Fireweed Community Woodshop

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empowering women & non-binary makers through the art of woodcraft

Meet the board

Jess Hirsch

Jess Hirsch at the lathe preparing to turn a bowl

Jess Hirsch is a craftsperson and sculptor based out of Minneapolis. Jess envisioned Women’s Woodshop, now Fireweed, after installing a sculpture at a shelter for domestic abuse survivors and teaching a teenage girl woodworking skills. Jess has been working with wood for 17 years through sculpture and 10 years studying Sloyd, traditional swedish handcraft. They teach at North House Folk School, the American Swedish Institute, Lebanon Hills Nature Center, Vesterheim and more. She values creating a supportive working environment, where exploration and failure is encouraged, and everyone is capable of learning. Jess also works as a public artist, creating participatory sculpture to experience the healing world.

Christina Adams

Christina worked for theaters and production companies as a carpenter and electrician for over six years working behind the scenes to build and set up the infrastructure for live performances. It was an immersion into the trade fields that made a lasting impression even as her career shifted towards building digital experiences on the web. Being involved in the trade industry for so long it was apparent to her that there is a lack of diversity in the field which became an obstacle to continue this line of work. What drew her to WW/Fireweed was the community oriented support and education initiatives to encourage underrepresented groups to explore and flourish in the trades and maker spaces. Bringing her technical web development knowledge and her degree in Graphic Design from the University of Minnesota school of design to the table she hopes to drive these established initiatives further and reach more individuals who could benefit from connecting with the woodshop and its resources. Outside of the digital work, Christina continues to develop her carpentry and maker skills through educational resources in the community and at the woodshop on a never ending quest to gain more knowledge and experience.

Jessie Merriam

Jessie is a printmaker and arts instructor, teaching woodblock printmaking and organizing special events and free spoon/block carving gatherings at the Women’s Woodshop/Fireweed. She became involved at the shop as a student (and community-hungry new Minneapolis resident) in 2018, and started teaching that summer. Jessie  has taught in non profit community arts centers and print shops in Virginia, Georgia, Alaska, worked as a letterpress Artist Collective member and youth instructor at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, has taken classes in craft schools like Haystack and Penland, and loves the symbiotic experience-sharing basis for creativity that craft education inspires. The woodshop has expanded Jessie’s ideas of what she is capable of learning, making, and sharing, and she has become interested in how woodworking fits into her other jobs/communities of farming and gardening  (the handy and the beautiful ways woodworking can enhance the functionality and sustainability of creating shelter and growing food). Jessie loves to encourage folks to make and share their creative work, and would like to continue to be involved in class offerings and other learning/making/sharing activities that empower individuals who have lacked access, enable cross-generational and cultural engagement, and defy capitalistic tendencies that make art and craft feel inaccessible. Jessie enjoys putting together art events that involve participants, and her driving desire is to encourage creativity in those who doubt their abilities or have been discouraged.

Kate Moening

I am an editor, writer, and maker in St. Paul. I spent five years as an environmental educator in the Pacific Northwest, where I gained extensive experience in curriculum development, experiential education, and community-building. Since transplanting to Minnesota, I’ve primarily worked in publishing, including developing and editing children’s nonfiction; copywriting for local publishers and new authors; and event planning, marketing, and sales for independent bookstores and the Twin Cities Book Festival. I’m also a community organizer with a focus on anti-white supremacy education and action. I have been a volunteer and student with Fireweed since 2017 and have continued developing my craft at Fireweed and other Minnesota craft spaces. Since then, I’ve also worked as a cabinetmaker and carpenter—largely thanks to the confidence, community, and skills I’ve gained through Fireweed. 

Woodworking has helped me lean into curiosity and connection instead of perfectionism and fear of failure; I want the field to feel accessible to others who may not feel welcome in traditional woodworking spaces. I’m interested in how Fireweed can build supports for people with marginalized racial and gender identities, queer folks, and people with disabilities. I’m excited to lend my community organizing experience to these conversations, and to use my event coordination experience to grow Fireweed’s strong community and create sustainable support for this unique space. I also hope to build my skills in grant-writing and other fundraising tools as I continue to learn about the nonprofit world.  

Eva Rogers

Eva Rogers (she/her) is an independent writer, editor, designer, and fundraiser. She has fifteen years’ experience working with mission-based organizations to shape compelling narratives connecting funders and key audiences with important work serving the public good. Her work to advance the arts, education, and public-interest technology has manifested with organizations such as Headlands Center for the Arts, Center for Humane Technology, Creative Commons, University of California, Berkeley, and others. When she’s not writing for organizations, she’s still writing (and reading, too). Eva is a collector of books, magazines, print ephemera, and ceramics; an art book fair nomad; a temporarily lapsed cellist; an attentive knoller; and an explorer of craft methodologies of all stripes. She loves the multisensory experience of working with wood — the smell of it and the feel of it and the experience of working with a once-living material. She is also obsessed with surfaces and loves to make tables with personality, on which she can then stack more books, papers, and magazines. Eva arrived in Minnesota in late 2018 and started taking classes at the woodshop before the year was out. She was immediately drawn to the woodshop’s inclusive community of creative, committed, and caring makers, instructors, and learners. She is thrilled to be a board member collaborating with her peers to grow and sustain the woodshop. 

Bozena Scheidel

Bozena works seasonally as a farmer/landscaper and will be managing the St. Paul tool library branch this winter. Since landing a job in the shop in her senior year of college, Bozena has been interested in the intuitive pairing between craft and diy expression/spaces. Approaching woodworking from this ethos, Bozena wants to see everyone try something challenging and new, and was drawn to the Women’s Woodshop for carrying this out in practice. She felt welcome at the shop and always found things to do, so she just kept showing up. She is interested in skillsharing, increased craft education access, redistributing resources, making things to give away, and would like to support these efforts/adjacent efforts at the shop. She is also excited about community engagement/outreach tasks. She can also do admin stuff. Bozena has worked on a grocery co-operative, organized with housing co-operative founders, lived in communal spaces and generally encourages collaborative/collective thinking and organizing. She plays music in a collective band whose mission is to defund and de-legitimize tarsands/fossil fuel industry thru re-distributing resources and ridiculing oil corporations. 

Ema Thoen

Ema Thoen has 15+ years of experience working in art-based non-profits. Most recently, her experience in higher education academic administration includes strategic development, department operations, project management, and various roles on supporting committees. Thoen has attended and participated in art-focused education from the age of 5 - starting with acceptance into a selective art-infused elementary curriculum program, acceptance into the Lola and Rudy Perpich Arts High School, and completing their degree at the College of Visual Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts in 2003. Participation in the Teaching Artist program at CVA, Thoen cultivated a passion for creative and inclusive instruction and learning. As a maker, Thoen considers themselves a lifelong learner, collaborator, and art-enabler. They excel at finding structure and process in otherwise chaotic or inefficient spaces, centering their approach to projects on empathy, community, and generosity.

Leah Van Tassel

Leah Van Tassel in an apron smiling at the camera

Leah Van Tassel is a personal chef in Minneapolis trained at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York focusing on health-promoting seasonal foods, supporting individuals and families with autoimmune diagnoses, and navigating food intolerance, allergies, and specialized diets. She has a small in-home bakery, Junco Bakehouse, specializing in gluten free seed and nut breads. Leah also works at EggPlant Urban Farm Supply using her knowledge as a home gardener, amateur food preserver and backyard chicken enthusiast to help others create nurturing foo

d and spaces for themselves and the environment. She previously worked at a non-profit community development organization in Wisconsin, and has volunteered, provided admin support, and taught classes at Fireweed Community Woodshop (previously known as Women’s Woodshop) since 2018.

Vanessa Walton

Vanessa Walton is a program director at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in the Learning Abroad Center and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences Office of International Programs. She has over a decade of experience working with international education programming.

Whether knitting, skiing, pottery, Krav Maga, gardening, or dancing, Vanessa has always had a passion for learning new skills and crafts. While working on her MS in Heritage Conservation and Preservation at the University of Minnesota, Vanessa became interested in learning about woodworking and power tools to both supplement her degree and to take her mind off of research. Upon the completion of her degree in 2018, Vanessa started taking classes at, what was then called the Women’s Woodshop, and loved the welcoming environment and feeling of empowerment that she gained. Vanessa would later serve as a shop volunteer and now serves on the board. Her desire is to 1) help create an inclusive environment that removes the hyper masculine barriers that often keep women and non-binary folks from entering these spaces and 2) encourage more makers, craftspeople, and instructors who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color to join our community. 

Nia Zekan

After graduating from college, Nia felt called to move to the mighty North from her college town in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Despite having no job, no friends, and no idea how things would fall into place—she moved to Minneapolis in September of 2018. Within her first few months in the city she found Fireweed (formerly known as Women’s Woodshop). She was drawn to the space with the goal of building all her own furniture (a goal that is still active and in progress). Without the means to take classes, Nia figured out other ways to get involved, showing up every week for open shop until she could make herself useful. Over time Nia took on some administrative responsibilities and became a part of conversations about what the space was, is, and could be. In January of 2020, Nia started a craft education internship at North House Folk school. Nia since been offered an extension of that internship, which will allow her to focus on non-profit development and fundraising. 

Nia has experienced first-hand the transformative power of craft and making. She believes that craft has the power to connect us to each other and our own power, and can do so outside of consumer culture. Having witnessed the wealthiness, whiteness, and maleness of many craft and maker spaces, Nia sees the value in making craft more accessible. She dreams to make Fireweed a space that not only welcomes underrepresented groups, but a space in which these folks feel that they belong. 


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