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What Is a Weavers Guild?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
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A weavers guild is a society of artisans dedicated to the craft of weaving cloth. Taking inspiration from the powerful proto-unions of medieval Europe, modern weavers guilds are often more casual associations of entrepreneurs, students, and hobbyists. A modern weavers guild is often a local association that provides a host of educational opportunities and events for members. Major goals of a weavers guild may include ensuring the legacy of the ancient craft of weaving, providing a forum for education and communication, and assisting members with business opportunities.

In medieval Europe, the original versions of the weavers guild were powerful collectives of professional weavers. Much like a union, a weavers guild regulated skill sets, prices, and labor rules for members, attempting to ensure equal treatment while quashing outside competition. Guilds also served as insurance agents for members, providing funding for the families of deceased members. Medieval guilds also established training programs based on apprenticeships, a tradition that continues to this day in some modern guilds.

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In the 21st century, weavers guilds maintain the integrity of their craft, though without the political and social power wielded by their predecessors. Modern guilds tend to focus on increasing opportunities for the education, business, and enjoyment of their members. Some maintain an apprenticeship and mastery program, allowing new weavers to study with advanced artisans in order to gain skill and an appreciation of the history of the craft. Others prefer a more casual training arrangement, where members can drop in on classes and training sessions at will.

Educational opportunities are often a focus of modern weavers guilds. Many offer weekly or even daily classes in different techniques and styles of weaving, or even in the history of weaving. Lecture programs may focus on variations in global weaving techniques, small business management, or loom care, among many other topics. Often, guilds will hold beginner's classes that are open to the public, in order to find new members and raise local interest.

Weavers guilds also offer a variety of professional opportunities for artisans that are making a career out of their craft. This may include the chance to participate in a gallery exhibit, or sell woven crafts through an auction, website, or storefront. Some guilds also provide small business grants and loans to members to help them in their professional pursuits. Association with a guild can help a new professional weaver navigate the waters of artisan entrepreneurship by offering chances to display work, get advice from more experienced members, and learn about the small-business world from the inside.

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