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Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild...

Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild turns 50

By: Susan Marquez - September 29, 2023

The impact of the craftsmen on Mississippi’s culture is tremendous. They contribute to our strong cultural heritage while enriching our state with fine craft.

For fifty years, the mission of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi has been to preserve, promote, market, educate and encourage the highest standards of excellence in regional craft.

Since its beginning in October 1973, the Guild has grown from a membership of 30 craftsmen, only two of which earned a living from craft, to a high of more than 400 craftsmen from all across the Southeast.

Today the number of members is a bit lower, but the bar on quality craftsmanship is at an all-time high. Application for membership is open to all whose work reflects a high degree of competence, professional standards, and artistry in their medium and category.

Eligibility is determined by a jury review process which takes place twice each year, in March and August, when the Guild Standards Committee meets to review the work of new applicants and returning members. The impact of the craftsmen on Mississippi’s culture is tremendous. They teach workshops, conduct school demonstrations, and contribute to our strong cultural heritage while enriching our state with fine craft.

It is said that the Chimneyville Craft Festival marks the beginning of the holiday season. Held the first weekend in December, the award-winning event draws lovers of fine craft from across the Southeast. The festival is one of the longest-running and most prominent shows of its kind in the region.

Craftsmen earn much of their yearly income during the show, which allows them to live and work here. The members of the Guild, and their philosophies and style, vary as much as the crafts they create. From college art professors to artisans working in primitive methods, papermakers to glassblowers, weavers to woodcarvers, they all share a common interest in expressing their inner visions.

The “new” William Waller Craft Center opened near the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Ridgeland on June 8. 2007. Prior to that, the Guild operated a gallery in a small cabin on the Natchez Trace. The Craft Center serves the state through cultural tourism while providing a venue for fine craft.

The Center’s gallery is filled with a variety of crafts for sale, each handcrafted by members of the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild. From pottery and woodworking to fabric art and glass, there is something for everyone in the beautiful gallery.

The soaring concrete and glass building is filled with light and the centerpiece is a soaring glass staircase, ideal for a bride to descend to her wedding ceremony below. As a matter of fact, several weddings and other functions are held in the Center throughout the year.

A large deck spans the back of the building, looking over the woods between the building and the Natchez Trace – an ideal spot to see synchronized fireflies at the annual Snappy Sync event held each spring. Artist demonstrations are held at the Craft Center most weekends, and classes for both adults and children are offered periodically, as well as a summer craft camp for kids.

Sheri Cox is responsible for organizing all the events held at the Waller Craft Center. From weddings and wedding receptions to family reunions, corporate retreats and group visits, she handles all scheduling details at the Center. She also plans all school field trips and coordinates all classes at the Waller Craft Center, and she oversees the gallery.

Debby DeLashment serves as the board’s president. “For fifty years, The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi has had a mission to preserve, promote and encourage fine craft and support local artisans and the craftsmen of tomorrow.”

About the Author(s)
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Susan Marquez

Susan Marquez serves as Magnolia Tribune's Culture Editor. Since 2001, Susan Marquez has been writing about people, places, spaces, events, music, businesses, food, and travel. The things that make life interesting. A prolific writer, Susan has written over 3,000 pieces for a wide variety of publications.