Expanding textile traditions. Sharpening creativity. Seeing culture through craft. Learning from nature. Since 2013, WildCraft’s mission has been to offer exceptional creative programming to diverse, adult learners (18 yrs & up), with a special focus on Craft, Textiles, Studio Art, Native Art and Nature-based workshops. From our SE Portland studio—as well as from the farms, forests and beaches that make up our off-site classrooms—WildCraft strives to awaken creativity and deepen an understanding of place, through hands-on experiences in making and learning.
WildCraft Culture & History
In the very beginning, we cooked lunch for every student. These were the early days of WildCraft, when the studio was located in the hills outside White Salmon, WA. The studio felt like a strange oasis, a mini-retreat for city folks with a spirit of conviviality and experimentation.
While working as an adjunct professor at Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art, WildCraft Founder, Chelsea Heffner had become curious about alternative education models, especially those that got people outside for hands-on learning. She moved to White Salmon in the winter of 2013, and opened WildCraft with around 15 class offerings in June of the same year.
We opened a SE Portland location in the Fall of 2015, and closed up the White Salmon studio in 2018. As the studio has grown to offering over 200 classes per year, that familial atmosphere has changed but the creative, welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere remains a hallmark of the WildCraft experience. We strive to welcome every student with genuine kindness and hospitality.
The majority of the workshops offered at WildCraft Studio School fall into the categories of Craft, Textiles and Studio Art. Whether wood carving, weaving, drawing, painting, natural dyeing, or a myriad other creative practices, a student taking a studio workshop can expect a skill-focused, hands-on experience.
Many of these workshops focus on creative practices that have become nearly obsolete in contemporary society. Through our courses, students are presented with the opportunity to connect with the larger history of making useful objects by hand, or learning a skill through a cultural perspective, passing along both technical knowledge and a deeper understanding of cultural production.
Native Art Workshops
Our Native Arts 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.
Workshops like Wasco Weaving, Cedar Bark Basketry, and Columbia Plateau Beading tell the stories of the area’s vernacular craft – illuminating a relationship to place through materiality, process, and technique. These classes are rare outside of Tribal schools, community centers, and reservations. It is our hope that the cultural exchange between Native teachers and non-Native students will continue to build a deeper understanding and respect for the First Peoples of the Northwest.
WildCraft offers a seasonal collection of workshops that borrow Nature as a classroom. These classes focus on cultivating sustainable, thoughtful relationships with the landscape by teaching participants about biology, ethnobotany, geology, and ecology.
You might find us exploring the Gifford Pinchot forest, learning about the relationship between trees and mushrooms, or clamming and harvesting edible seaweed at the Oregon Coast, or observing migrating birds from a park in Portland Metro. WildCraft Studio School’s land-based courses provide opportunities for participants to deepen their connection to the landscapes of our region