool, silk & cotton fiber.