On October 1, 1948, over forty Dallas citizens, brought together by a newspaper announcement and telephone calls, met at the Downtown YMCA Boy's Club to discuss the foundation of a new, non-profit, tax deductible organization for the local craftsmen who had been without laboratory space since the summer of 1941, when the entry of America into World War II forced the Dallas School of Creative Arts to close its doors. Less than a month later, the new organization had a name and a charter. The organization was to be called The Craft Guild of Dallas and its purpose was:
To set up shops for metals, ceramics, weaving and other crafts requiring laboratories and obtain good teachers to staff them.
- To sponsor and promote competitive shows.
- To work toward a central location where all classes would be under the same roof.
- To build an outlet and market important enough to encourage good craftsmen to come to Dallas to work.
In the first step of a co-sponsorship between the YWCA and the new Craft Guild, that was to last until 1973, the first laboratory to open was the Metal Shop at the YWCA on Jackson Street, which already possessed a small body of tools that had been used in conjunction with the Veteran's Administration program. So it was that Dallas was among the first areas in the nation to revive the art of silversmithing.
Less than six months after its foundation, The Craft Guild caught the attention of Jerry Bywaters, Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, who encouraged and promoted The Guild by announcing a competitive exhibit, the First Annual Texas Crafts Exhibition, to be held February 20 through March 13, 1949. In the exhibition's first year, jurors Bernard E. Frazier, Sculptor and Director of the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, and Mrs. Jacqueline Hughes of the Hughes Gallery in Houston surveyed a total of 230 objects by 83 Texas craftsmen.
This auspicious start gave way to steady growth. In the fall of 1950 telephone calls to prospective students expressing interest during the Summer Art Carnival, together with newspaper, radio and TV publicity, presaged the opening of classes in other media. The Dallas Public School System co-sponsored weaving classes at the Fannin School Annex and ceramics classes at the Technical High School. Fabric design classes were added at Tech High in the spring of 1951. The YWCA co-sponsored a new class in bookbinding in addition to the metal classes. Membership was up to 93.
Soon, in a trend marking every stage of The Guild's history, The Craft Guild had once again grown beyond its laboratory capacity, forcing some classes to move. The ceramics classes moved in the fall of 1951 to the DMFA where they were to remain until the Museum School closed in 1971. Museum co-sponsorship provided not only laboratory space, but also shelving and kiln privileges. The Guild bought and retained ownership of ceramic equipment and provided the instructor's salary. Enrollment reached 42 students.
The weaving class, with Estella Henkel instructing, moved from cramped quarters at Tech High in 1954 to join the ceramics class at the DMFA Museum School, where it remained until 1958. By 1956, the weavers had 15 looms either purchased or on loan.
By the Seventh Annual Texas Crafts Exhibition in 1955, The Craft Guild was producing enough work to make their shows serious commercial opportunities. To this end, the exhibition was moved to the busy holiday shopping season, taking place from November 27 through December 18. In its short history, the exhibition had swelled from 230 works to 337.
The years 1956 through 1958 were focused on making The Craft Guild better known to the public. First, The Guild, in association with the DMFA, exhibited a traveling craft show assembled by the Smithsonian Institute. Next, it was announced that public school teachers would receive Dallas School Board credit for all Craft Guild classes attended. The Guild also began its practice, which continues today, of exhibiting work outside of official shows and studios, at places such as the Decorative Center, Hockaday School, Dallas Public Libraries, hotels and the State Fair of Texas. Posters were mounted around the Dallas area at Neiman-Marcus, Esquire Theater, Contemporary Museum of Art, The Black Tulip, Contemporary House, Carl Barnett's and Margo Jones' Theater to draw attention to these exhibits.
These efforts paid off, and membership continued to increase. The bookbinding group, to pick one example, which began with one class in 1950, had by 1957 expanded to seven classes. From that time forward, there was a waiting list to participate in Bookbinding classes.
This steady growth allowed The Craft Guild to begin bringing in world-famous artists for seminars and lectures. It began in 1959 when The Guild, partnering once again with the DMFA, invited Marguerite Wildenhain, a distinguished potter from California to Dallas for a week of classes and lectures. In March of the following year, the world famous English potter Bernard Leach came to Dallas for a lecture and four-day seminar with a class of thirty-three potters. Eight of Mr. Leach's completed pieces from the seminar were placed in the permanent collection of the DMFA. Work made by visiting ceramic artists continues that tradition and is on display today in the clay studios of The Craft Guild.
In 1980 The Craft Guild was able to bring all of its studios together for the first time when it moved into Kramer Elementary School, a facility not being used by the Dallas Independent School District. The Craft Guild rented this space and was able to sublet studio spaces to its members. This happy situation continued until 1988 when the district had enough students to reopen the building as a school. The Craft Guild had to move. In 1990, The Guild reopened, with all of its studios still under one roof, into a light industrial area on Proton Road. The Guild continues to bring in nationally and internationally known guest artists for workshops in addition to providing year-round instruction in fully equipped clay, metals, glass, bookbinding, fiber and painting studios and also offers summer camp art instruction from June to August each year. The annual November Fall Sale is a highlight for the members, as well as the public, to kick off the holiday season. There is an onsite gallery exhibiting and selling work by Guild members, instructors and guest artists year round.
In April 2011 The Craft Guild of Dallas moved to Addison, Texas sharing space with Visit Addison! With fantastic new state of the art studio spaces and a highly visible address, it's easy to showcase the members' artwork for sale in The Store on Beltline Road. The future seems brighter than ever. In May 2012, the first annual Spring Show was held to continue the tradition of showcasing our members' and intructors' work for sale so that our public could take advantage of our show and sale for gift giving season.