History of WGM
Since its founding in 1940 by six women, including Hilma Berglund, the Weavers Guild of Minnesota has established itself as a nationally-recognized resource for the arts of weaving, spinning, and dyeing. WGM offers classes and events year round, serving nearly 700 new and experienced fiber artists each year. It was the catalyst in the formation of the Textile Center, where the Guild currently maintains classroom, retail, and library space.
WGM’s Founders & Charter Members, 1940:
Mrs. Harvey Fuller
Mrs. George Glocker
Mrs. F.F. Grout
Mrs. H.D. Meyers
Mrs. M.B. Ogle
Mrs. Curtis H. Pomeroy
Mrs. Harry Zimmermann
Honorary Lifetime Members (per WGM 50th anniversary publication)
Helen van den Berg
Founder Hilma Berglund at her loom.
A brief timeline
The guild was founded by Hilma Berglund, Esther Downs and Mrs. George Glockler in 1940. Hilma Berglund was a weaving instructor at the University of Minnesota. The guild, then known as the Twin Cities Weavers Guild, had a close association with the U of MN. The guild had 26 charter members.
1940 – 1955
During the WWII years, the guild members were focused on the practical aspects of weaving. They wove aprons and skirts and presented classes at the Veterans’ Hospital. The guild didn’t have a permanent home, but moved from place to place. Meetings and classes took place at member’s homes, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Merriam Park Library. In 1952, the guild began to exhibit at the MN State Fair, a practice they continue to the present day.
1955 – 1968
In 1955, the guild moved in to a space at the YWCA at 12th and Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis. It was a shared space with other craft groups and classes were taught in the basement of the building. Classes offered were primarily for beginning weavers and it is estimated that about 450 students took classes during these years.
1968 – 1972
In June 1968, the guild moved to a new space in St Anthony Park, which would allow them to have a larger space and one dedicated to teaching weaving rather than a shared space. Membership in the guild had grown to nearly 500 members. In 1974, the guild hired its first Education Coordinator to help manage and professionalize the weaving school. The guild qualified for tax-exempt status in 1968, was incorporated in 1974, and the name was changed to Weavers Guild of Minnesota.
1974 – 1978
Having outgrown another space, the guild moved in 1974 to Dania Hall in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. They hosted the Midwest Weavers Conference in their new space that year. In 1976, the guild was asked by the Handweavers Guild of America to help launch the Certificate of Excellence program.
The weaving “boom” of the earlier decades started to slow and the guild re-evaluated programs and made a move to the Chittenden-Eastman building in 1978 as a way of managing expenses. In 1984, they again hosted the Midwest Weavers Conference. In 1990, they celebrated their 50 year Anniversary with publication of a book and exhibition.
2001 – present
In October 2001, the Weavers Guild moved in to their new space as anchor tenants in the Textile Center. The new location gave the guild accessibility, visibility and a relationship to a number of other textile organizations allied with the Textile Center. The guild adopted a new mission statement: preserving and advancing the arts of weaving, spinning and dyeing.
To read more detail of the history of the guild, see the Weavers Guild’s 75 Anniversary book, A Thread Through Time, edited by Lucy Brusic.
My first encounter with the Weavers Guild was in the mid 1970s. It was the hey-day of handweaving, and I was smitten. The weaving bug bit me while I was taking a weaving class from Anna Smits at the University of Minnesota. Seeing my enthusiasm, Anna encouraged me to go to a Weavers Guild meeting at Dania Hall, so I climbed the steep narrow stairs to the second floor, which was packed with weavers and looms. The guild members were doing their monthly show-and-tell of the most beautiful handwoven textiles I had ever seen, and I was totally intimidated. Years later after I had moved to Wisconsin and was supporting myself as a weaver, I got the courage to go back to the guild, where I found wonderfully supportive weavers willing to share all of their skills, knowledge and techniques.
This return led to starting the Textile Center and the tremendous support of the Weavers Guild members that made it all possible. Not only were the weavers instrumental in defining what the Textile Center should be, but they were the first to support it with their donations. It is this generosity that defines who the Weavers Guild members are and what makes it such a successful organization.
When I reflect on the people who are the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, I am astounded not only by their skill, but by their dedication, passion and tenacity. For seventy-five years the Weavers Guild has struggled and thrived over and over again.
— Margaret Miller, excerpt from “A Thread Through Time: Modern Projects from our Swatch Archives. Weavers Guild 75th Anniversary book“