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Crafty: WTA Staff Creations Inspired by Time on Trail

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Nov 30, 2022 05:14 PM |
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Time on trail is inspirational. And for WTA staff, we're often inspired in a very tangible way. (Maybe because we build trails for a living?) We like to get our hands on things, to tinker with gear, pack our paints and experiment. As the days get shorter, and we spend a bit more time warm and cozy indoors, it seemed like a good time to share some of the beautiful things that WTA staff are making by hand.

Time on trail is inspirational. And for WTA staff, we're often inspired in a very tangible way. (Maybe because we build trails for a living?) We like to get our hands on things, tinker with gear, pack our paints and experiment.

As the days get shorter and we spend a bit more time warm and cozy indoors, it seemed like a good time to share some of the beautiful things that WTA staff are making by hand. 

And we know our community is just as crafty — if your time on trail has inspired something cool, tell us about it in the comments. Or share it on social media and tag us.

Painting and dreaming

An acrylic painting of Mount Baker.
Painting by Justine Nishitani.

Justine Nishitani, WTA’s northwest regional trails coordinator, painted this view of Mount Baker and Iceberg Lake viewed from the Chain Lakes Trail using acrylic on canvas. 

“Mount Baker has personal significance to me because of my work in the Mount Baker Ranger District for the Forest Service, and Chain Lakes holds a special place in my heart as one of the most beautiful places to work, but also one of the most challenging from a management standpoint,” she said. “My dream is that, in the future, Chain Lakes becomes a place where people come to learn about the importance and significance of Wilderness Areas, not just a cool place to go hiking and backpacking.”

Wooden works of art

Seven carved wooden spoons.
Spoons carved by Iman Chatila. 

Iman Chatila, who was on WTA’s Lost Trails Found crew this summer, has carved a fabulous selection of spoons — doing trail work, it was always easy for them to find material close at hand.

“I start by finding a good piece of green wood. Green wood is fresh, softer to carve, and less likely to be rotten or have cracks in it,” Iman said. “Since I did conservation and trail work, it was easy to get from trees that needed to be cut. I cut a piece of limb in the right diameter and length for the kind of spoon I want to make. I use my whittling knife to get one end of the piece round, then use my gouge to scoop out the part that will be the bowl. Finally, I make the handle with my straight knife, just turning the wood around and taking parts off until I am happy with the shape and size. I finish by sanding with rough, medium, then fine sandpaper and coating it with mineral oil which is food safe, clear and unscented.”

Unbearably adorable

Two photos show a stuffed tree and mountain and a knit bear.
Rachel Wendling made these tree and mountain stuffies and knit bear.

Rachel Wendling — who until recently was WTA’s communications coordinator and has now moved onto a new role still in the outdoor industry (with the organization that originally brought her to WTA, even) — is a genius with sewing and knitting. And she’s resourceful. These two stuffies of a mountain and a tree used up a lot of pieces. She also made this cute little bear, which she said she was going to have a hard time parting with. She made it for a friend's baby, and carefully embroidered on the eyes to avoid a potential choking hazard.

“I’ve been very into using scraps lately, so I sewed a tank top out of some bigger scraps I had laying around. Then I cut up the scraps of the scraps to fill these stuffed toys for a friend's baby,” she said. “To make them, I just kind of free-handed them. I drew out a mountain and tree on felt, cut them out with scissors, added some decorative stitching and then used a blanket stitch around the edges and filled with poly-fil!" 

Trail work inspired

Wooden coasters, a cross-section of a branch with images of mountains.
Grady Olson has been using his creative to make coasters and they're a popular gift for his family.

Grady Olson, WTA’s development operations and analytics manager, started exercising his creativity during the pandemic by creating wooden coasters and hasn’t stopped. He’s even using a tool that he earned doing volunteer trail work with WTA. 

“I started to make outdoor-inspired custom wood coasters in 2020,” he said. “Between a surplus of downed trees/branches in my neighborhood, a lot of downtime and the need for a healthy number of outdoor coasters for all the outdoor happy hours happening during those pandemic times, this hobby turned slight side hustle has been a perfect way for me to express my artistic side. I've loved the process of making these from start to finish, all by hand (and with the Corona saw I got after 50 days of volunteer work with WTA!). It's also been fun to see all my friends and family say, 'When are you going to make me a set?!'"

Watercolor and fiber

A small knit sweater, fading from green to white, with snow and trees.
Laura Norsen knit this sweater for her favorite hiking friend's new baby.

A watercolor image of Mount Baker with watercolor paints visible at the edges.
This watercolor was inspired by a Park Butte hike.

Laura Norsen, WTA’s development database coordinator, turns her time on trail into inspiration for knitting and watercolors, including the iconic view captured in this watercolor.

“I'm sure many will recognize the location of this painting. It's the view of Baker from the tarns along the Park Butte trail. I've hiked it several times, with many of my favorite people. It was the first thing I painted after receiving a set of these gorgeous watercolor paints from Beam Paints, an indigenous paint maker who uses natural pigments and plastic-free packaging.

Laura is also an avid knitter, and a sweater project was a perfect way to meld her love of hiking and knitting. 

"I stumbled across this pattern right around the time I found out my best hiking buddy was pregnant, and it seemed perfect. I made it using yarn colors that reminded me most of our adventures on Washington trails. Her daughter wore it many times, and has grown into an avid little hiker!"

Upcycled crafting 

Laptop case with a fungi pattern and cute button.
Anna got creative with a lot of materials to make this functional laptop case. 

Curtains with a cat print.
Anna got a lot of use out of these curtains while exploring the Northwest during a sabbatical from WTA.

Anna Roth, WTA’s hiking content manager, is a master at re-using and repurposing. And, as our hiking content manager, she spends a vast amount of time thinking in great detail about our trails all across the state. And hiking them whenever she can. Both of these creations are extremely functional.

"I got this dishtowel as a gift, but it was too nice to use for its original purpose, so I turned it into a laptop case! An old T-shirt with sentimental value became the liner, and I used a spare button from an old jacket I liked for a fastener," she said. "The fabric may not be particularly naturey, but I used this curtain (and several others) as privacy screens in my car while I was on my road trip last year during my sabbatical. I slept in my car a fair bit, and was happy to have a way to block the windows without fully blocking out sun (or moon) light."

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