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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 life.

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

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