The Memphis Guild of Handloom Weavers was founded in 1947 with the purpose of furthering the appreciation of handloom weaving. Viola Joyce Quigley (1900-1983), who initiated the weaving department at the Memphis College of Art in 1946, organized the original 13 charter members. These members were weaving students in her class who met in the old drawing room of the Fontaine House – an annex of the Art Academy.
Over the years, the membership of the Guild has fluctuated from the 13 original members in 1947 to over 55 members in the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s. Guild members have met in homes, the Memphis College of Art, the Junior League House, and Cordova Cellars Winery. In 1964, the Guild moved into its first home: The Guild House at 70 Tillman Street with a dozen looms, display areas, and a space for sales. Unfortunately one year later the house was razed. After a few more moves, the Guild found a home at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Midtown from 2000 to 2016. Guild meetings were first held only on weekdays, but they are now on Saturdays to accommodate more members. Since 2016, the guild does not have a dedicated studio space but continues to meet at White Station Church of Christ in east Memphis.
Since its founding, the Memphis Guild has hosted a variety of exhibitions and workshops. In 1951, the Guild presented its first large exhibit to the public, a presentation of handwoven fabrics at The Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. Similar exhibits continued at The Brooks in the 1960’s and traveling exhibits of members’ works were also available. From 1979 to 1990, the Guild held 5 major juried exhibits, called “The Path of the Weaver”, featuring works by regional fiber artists. These were first held at The Brooks Museum, and later at the Memphis College of Art. In December 2017, the guild revised "The Path of the Weaver" with a month-long exhibition of current work at the Germantown Performing Arts Center.
Monthly meetings (from August through May) offer a wide variety of programs, many featuring hands-on learning activities, weaving equipment and an assortment of books and periodicals are available for use by Guild members. In 2011, the Guild upgraded equipment with several new looms. Members receive a monthly newsletter and have the opportunity to attend weaving workshops in fall and spring. Members participate as demonstrating craftsmen at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair every fall, where our handwoven items are displayed and offered for sale. Members are invited to present programs and workshops of their own, and we offer introductory classes to the public.
The Guild supports growth of members’ weaving skills through workshops by well-known weavers such as Peter Collingwood, Hal Painter, Jim Brown, Edna Blackburn, Noel Bennett, Heather Winslow, Madelyn van der Hoogt, Sharon Alderman, Doramay Keasbey, Leslie Voiers, Elaine Bradley, Johanna Erickson, Jason Collingwood, Rosalie Nielson, Daryl Lancaster, Kathrin Weber, Martina Celerin, and Lisa Hill. Expert weavers among our own members also present workshops.
The focus of the Memphis Guild of Handloom Weavers continues to be sharing, learning, and education. Current members are continuing down “The Path of the Weaver” begun by Joyce Quigley and her 13 students more than 50 years ago. The Guild always welcomes new members, and anyone interested in fiber is invited to join us.