History of the Guild

Originally incorporated under the name Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild, the organization’s initial aim was to provide supplemental income for the people in the north-central Arkansas foothills. In 1960, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service representative, Leo Rainey, along with officials in Stone County, began exploring ways to bring cottage industry into the area. Soliciting crafters to exhibit at local craft fairs, they found the members for the proposed Guild. Focusing first on Stone County, they soon extended its area to include seven surrounding counties. The Guild decided to include all of Arkansas in 1967. The name was changed to the Arkansas Craft Guild in 1990 to indicate a statewide organization.

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Establishing the Guild would not have been possible without the enthusiastic volunteer efforts of crafters and the community. Jim Warren was elected president, and the members drew up by-laws and articles of association. Incorporation papers were filed on November 17, 1962. By-laws provide for a seven-member board of directors who are elected by the members. The president and board appoint the committees.

A Small Business Administration loan of $15,600 in 1963 provided for building log cabins in Salem (Fulton County), Clinton (Van Buren County), Hardy (Sharp County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Mountain View (Stone County); all were finished and operating in 1964. These were the Guild’s first retail outlets. Jim Warren, woodcarver and carpenter, almost single-handedly built all five. Manned exclusively by member volunteers, the outlets offered merchandise placed there on consignment by members.

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"The craft guild was created as a cooperative - a cooperative place - and it was linked to five counties, and then they established shops at Heber Springs, Mountain View, Salem, Clinton, and Hardy.  They were log-cabin type buildings. The thing that kept the craft guild going was its craft shows, and we built up a good clientele for crafts through those craft shows. The people that were working the craft part of it - a lot of them - did real well. We expanded the five counties and established shops in several different places - Hot Springs, Little Rock - and then they went state-wide, and they have craft people from all over Arkansas now.”

EDWIN LUTHER -
Leader in starting the Craft Guild