The Wilderness Workshop of Janice Cooney

2019 A Voice in the NELA Wilderness Christopher Nyerges Columnists Editions October

A Voice in the NELA Wilderness

by Christopher Nyerges

I started hiking in the Angeles National Forest in the hills above Eagle Rock and Altadena when I was 10 years old. I have considered it my “big backyard” ever since.

Hiking and backpacking require gear – boots, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, packs of all sizes – which all eventually require repair.

Janice Cooney at her Wildnerness Workshop
in Eagle Rock – Photo by Christopher Nyerges

Some 15 years ago, the need to repair my ripped and torn gear led me to Janice Cooney, owner of the Wilderness Workshop, then located around the corner from my Highland Park home.

I could tell right away that repairing gear was serious work at Wilderness Workshop. The shelves around every wall were stacked with gear. There were sewing machines on large work tables. At one of them was Cooney. She came over, examined my pack, told me it needed a new zipper and some stitching and that I should come back in a week.

That was the first of many repair jobs Cooney has done for me. Over a cup of coffee recently, I talked to Cooney about her business.

In 1982, Cooney decided that her pursuit of a degree in athletic training was not the right fit. Instead, she became a partner in an outdoor gear repair business in Culver City. “I’ve always been manually dexterous and creative, so I was able to pick up the sewing end of things easily enough,” she explained.

The partnership did not work out, but Cooney kept her repair business going out of the small living room of her apartment in Venice. “This was tough,” she said. “I had stuff all over my place!”

At about the same time, she also became an expert rock climber, which made her an even better seamstress. “I had to become more knowledgeable about how certain materials would handle stress loads, when they would fail and so forth,” she said.

Her business grew mainly by word of mouth. She let the Sierra Club and local outdoor shops know about her work. She also offered pick-up and delivery. Since 2009, Cooney has run her business out of her home in Eagle Rock.

In addition to repair work, Cooney custom designs gear and restores down-filled items. She has also taken on occasional unusual jobs, including reupholstering WWII planes and fabricating movie props, including the flag in the classroom scene in the 2003 movie “Northfork.”

Her client list includes the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey and other large institutions. She is also an artist, specializing in mosaic sculpture, which adorn her shop and yard.

She can be reached at 323-338-5664 or via email:


Christopher Nyerges is the author and teacher of survival skills. For more information, visit his website:

Classes by the School of Self-Reliance October Class Schedule

Thursday, Oct. 10, Noon LUNCHTIME SHELTER WORKSHOP, $25.
Learn the basics of wilderness shelters, and continue to work on a traditional half-dome shelter. Bring gloves. Meet at Hahamongna Watershed Park, Location 2.

Saturday, Oct. 12, 10:30 a.m., WEEKEND WARRIOR WORKSHOP SERIES, #1 PRIMITIVE SURVIVAL SKILLS – part of our certificate and certification program.
This is a 4-part series which will occur once a month – see schedule for subsequent classes in this series. This Session begins with a workshop on FIRE, including: The four principles for creating fire, making fire from your car, using the sun to make fire, using batteries, flint and steel, and creating your own fire-by-friction kit. You will learn by doing. Class includes a short walkabout, hands-on, some plant gathering, and fire-making. Pricing: $65 per class; if you pay in advance, you pay $195, meaning, you get the 4th class FREE. Hahamongna Watershed Park Location 2.

Saturday, Oct. 26, 10 a.m. FIRST AID / CPR / AED
This 5-hour class covers Standard First Aid, Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, Automated External Defibrillator use. You will learn about scene safety, personal protection equipment, bleeding control, wound care, general injuries, sudden illness first aid, and environmental first aid. Being outdoors people, we will put extra emphasis on outdoor first aid. You will be demonstrating proper CPR on manikins, so please dress in comfortable clothing. Several topics from the Advanced First Aid class are covered in this standard class since they are important topics to understand. First Aid Kits will also be discussed. The class runs 5 hours, which includes a very short lunch break (bring your own lunch – no time to go out to lunch). Please bring a camp chair, note pad, sunscreen and anything else you would like to bring along.
Class fee is $40 for the lecture and hands-on practice. If you would like a 2-year certification through ECSI (Emergency Care and Safety Institute) there is an additional fee of $20 and you will also receive a first aid book in addition to the certification card. – You must RSVP to this class as we need to cap this class at 12 to assure proper instruction and proficiency. With your RSVP, please let us know if you will be doing the certification or just coming for the knowledge and hands-on experience. All RSVPs must be in 10 days prior to the class to assure the proper amount of supplies (and books – if getting certified) are ordered, and all reservations must be pre-paid. If you will be getting certified, please provide an email address – the cards are now sent electronically to your email after you complete the class.
Taught by Keith Farrar, certified to teach Standard First Aid, Advanced First Aid and Title 22 First Aid (for First Responders).Keith teaches to State Park Docents, Sierra Club leaders as well as other organizations.

TO REGISTER: Call (626) 791-3217 (office) or (323) 605-7283 to pay with a credit card;
Or mail a check to School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, L.A., CA 90041.Indicate class you will attend, and how many will attend. E-mail (or Paypal) to Check the website for more information on these and other new classes.