Team

Staff

Dr. Amber Epps, Executive Director
Dr. Amber Epps
(she/her)
Executive Director
Dr. Amber Epps brings twenty years of experience teaching at the college level. Outside of academia, Dr. Epps worked in community development, focusing on commercial district revitalization, workforce development, and youth education and employment. She is also a maker, artist, musician, mom, member of the #NotWhite Collective, and co-owner of Arts & Crafts: Botanica & Occult Shop.

Violet Brooks
(they/she)
Director of Community Engagement
Violet is a designer, project manager, and Pokemon Trainer. They have led gallery management and art installation teams at the August Wilson Center and event planning and operations for the Three Rivers Arts Festival with Flyspace Productions.

Instructors

Adam Nelson
Design & Wood Turning

Adam Nelson is the founder of Daggerfish Gear. He designs high quality handcrafted outdoor recreational products.
Cord Merrell
Fabrication & Woodworking

Cord Merrell is a multi-disciplinary maker with years of experience. He’s eager to share the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Karen Kocher
Blacksmithing & Metal

Karen Kocher is part blacksmith, part fabricator, and full-time artist. She makes warm, joyful pieces using a mix of traditional and makeshift tools.
Valerie Hildenbrand
Textiles & Lasers

Valerie Hildenbrand is the founder of Grove Avenue Design. She makes intricate art that combines traditional techniques with new technology.
Sarah Nielsen
Woodworking & Design

Sarah Nielsen is a Pittsburgh-based artist and co-founder of Tree Overboard. She makes warm, eclectic, works in wood from her shop in Lawrenceville.
Nathan Brooks
CNC Embroidery & Design

Nathan Brooks is the founder of Rebel Bred Clothing. He creates locally crafted streetwear enlaced with spirituality, culture and history.

Shop Techs

More information about our team coming soon!

Board of Directors

Kathryn Kelly
Chairperson

Kathryn is a project manager and educator. She is the North America Product Training Lead for Panopto. She has a BFA in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University.
Angelica Ciranni
Vice-Chairperson
 
Angelica is a building science expert and sustainability advocate. She is the Director of Sustainability at Advantus Engineers. She has a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
Joshua Rolon
Treasurer
 
Josh is an urban planning expert and self-described urban nerd. He is a Planner at the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Management & Budget, Community Development Division. He has a BS in Urban and Regional Planning from Cornell University.
Benjamin Saks
Director
 

Ben is a product designer, teacher, and business consultant. He is the founder of KerfCase LLC, a design and manufacturing studio dedicated to precision, fine craftsmanship, and natural materials. He has a Bachelor in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University.
TJ Johnson
Director
 
TJ is the Director of Programs at Community Forge, TJ has the pleasure of providing technical assistance to program participants, piloting workforce development programs, and youth afterschool programs. He oversees entrepreneurial coaching and a mentorship program for thirty small business owners and fifteen resource providers. 
TJ is also a skilled bookkeeper and has been building his business for over five years. He intends to continue to grow that business and assist scores of small businesses with their accounting needs.
Shannon Rugh
Secretary
 
Shannon is cofounder of Commonwealth Press, a screenprinting and design studio. She executes  financial strategy, manages  accounting procedures, manages human resources, and rings register in the brick and mortar retail location of Commonwealth Press. She has a Bachelor of Music Therapy from Shenandoah University and has completed certificates from Harvard Business School.