Twisp is a mountain community of workers relying on their hands and the natural resources around them, and has been since it was founded in 1897. The entire Methow Valley is full of people creating new things, both out of necessity and inspiration. When the historic Forest Service headquarters was decommissioned in 2002, the Twisp neighborhood had strong ideas about what should be done with the building vacant. They wanted to honor the site’s past and its significance to local history and industry, but use the space for a new project that will help Twisp look forward.
“Mostly we wanted to make something that the public can benefit by, that is able to give back to the community,” says a former local Forest Ranger, “If it couldn’t be a ranger station, I think [TwispWorks] is the next best option.”
After applying for grants to renovate the historic Forest Service buildings, the first four partners in the TwispWorks co-op sign on in 2011. Currently, the TwispWorks compound is home to 25 partners, including ten local artists: four fabric artists, two metal workers, a painter, a silversmith, a stone carver, and a woodworker. Enthusiasm to be involved in this project has increased dramatically, and there is a waiting list for tenants. As more buildings on the campus become available, they are quickly filled. The Methow Valley winters are consistently freezing, and all heated and insulated space is currently in use.
Eastern Washington’s sprawling farmlands are where most of the state’s agricultural products come from. In addition to promoting artists, TwispWorks has launched the Methow Made program that promotes local farmers and manufacturing with funding help from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. TwispWorks Executive Director Amy Stork says:
Many of the creative professionals were instrumental in making this [Methow Made] campaign a reality. We had a finite amount of funding from the development grant, and they worked twice as much time than we could pay them for – which means we got an amazing campaign without an amazing budget. Everyone contributes their special talent, and the result is more than you could possibly achieve if you were all acting alone.
In addition to using TwispWorks as a studio workshop, the artists also offer classes and workshops to the local community. Years ago, the Twisp high school was forced to shut down its popular metalworking class due to lack of funding. TwispWorks pooled funds from outside donors and co-op partners, and made an on-site metal studio that both artists and students can use. Amy Stork says, “I’m really looking forward to our education programs coming into full fruition. We really like to see youth engaged in every aspect of what’s happening here at TwispWorks, everything from learning how to manufacture backpacks to planting a natural dye garden.”
This collaborative paradise has drawn creators from all over the country. Jonathan Baker, a New Hampshire native, uses TwispWorks as the headquarters for EQPD (pronounced “equipped”), his outdoor backpack and gear manufacturing company. Baker says, “I most appreciate the self-reliance and need for practicality here in the [Methow] Valley. As designers and manufactures of outdoor gear, this perspective guides our philosophy and challenges us to be honest and direct with our designs.”
As the organization grows, so does the local community around it. Amy Stork says, “TwispWorks is on the verge of realizing some of our more ambitious goals. We have a vision that everyone in the Methow Valley will have access to meaningful art, education and employment opportunities… [We have] an amazing cadre of artists and teachers here.”