CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Black Sheep Handweavers Guild

Notes, Noted along the By-ways.

While the idea of formalizing a new group had been around since 1972, the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild was begun in late May, 1974, in the attic of Jane Allen’s house in Mountain View, CA.  From those fifteen people’s dream of creating a supportive, welcoming environment for all those interested in weaving, there arose a guild emphasizing the sharing of ideas, learning, study groups, and a library of works held in common.

Upon attending Convergence 1974 in San Francisco together, and beginning a tradition of awesome talks and lectures, the guild soon moved out from Jane’s overflowing attic to the Community School of Music and Fine Arts, and later to the Northern California Savings building in Los Altos.  Black Sheep has now been meeting in its current location in the Woodside Village Church on Third Thursdays for several years.

According to handwritten minutes from the time, Black Sheep has been an HGA (Handweavers Guild of America) affiliate since its second meeting, and is also a supporting member guild of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH), an umbrella organization keeping regional guilds in touch, and hosting annual weaving conferences.

The formal purpose of the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild is to promote the exchange of ideas and knowledge in the textile arts, and to encourage efforts and activities in all fields of textiles.  Encourage, we do! A regular newsletter and a website at blacksheep.org spread news of guild doings, from hosting several workshops a year from noted teachers, to a splendid monthly speaker program, and ongoing study groups in several areas.

An important part of the current Guild’s deepening growth are its study groups – there is a monthly Explorations group that began as a beginning weaving study project on one Saturday a month, that has evolved over time into trying various techniques and projects.   There is a Monday night spinning circle at a member’s house that has been going on for decades.  There was a small looms open studio on Tuesday mornings in Redwood City for five years, and there is a weaving discussion / advanced show and tell group at the home of our nonagenarian study group coordinator’s house once a month.   A new felting study group has evolved out of the interest of a few folks, whose delight in a past CNCH class led to a workshop in the Spring of 2015, and an ongoing study group since late summer 2015.

We put some effort into evolving our shared library as well; it currently takes up an entire wall in a member’s home, and includes nearly complete runs of major handweaving and spinning magazines and samples of many others, and is cataloged online for members’ benefit.

As Kaaren Brommer has noted in past celebrations of the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild at its 20th and 40th anniversaries, one of the great strengths and delights of this guild is that in creating this welcoming place for new ideas, learning together, bringing educational demonstrations & exhibits out into the community, and learning together how to run this kind of a group, we’ve found ourselves with something both very rewarding and encouraging.

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