AN INSPIRED VISION
Craft work in Mississippi – like our music, art, literature and history – is as much a part of what makes Mississippi distinctive as our natural resources.
Long before “the creative economy” and “cultural tourism” were popular initiatives, Governor William Waller theorized that organizing and fostering Mississippi’s craft artisans would benefit the state’s economy, image and tourism efforts. In 1973, Governor Waller put into motion what would become the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, and for over 40 years, the Guild has been proving him right.
Dan Overly, a graduate of Delta State University and craftsman himself, became the Guild's first executive director. His vision, passion and dedication was the Guild's driving force that quickly attracted the attention of talented artisans in the state and region. Overly, who served as executive director until 1995, remained actively involved in the Guild until his passing in 2009.
Craft work ranges from traditional items, such as quilts, baskets, and wood-carved spoons to more contemporary items, such as metal and clay sculpture, fused glass, and handcrafted jewelry. By bringing the creators of these various crafts together with a united purpose, the Guild has helped artisans flourish.
The mission of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, Inc., is to preserve, promote, market, educate and encourage excellence in regional crafts, believing that regular contact with the skilled work of the hand enhances both producers’ and patrons’ lives.
For over four decades, the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi has been helping craftsmen make a living from their craft, enforced high standards for fine craft, and provided educational programs to pass along both craft skills and an appreciation for them to future generations.
The Guild has grown to 359 professional artisans and become one of the most respected craft guilds in the country. Eighty percent of the members live in Mississippi and twenty percent reside in 16 other states, a testament to the Guild’s national reputation. Membership is open to all whose work reflects a high degree of competence, professional standards and artistry in their medium and category. Eligibility is determined by a jury review process held twice each year.
Since 2007, the Guild has been headquartered in the 20,000 square foot Mississippi Craft Center that has many functions – retail gallery, museum, education center, art referral agency, community gathering place and visitors’ center. The Guild also operates a satellite retail gallery, hosts numerous successful events each year, and has a comprehensive educational program.
The Center was renamed the William Lowe "Bill" Waller, Sr. Craft Center in 2018 to acknowledge the Governor's contributions while in office and particularly his efforts to establish the Craftsmen's Guild and recognize the value of craft art and artisans to the state's culture and heritage.