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Patty Barnes

Once upon a time there was a clayer who pined because she had no claying playmates. As she lived in the hinterlands, it was several years  before the internet became available in her area. But, when it did, she found online newsgroups and the National Polymer Clay Guild site. She envied the guild members and finally managed to attend a clay day with a guild three hours drive away. She fell in love with guilds! They talked
clay, played clay and loved clay as much as she did.

Then she was able to attend a retreat hosted by another guild and met clay "queen" Marie Segal and other notable clay artists. She whined that she didn't have a guild near her and she was admonished to "start your own". She returned home with the desire and determination.

Two months later she met another clayer in the clay aisle of a craft store. This clayer told her of another clayer who she immediately contacted. And that clayer knew of another. So, the lonely clayer screwed up her courage, contacted the local library to secure a meeting place, and then notified the other three clayers. They met just three months after the retreat and a guild was born!

Then the lonesome clayer wasn't lonesome anymore, but because the guild was so much fun, she encouraged some of her clay students in another city to start a guild, too. With about eight people, a location at a Hobby Lobby was decided upon and another guild was born! And there were over 30 people after the first year!

One member from the first guild could no longer drive the long distance to the guild meetings and she mourned the loss of her guild. With reassurance from the first lonely clayer, she contacted some friends and the Hobby Lobby in her town and another guild was born!

Why have a guild, you ask? Clay mates! Fellow enthusiasts to encourage, inspire and learn with and from, to share tips, techniques and fun, to meet new people and to form great friendships. Why not? I can't think of a single reason.

How to start a guild? Contact your friends who might or might not be fellow crafters and invite them to be a founding member in the new guild. Then quick! find a place to meet.   Where to meet? Here are some suggestions for free places: your home or another friend's, craft stores, libraries, churches, synagogues, schools, community centers, and recreation centers. Poll your new members for other place they may know about.

When to meet? Many guilds find that Saturday afternoon is best for them, but Sunday afternoon or weekday evenings might work, too. Select the time best for most of the members.

How long? For a regular meeting, three hours seems to work well. This provides for any business meeting, a demo or video and time to make something and perhaps even bake it. For a clay day, set aside several hours and have either a pot luck lunch or sack lunch. After all, claying and talking needs plenty of energy!

Most guilds meet monthly on a specified day. This allows members to schedule other things around that day and they can set that day aside for themselves. Of course, clay days can be as often as the guild wants.

Dues? Yes or no? This depends upon the desired structure of your guild. Is can be basically informal with members just getting together periodically or is it more formal with desired outcomes such as a lending library, guest artists, Bottles of Hope distribution, retreats, raffles and other such things? If it is the latter, then in my opinion,
dues would be in order. Having paid dues, most people will consider the guild more "theirs" and participate more frequently. The amount can be whatever the guild wants, but the three guilds previously mentioned decided upon yearly dues of $24 for one person and $36 for family membership. This amount is easily divided by 12 so that incoming members dues can be prorated according to the fiscal year. Dues can be used to establish a lending library of books, magazines, the PolyInformer, and videos or for guest artists, a newsletter or for a retreat.

Officers should most likely be elected if there is money involved. The basics of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Librarian are fine to start with. And obviously jobs can be combined such as Secretary/Treasurer or other ways. As the guild grows (and it will) then more positions might be needed such as a program chairman, membership chairman, etc.

As the guild grows larger, then perhaps a set of by-laws can be written and perhaps a web site developed and/or a newsletter published. All of this depends upon the nature of the guild. There is no right or wrong way.

To help the guild grow, here are some suggestions: in the newspaper's "what's happening" section, radio public service announcements, television local shows, flyers distributed to schools for the teachers,flyers posted in craft stores by the clay (with the stores' permission), other guilds such as rubber stamping, calligraphy, fiber arts, quilters, scrapbooking, beaders, also museums, art centers, retirement homes, chamber of commerce offices and of course the National Polymer Clay Guild or NPCG, Polymer Cafe and PCPolyzine!

Now go forth and multiply! Let us know about your guild. Who knows?  We might just drop in for a meeting!


Editor's Note: Visit our Guilds page for listings of a guild near you.