Saturday, August 24, 2013

Craft Guilds

Join a Guild

Do you have a few hours a month?  Do you want to improve your proficiency in your favorite pastime?  Do you wish to make new acquaintances who share your interests?
Then join a guild.  There are guilds in every endeavor, from art to weaving located right in your community.  Large or small, these groups provide inspiration and instruction with the added bonus of a pleasant social atmosphere.

Last week I was invited by the Dropped Stitch Knitters Guild of Albuquerque  to present a program on textile history.  Note the presentation was NOT on the subject of knitting, as I can make a scarf, which looks better bunched up or tied, but that’s about the extent of it.

Guilds date back to early medieval times, although I believe from much earlier times groups of artisans  formed associations to protect their interests.  It was during the 12thC that the formal organizations known as guilds were introduced into society.  The first guilds to appear were Merchant Guilds, followed by Craft Guilds whose main purpose was to maintain a monopoly on their products and no one could practice a craft without belonging to the guild. Therefore, there was a guild formed for nearly every occupation from bakers to lacemakers.

Guild members were protected from dubious practices such as price-fixing, revelations concerning processing secrets and price-cutting.  Hours of work were regulated and there were strict guidelines for quality of workmanship, as each article had to be inspected and  approved.. Each guild member was expected to perform public service.

There were three levels of guild membership: apprentice, journeyman and master.  The apprentice, usually a male (although there were guilds who admitted women), lived with the master.  His room and board and tuition expenses were paid for by his family.  During this time he was not allowed to marry.  After a period of 2-7 years, depending upon his trade he would then become a journeyman.  Journeymen received a salary and were also housed in the master’s home.  In order to obtain the status of master, the journeyman had to produced his “masterpiece”, working on his own time and purchasing his own tools and materials.

But back to the Dropped Stitch Knitting Guild.  These ladies are serious knitters.  Seriously wonderful knitters.  During Show and Tell each produced their current or recently finished project.  Knitted animals for a grandchild, absolutely gorgeous shawls and wraps and one unbelievable graduation gift.  The gift was intended for a graduate of astronomy and featured 2 round (I would say each nearly 45 inches in diameter) depictions of the night sky: one of the northern constellations and the other of the southern constellations.  The membership of this group, like all guilds, includes all levels of expertise. Beginners can be inspired, experienced artists can explore new techniques and materials.

So, again, if you want to sharpen your skills or learn new ones, join a guild.

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