Mississippi Craft Center and Craftsmen's Guild
Have you ever said to yourself, “They just don’t make them like they used to”?
At the Mississippi Craft Center in Ridgeland Miss., they still know how to put
that touch of quality in their hand-crafted commodities. The Craftsmen’s Guild
of Mississippi seeks to rejuvenate the art of hand-crafted products and to
educate the younger generations about past times when these crafts were a way of
The Guild was created in 1973, following the vision of Mississippi Governor
William Waller. Waller recruited Dan Overly, a craftsman and professor at Delta
State University, to organize and assemble an organization that would promote
the crafts and rebirth a tradition once thought to be long departed. It began
small with a membership of only 30, but now has a membership of over 400
craftsmen and artisans from 19 different states.
Entry into the Guild requires each craftsman to submit three live pieces and
photos of five additional pieces to be judged by a jury of craftsman peers
according to a standard grading system. One of the biggest draws to the
Mississippi Guild is the Mississippi Craft Center, which opened in June 2007.
The Center acts as a permanent and spacious “home” to many craft artifacts,
including the increasingly scarce Choctaw Indian hand-woven baskets, current
pieces available for sale by members of the Guild, and much more.
The Craft Center also acts as an educational center to teach aspiring artisans
and hobbyists a variety of trades including pottery, wood carving, and weaving
and spinning. One distinct difference between the Craftsmen’s Guild of
Mississippi and other craft groups is that the Guild is member-driven to promote
the work and talent of the Guild’s members rather than to sustain patrons’
interest in the establishment as a museum.
The Guild and Craft Center have also made available an array of opportunities
for youth to help inspire a love for craft. The Craft Center invites schools
from across the state to visit its gallery and demonstration studios to teach
students about the different trades. For schools unable to visit the Craft
Center, it also has the Suitcase Museum, which is a “touring” demonstration and
exhibit that craftsmen take to schools to show examples of crafts and what work
and skill it takes to produce the pieces. The Craft Center is also introducing a
summer camp for children ages 5-10 and 11-18. Children will have pottery classes
in the morning and experience other crafts in the afternoon. Once the projects
are complete at the end of the camp session, they will be displayed in a
temporary gallery for campers to show off their talent.
The Craftsmen’s Guild and Craft Center host several fund-raising events
throughout the year including their “Créme de la Craft” birthday celebration in
October, Chimneyville Crafts Festival in December, and various events such as
the “Celebrity Throw” which includes local celebrities creating pottery and
auctioning off their pieces in support of the Guild.
The Mississippi Craft Center, located just off of the Historic Natchez Trace
Parkway on Rice Road, is involved with local economic development and tourism.
Many local residents admit they have never visited the Craft Center or know very
much about it. “We are one of the really good things going on in Mississippi,”
says Sheri Cox, Event and Education Coordinator for the Craft Center, “They are
missing a real treasure if they have not visited our beautiful facility.”
For more information on the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi or the Mississippi
Craft Center, please visit www.mscrafts.org or contact Sheri at 601-856-7546