Wild Woman: Crag to Crux Founder Raee Lorton
“Will Send for Seltzer,” “On My Way to Flash Your Project,” “Fuck Your Beta.” These are just a few of the messages on some of Crag to Crux’s products (a personal favorite of mine is the pin that says “Not Cocaine” which I have on my chalk bag). Crag to Crux owner and founder, 28-year-old Raee Lorton started her company as a side project, a way to tap into her creative, artistic side while working her day job as an environmental scientist. But what started as a simple Etsy project selling to family and friends has turned into a full-fledged company and community for promoting equality and inclusion in outdoor spaces. There are so many elements to Crag to Crux: the collaborations with other small businesses like the @queerclimbingcollective, the Self Care Cast, @trailmothers, and Lady Crvsh Crew; the environmental consciousness of the products; and the use of profits to give back to numerous organizations advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn-owned organizations, self-love, mental health, and environmental charities.
What made you start Crag to Crux? When?
Raee: I started it last January in 2019 and I just kind of had a whim of wanting to give it a shot. I had an iPad that I had forgotten about and started using it and learning to draw digitally. And I wanted to learn how to make those into stickers.
And were you an artist and then switched to environmental studies?
Raee: I kinda jumped around in college but settled on environmental science because that’s where the passion was. I was too scared to be an artist because I didn’t know if there was a future for me. But when I started working in the field, I wanted something creative. So I did something to combine art and climbing.
How long have you been making art?
Raee: I’ve been an artist since I could hold a pencil. Over time, I’ve been able to experiment with different mediums and really start to find my niche. For me, it’s probably more like traditional tattoo artwork; it’s called American Traditional, that’s been more what I’d love to learn more about. I started challenging myself. My first drawing was a little traditional climbing pin-up girl. That was my first sticker and when that took off, I started moving with that momentum and doing landscape and watercolor and seeing how it did.
When you started Crag to Crux, did you imagine it would just be a sticker company or that it would expand?
Raee: I thought I was gonna sell a couple things on Etsy to my friends and family and out of nowhere it started getting momentum. I released more stickers and then people said, We want shirts, so I produced shirts and now I’m screen-printing my own shirts as well and selling them to small businesses to make them more affordable.
When did you start climbing?
Raee: I’ve been climbing on and off for about 5 or 6 years. I live in Southern California so I climb in Bishop and Joshua Tree—Bishop’s my favorite.
Did you grow up in LA? Did you get into the outdoors growing up?
Raee: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My dad is a geologist so he’s always had a passion for the outdoors and he kind of rubbed off on me which is why I got into the environmental field. We grew up going camping and hiking. I noticed rock climbing on a geology trip to Joshua Tree and it was the first time I’d ever seen people outdoor rock climbing. I was like, mental note, I’m gonna come back and try that. I did my undergrad in San Francisco and sure enough, climbing was big up there; they had three really big rock climbing gyms so some friends and I went and just tried a day pass and I was like, I love this, how can I do this more? I looked up bouldering on YouTube and ordered shoes on Amazon. I just wanted to get going so I started climbing around the local gyms in my free time.
Why do you think it’s important to give back to different organizations with your profits?
Raee: It’s just always been something that I’ve done. I just want to help as many people as I can, especially ones relevant to political things going on. When the Black Lives Matter movement started gaining speed, the first thing I did was message my friend who owns the small brand Thunder and Smoke (@thunderandsmoke) which is where we came up with the “Fuck Racism” t-shirt. I wasn’t expecting it but we donated $1,500 to the EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) during the hype of it all. And everything else just trickles back into it. I knew I at least wanted to offer something for organizations doing bigger and better things than I do.
What are your thoughts on inclusivity in the outdoors for women, LGBTQIA+, trans, etc.?
Raee: I don’t think people realize that there really is a divide in the outdoors, certain people really just don’t feel safe. I love taking people out who message me that they want to try climbing, I want to offer that support to make people more comfortable to go out more. Ideally, I’d like to do more meetups. I kind of partner with Lady Crvsh Crew (@ladycrushcrew) and I tag along to their events and talk to everyone and make friends and try to get people out climbing with me.
Do you do other outdoor activities besides climbing?
Raee: That’s pretty much number one, it’s mainly climbing and then I do some hiking. I do a lot of work for the environmental groundwater so I’m pretty much always outside running around.
What’s your favorite crag snack?
Raee: Oh my gosh, Clif Bars, hands down. The dark chocolate banana one. Also strawberry Uncrustables. If I had to summarize my diet in one word it would be peanut butter.