Move over Phoebe Philo- the next big thing in summer footwear is coming from our own two crafty little paws. We may have disappointed in the past, with our half-baked DIYs and “less-than” crafting efforts, but we’re certain that, this time, the results of our artisan workshop participation are going to blow our own minds.

In the past, we’ve completed artisan workshops, such as the sandal-making get-together pictured, with wonky outcomes. We’ve left many a craft night with projects in tow that only a mother could love. In light of this, we’re selective about our commitment to workshops, craft nights, and art projects, in general. When we stumbled upon this workshop by artisan Rachel Corry and her incredibly beautiful  sandal designs, all our DIY aversions melted away and we knew we had to take Rachel’s class! Rachel’s most recent sandal-making session was held at WildCraft Studio School, a dreamy studio space on the border of Oregon and Washington. Workshop goers were taught the skills and techniques needed to leave the afternoon dressed in their own custom leather sandals – and we were floored!

We chatted with Wildcraft founder Chelsea Heffner about how her high-quality workshops began and about how she met leatherworker Rachel Corry for this crafty gathering. Read our interview with Chelsea below and watch for more information from us about Rachel’s sandal workshop coming to L.A.!

The Chalkboard Mag: Chelsea, WildCraft Studio School is so special. How did the studio get its start?

Chelsea Heffner: WildCraft Studio School is an art center. We specialize in workshops on subjects that intersect creativity and nature. We are offering over 40 classes this season in subjects like seasonal medicine, weaving in the wild, and dye plants of the Columbia River Gorge. The idea for WildCraft grew out of a desire to merge contemporary perspectives on craft with the practice of traditional skills and folk knowledge. My mission is to encourage a deeper connection with the natural world through sharing in creative skills.

During the 7 years I lived in Portland, I received an MFA in visual studies, started a textile-design/knitwear business and taught as adjunct faculty at Pacific Northwest College of Art. The madness of running a production-based business while teaching consumed my life for the first 2 years post-school, and I rarely saw the outside of my studio. Luckily, in a moment of down-time, I took a trip out to The Gorge and spent some time in White Salmon, Washington. I loved the openness of the landscape, the plants were all different and wonderful, and I just stumbled onto the studio that now houses WildCraft.

TCM: There’s such an appetite among consumers right now for artisan objects and for learning the craft skills themselves. Why do you think that is? 

CH: There are so many incredible artisans making and selling right now: weavers, potters, perfume-makers, woodworkers, herbalists, etc. It’s undeniable that the quality and character of these handmade wares far surpasses what is being produced by large companies, so the revolution toward handcrafted goods has a huge aesthetic draw for many people. Actually learning the craft is what brings a consumer beyond aesthetic appreciation and opens up a world of possibilities. That feeling of “making” is so empowering, and it’s also the perfect antidote to the digital interfaces that dominate our lives.

TCM: How did you and shoe designer Rachel Corry meet? What drew you to her?

CH: I had followed Rachel’s work for a few years when she was teaching at Gravel & Gold and around The Bay area, and was thrilled when I heard she was moving to Portland. I was initially attracted to the style and design of her sandals, and since hosting her at WildCraft, I’m so impressed with her passion for teaching and her exceptional patience.

TCM: We’ve never seen a workshop like this. It’s so special. What is it you love about Rachel’s work?

CH: This is such a special workshop! Rachel is one of the very few artists out there who is teaching a contemporary version of sandal-making, and translating that craft in a way that allows beginners to jump right in. Her workshops create so much room for customization, from different leathers and distinct design templates to small metal letters that students can use to stamp their names into the soles. Arriving with no experience, and leaving with a completely customized pair of sandals is a pretty unique experience.

TCM: What is a workshop at WildCraft like?

CH: Most of our workshops take students outside to interact with nature in some capacity. For some, this interaction begins with the drive up to the studio, along the Columbia River, through forests, and past orchards full of cherries. Classes often forage in our nearby woods, collecting mushrooms, medicinal plants, dye plants or harvesting local clay (depending on the workshop). With a dozen or so students per workshop, our atmosphere is intimate and people usually leave having made new friends. Some of those connections are made over the lunch table where guest chefs like Sara Mains of Salt Rose Kitchen prepare simple, healthy meals with produce from the garden. Regardless of the class, the studio is always full of conversation and laughter.

TCM: What workshops are you offering this summer and fall? What do you find is popular right now?

CH: Our textile-focused classes have been incredibly popular, bringing artists, designers and makers of all stripes out to the studio. I’m really excited for an upcoming class, Kalapuya Basket Weaving, led by Grande Ronde tribal member Stephanie Wood. That class really exemplifies what we are trying to do up here: bringing traditional skills into contemporary practice, while engaging students with materials from nature.

Come September and October, everyone here in the Northwest turns into mushroom-crazed foragers, and I’m very much looking forward to the range of foraging classes we will host!

TCM: What else should we know about WildCraft?

CH: I’m working on starting a WildCraft satellite in California, and am interested in connecting with potential teachers, property owners or anyone who might be interested in seeing this project come to life in the Golden State!

TCM: We can only imagine you’ll hear from our readers about that! Our L.A. community is filled with talented teachers and artisans – and readers ready to workshop away!

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