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A Look Into Our Transformative 2023

by Audrie Gomez December 27, 2023 in Beginner Builders, Community Builders, Partnerships, Workshop Journals, Young Makers Program

A Look Into Our Transformative 2023

Dear Friends and Supporters of Would Works,

Winding down this year, we express deep gratitude for your support and engagement with Would Works. 2023 began expansively: WW Community Builders Program Artisans and our team took a field trip to the snow-covered Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains north of the city. Shirley is the Artisan Lead at Would Works and was born and raised in LA. She’s now in her mid-60’s, yet she’s never been up to the Angeles Forest. Our city is surrounded by abundant landscapes, but many residents who face barriers to employment also lack access to experiences in nature. This forest visit reflects the growth trajectory of Would Works, which we illuminate here.

To see the wood transform very quickly and feel that sense of accomplishment ... it makes you feel valuable … like you can achieve these longer life goals – the ones where you don't see results so quickly. -Marella


Would Works’ 2023 Highlights
Light Shines and Updates from WW’s first full year in our dedicated studio space plus a new cohort program, new partnerships, funding sources and community workshops.

Would Works (WW) Social Enterprise guides artisans as they develop basic woodworking, communication and shop safety skills through paid work, gaining confidence and exploring paths toward self-sufficiency and new careers.

WW’s field trip to the Angeles yielded a lesson that forests offer abundance even in the wake of wildfire. With funding from the USDA, US Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant, Artisans designed/prototyped our first outdoor furniture collection utilizing lumber from fallen trees affected by the 2020 Bobcat Fire. This proud, full circle example demonstrates WW’s community-informed design process where Artisan input and local ecology interface with the built environment.

Your support ensures more full circle opportunities!

Beginner Builders Program & Community Builders Program (BBP and CBP) are WW’s cohort programs that run for 6 months each, offered twice a year. This way Artisans can finish BBP and directly begin CBP for a combined full year of paid, hands-on training in a shared studio/ workshop environment with supportive services.

In 2023, Artisan Tim completed both WW cohorts and is now doing paid job training with Angel City Lumber. As Tim shares in his WW video profile, he’s proud of the work he’s done so far, having gained woodworking and communication skills. 

“[WW program] builds my character. It builds resilience and work ethic and I feel more confident … There is no cap to learning here” -Tim


WW invests in Artisans as workers and people through a hands-on, incremental approach that teaches work and life skills that build a solid foundation for long-term investment in people and craft.

Emphasizing integrity and accessibility, WW keeps student-to-teacher ratios intentionally low to provide individual attention and accommodate learning differences. We believe outcomes are more sustaining when the work is dignified and the opportunities meaningful.

18 Artisans Employed in 2023
Stories of Success: Luis moved into a construction training program; Taaj recently landed a sales job; and Valerie experienced psychological healing from past trauma. A variety of qualitative outcomes is reflected consistently in Artisan feedback, which speaks to the unique value and sense of purpose WW’s programs kindle in folks who are in a transitional phase, simultaneously providing structured days and the ABC’s of working with tools.

Thanks to our funders and supporters, WW is able to provide employment and supportive services (e.g. funding, transportation, work clothes, etc) through Los Angeles County Probation and Workforce Development’s INVEST Program and America’s Job Center of California. WW also provides 300+ hot lunch meals through Heirloom LA and others.

Stories of Growth: California Arts Council and LA County Department of Arts & Culture provide additional financial support for our new pilot Peoples’ Builders Program slated to expand in 2024, including partners: Linc Housing and The People Concern’s Studio 526.

WW makes high-quality wood products and is trusted to make products in collaboration with a growing list of partners: LULU, a restaurant at the Hammer Museum, conceived by food activist Alice Waters; Terremoto, a cutting edge landscape architecture design studio; as well as Canadian industry legend, Lee Valley Tools.

All aspects of fulfilling basic needs for WW Artisans prepares them for the workforce, right-sized for their capacity and interest.

Sustaining pathways towards autonomy starts with a prepared Artisan. Your support enables WW to focus on growing our mission and programs to elevate and supplement Artisans’ readiness to learn a craft, make personal and professional connections and encourage responsibility for self and others.

In November 2022, WW moved into our first fully-dedicated workshop and have since tailored the space to meet our current needs with room to grow. Having a safe, well-equipped studio to convene and call our own strengthens the community – Artisans feel invested in what they helped build.

With your generosity we can build more in 2024…
Expanding on 2023’s accomplishments and moving into the new year, WW intends to shift the paradigm of scarcity to one of abundance by leaning into the strengths, talents and aspirations of our community.

  • EXPANSION: Increase number of WW Artisans employed and double the 1,300 hours worked in 2023.
  • FORWARD MOMENTUM: Grow product lines; Build a network of post-program jobs; Expand workshops on and offsite to create connections in the broader community.
  • RESILIENCE TOGETHER: Strengthen partnerships with aligned, external organizations and find new ways to integrate WW’s services in concert with others to multiply impact.
  • OPEN-SOURCE: Expand WW’s audience by sharing our program methods and structure with others interested in doing similar ventures – sharing our learning without being proprietary.
  • MUTUAL AFFIRMATION: Pursue more outlets for Artisans to see their accomplishments in the world, fostering pride in their work.

We invite your participation and support to sustain Would Works in 2024 and beyond!
Connecting Artisans from forest to woodshop to community, WW’s programs open pathways for folks who face barriers to employment, to break the cycle of system-dependency, and to empower those who would work if they could. Investing in WW products or contributing a cash or in-kind donation are vital ways to be involved and secure our craft for the next generation.

Let’s build an equitable future together!

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