Liz Howard is a WV native with a background in the culinary arts and a love for nature, horticulture, and learning. Her great grandfather operated a saw mill and a passion for woodworking has grown and evolved through the generations. Liz focuses on the use of technology to enhance her design process.
Liz started as a shop worker for the non-profit organization at WVFPC in July of 2019. She quickly fell in love with the design aspect, and became the center’s lead designer and design instructor. In January 2020, she took on an administrative role as operations coordinator. With a background as a chef, she navigated a considerable learning curve and has become integral to the center and its mission. At an early age, Liz found herself passionate about her sense of place in Appalachia and a love for the land. She loved hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in both her home in Virginia and birthplace, West Virginia.
In 2011, Liz studied culinary arts and nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City where she navigated quick-paced, unforgiving kitchens. After three years in the city, she was ready for a change of pace. Liz moved into a treehouse on a permaculture farm in New Hampshire where she worked as a gardener and kitchen manager. She loved how farming combined her love for cooking, nutrition, sense of place, and being outdoors, so she moved back to Virginia to study horticulture and Appalachian studies at Virginia Tech. While working at an organic vegetable farm in Blacksburg, Virginia, Liz realized that her favorite aspect of the job was working with people. She loved talking with customers at the market stand and teaching pickling classes.
When Liz’s dad, Joe, mentioned that he needed assistance at West Virginia Forest Products Center, she jumped at the opportunity to help regional businesses and craftspeople. Though Liz’s background was in cooking and farming, passion for woodwork runs in her family. Liz’s grandfather, Henry, was a wood craftsman, and her great-grandfather, G.V., ran a saw mill. Liz recalls watching her dad, Joe, designing on AutoCAD and remarks that she must have learned through osmosis.
At WVFPC, Liz developed a thirst for programming and design challenges. She dove into teaching herself more and more about programs and machinery, many times working on projects all through the night. She had found a niche. Self-taught with online programs and certificates, Liz learned 3-D design programs such as Fusion 360, Aspire, Adobe Suite, and coding used for CNC machines and 3-D printers.
"WVFPC has given me access to state of the art CNC machines that open up limitless design capabilities. These machines enable us to help West Virginia businesses by overcoming design challenges. These machines, along the knowledge and experience of master craftsmen, enables WVFPC to provide a unique opportunity to foster small business success and growth."
As an instructor and mentor to members at the center, Liz encourages students and contractors not to let programming knowledge limit them.
"We can create any design from your imagination; it is all about tracing back from the idea. We can figure out a solution for almost any design problem."
Learning does not stop for this young designer as she teaches students and assists contractors at WVFPC. She is continually advancing her skillset, and is always furthering the mark for success.
When Liz is not glued to a design or project for the Center, she is doing chores with her wife, Lindsay, at their homestead in Dublin, Virginia. With five dogs, three cats, three horses, two goats, two pigs, two rabbits, oodles of chickens, and a token bachelor turkey, the couple never has a dull day.