Meera Bhat serves as The Nature Conservancy’s Global Director of Equitable Conservation, where she works with amazing folks in service of a decolonized, antiracist and antipatriarchal future for the environmental and climate movements. Prior to moving to the Twin Cities in 2017 she was a devoted community gardener and served on the board of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust for four years as an advocate for urban agriculture and community access to vacant land. She previously worked at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health as a program manager, researching the ecology of infectious diseases. Their claim to fame is studying the rats of New York City to see what diseases they carry.
Their craft experience is primarily with knitting and weaving, and they are excited to contribute Fireweed’s racial equity mission and general non-profit growth and development. They’re also excited to learn more about woodcraft from this group of awe-inspiring makers. They live in Minneapolis with their family.
Kaitlyn Bohlin is a fundraising professional with 15 years of experience in nonprofit administration. From program operations at a sustainable tourism organization in the Sacred Valley of Peru to volunteer management at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, she has touched nearly every aspect of the nonprofit field. She moved to the Twin Cities after working in fundraising at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, and currently serves as Development Director at the Loft Literary Center. Kaitlyn is passionate about lifelong learning, the power of creation and construction, and the importance of diversity and accessibility in craft communities. She loves connecting people to causes they care about, and looks forward to being an ambassador for Fireweed Community Woodshop. In her non non-profit life she loves to knit, quilt, and sew at her Longfellow home shared with her partner and their fat black cat.
Nicola (she/her) works on the People team at Fractured Atlas, where she builds policies and practices in mission alignment and that help create a great place to work. At Fractured Atlas she has also helped to operationalize the commitment to be and work towards being an Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive organization. She has an interest in generally making workplaces less terrible with a grounding in the hope that someday people’s needs will be met in a way not contingent on labor. With Fireweed she would hope to help strengthen the internal operations and build out policies and practices to match the vision to set up current and future success.
Originally from Minneapolis, she received a BFA in Art from the University of Minnesota and continues to stay creative through knitting, sewing clothes, and finding new crafts to learn. When not working or crafting, she can be found reading books, playing cozy games on her Nintendo Switch, finding new ways to explore the outdoors while living with chronic illness, and rediscovering the sights of the Twin Cities after time living on the East Coast.
Gwen Comings is a Minneapolis based artist working mainly in sculpture. They also have an interest in woodworking and making functional objects, specifically bandsaw boxes and spoon carving.They received their BFA in Painting and Drawing from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2009 and their MFA in Interdisciplinary Studio from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. While at UPenn they taught the introductory course Sculpture Practices and served as the Welding Lab Technician. This experience underlined the importance of inclusivity in shop environments and trans visibility in the arts. They have previously been awarded the Jerome Emerging Printmakers Residency at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, MN and a residency and fellowship at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. After living in Philadelphia for six years, Gwen returned to the Twin Cities in the summer of 2021 and is eager to become involved in the art and maker communities here. Currently, they work as the Art and Art History Department Coordinator at Macalester College.
Erika Janik (she/her)
Erika Janik (she/her) is a writer, editor, and audio maker with more than 15 years experience working with and for mission-driven organizations. Currently, she is the managing editor of the Peabody award-winning environmental podcast Threshold, and is an executive producer and editor at APM Studios. She loves to dive down research rabbit holes, brainstorm, craft compelling stories, and connect people to information and tools. She previously founded the program "Wisconsin Life" at Wisconsin Public Radio, a multimedia storytelling program that shares the voices and experiences of people from across the state. Trained as a historian, she's been down many career paths but all united by a deep curiosity, a passion for learning, and an insatiable need to empower others with knowledge and experience. Erika has previously served on the boards of a variety of organizations including the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum, Recollection Wisconsin, Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, New Hampshire Humanities, and FairShare CSA Coalition, the latter of which she served as board chair for ten years. Erika has never met a craft she won't try. She loves knowing how things work and trying something new. Her current craft obsessions are garment sewing, basketry, tapestry, and building bookcases. Though new to Minneapolis in 2022, she admired Fireweed and its inclusive and inspiring mission from afar and signed up for a class immediately after settling in.
Nat Kim (she/they)
Nat is a trans and nonbinary Korean-American maker with six years of professional experience in large-scale art fabrication, shop instruction/maintenance, studio management, and living and working in communal settings. Her/their experience spans nonprofit, education, and production environments in both rural and urban areas in multiple states. She/they are passionate about building inclusive shop environments, and the role these spaces play in challenging ideas of what a highly competent and skilled designer, fabricator, artist, or builder looks like.
Stephanie Lunieski (she/her)
Stephanie is a woodworker, sculptor and runs her studio furniture company, Lefty Design Co in Minneapolis, MN. She attended the nine-month woodworking program at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship as well as assisted summer courses there. Stephanie teaches at Fireweed Community woodshop and she believes everyone deserves to experience woodworking and the empowerment that comes with crafting something with your hands. She has seen first hand the way a welcoming space like Fireweed can nurture individuals to grow in an open and non judgemental environment and would love to help to Fireweed continue it's mission and grow in the community.
Barbara Mikk (she/her)
Barbara grew up in a small Wisconsin town, rooted in neighbors and community. She’s lived in Minneapolis and worked at the U of M since 1989, where she currently leads 50+ professional and student staff at International Student and Scholar Services (iSSS). She brings a wealth of leadership, management, financial (budgets over $4 million), strategic planning, crisis and grant writing experience (more than $3.5 million in training grants). Her earlier career including curriculum design and facilitating intercultural learning. She’s humble, a strong listener, and energized by teams working together. She hikes local and simple trails, in awe of the beauty of trees. She’s new to Fireweed and deeply impressed with its focus, energy, and mission. Growing up, tools were for her brothers. She’d like to contribute to the empowerment Fireweed makes possible and to participate in making something together.
Katie Rehani (she/her)
Katie Rehani is a lifelong youth worker whose career has focused on education, enrichment and therapeutic programs in school and wilderness-based settings. Currently working as the Vice President of Girls and Youth at YWCA Minneapolis, she brings a wealth of knowledge in program design and implementation, organizational sustainability and curriculum development.
For 10 years, Katie had the opportunity to live, work and travel to various places across the country and world. Cultivating community was integral to her success in these spaces, as was the empowerment she felt taking risks and stretching her comfort zones. Katie is drawn to Fireweed’s commitment to community and empowerment and is inspired by the breadth of expertise of the contributors to the organization.
Leah Van Tassel (any pronoun)
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 food 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 since 2018.
Heidi Wagner (she/her)
Heidi Wagner (she, her) attended a technical college for carpentry after graduating high school and spent years on construction sites as a carpenter and, subsequently, as a project manager. Much of her work in life shifted between manual labor and education. She earned a BA in visual art and American studies, an MS in construction management, and a PhD in design. This combination of building knowledge, book knowledge, plus artistic inquiry informs her life and creative process.
Nia Zekan (she/her)
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.