New Hampshire Weavers Guild
1938 - 2013
75 Years Old!
 

In 1938, Bessie Swain gathered together approximately 12 interested weavers and formed the New Hampshire Weavers.  As the group's first chairman, treasurer, secretary, and teacher, Bessie Swain was the inspiration, energy, and focus behind the newly formed organization. She served as chairman several times during the early days of the Guild's history.

Formed as an offshoot of the newly organized League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts, the Guild and the League shared some common goals.  Founded after the depression to assist poverty stricken rural people, and especially craftspeople, the League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts was sponsored by the State Commission of Arts and Crafts in 1932.  With the goal of aiding New Hampshire citizens to return to the old ways of doing things and earn a living doing so, the League offered funding and structure, teachers and market opportunities to those interested in earning their living through the arts and crafts.

The League's first weaving teacher, Robert Heartz, traveled the state from barn loom to barn loom.  He encouraged Bessie Swain, a student of Heartz's from earlier in his career, to form the New Hampshire Weavers to assist struggling weavers and to offer instruction for those who wanted to learn.

Bessie wrote the first By-laws for the New Hampshire Weavers, separating the organization and the League, establishing the Guild as a separate entity although the two organizations worked well in tandem to help New Hampshire weavers and other craftspeople.  Many members of the New Hampshire Weavers were also members of the League, and could attend League sponsored classes, vote at League meetings, and serve on League boards and committees.  To qualify for League membership, weavers had to reside in New Hampshire.  Because most of the weavers attended the Sunapee Fair, the main meeting of the nascent organization followed the event, offering the major lecture at a time when the greatest number of members could participate.

NH Weavers also met monthly at each other's homes.  Weavers from all over the state paid guild expenses by donation, mostly for postage and mailing, each member giving what they could afford.  The Guild prospered and in 1940, 2 years after its inception, they were 88 members strong.  Too large to meet in homes, they began to meet in churches and town halls, still moving about the state to allow all members to attend.

From the initial dozen weavers meeting in each other's homes, through the 80 - 90 members meeting in Church vestries and halls, to today's approximately 200 members meeting at the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord, the New Hampshire Weavers Guild has grown and changed.  Most of today's weavers no longer earn their income through weaving, but the same spirit of inquiry, the same interest in and appreciation for textiles, the same desire to express themselves through their craft is as strong in today's members as it was in the early days of the Guilds inception.