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.
Liesl is a greenwood spoon carver, kolroser, and teacher. She carves and kolroses to feed her soul and teaches to build community. Her background as a handlettering artist and graphic journaler are large influences in both her spoon forms and kolrosing. She loves that spoon carving and kolrosing are crafts that are accessible, affordable, and enjoyable. (And if you ask her, she will be delighted to talk about how handmade objects transcend the space-time continuum!) Liesl's spoons have been exhibited at the American Swedish Institute and the Vesterheim Museum, and she has taught kolrosing and spoon carving at North House Folk School (NHFS), the GreenWood Wrights’ Fest, the American Swedish Institute, the Milan Spoon Gathering, Greenwoodfest, and Fireweed where she also serves as a board member. Keenly committed to teaching, Liesl and her partner, Erin Strauss, have facilitated workshops about the teaching of craft at NHFS instructor retreats. Liesl has received national recognition for her work in education, equity, and organizational change and was given the Ethical Leadership Award for her work at the IDEAL Center, Science Museum of Minnesota.
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.
Hannah Neprash (she/her)
Hannah Neprash is a professor of health economics by day (UMN School of Public Health) and power tool enthusiast by nights/weekends. She fell in love with woodworking almost a decade ago and with Fireweed upon moving back home to Minnesota in 2017. Since then, she has taken a handful of craft/furniture making classes and enjoyed many an open shop night. Hannah brings her economic expertise, fundraising experience, and grant-writing know-how to Fireweed - hoping to support a financially sustainable Fireweed that is well-equipped to serve the needs of its community. When not writing/teaching/building, Hannah likes to grow vegetables, play fiddle, bake sweet treats, and trade giggles with her 1-year old kiddo.
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.
Eva Rogers (she/her)
Eva Rogers 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 (she/her)
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.
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.
Vanessa Walton (she/her)
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.
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.