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State of Craft Interview

Terry Faith Anderson Weihs

Specialist for Inter Agency Craft Commission
Dates Active: 1970s on

Some of it was myth and some of it was real.

There was a wonderful and rich population of craftspeople in Vermont at the time, but not necessarily aware of each other, working in isolation and independent of each other.
The Arts and Crafts Service, you know, had a certain roster of people throughout the state that they were aware of because the, literally, the only communication's vehicle for the craftspeople in the state, any link, was through the Arts and Crafts Service.

(The director of the Arts & Crafts Service) Dianne Fago...(recommended me to) create a pilot project in northern Vermont, in Franklin County, to determine whether the arts, particularly the work of the hand, would be a means to provide supplementary income for Vermont residents.
Not only did (the Franklin County Project) demonstrate, to me, the potential depth of the crafts involvement in the State of Vermont, but also my understanding that there was no particular way to assist the craftspeople of Franklin County to raise their income level through craft without it being a statewide effort. It was too small a base, and we needed the broader support of state government, and a realization on the part of state government and the populists of Vermont that there was tremendous importance in supporting the work of the hand.
I began learning about the broader craft community within one region of the State of Vermont and, indeed, very much determined that there was every reason to think that Vermont could focus on hand crafts, quality hand crafts, as a means to provide not only supplementary income, but fulltime income for craftspeople in the State of Vermont. And I'm proud to say I think that was the beginning of, organizationally, what became the Vermont crafts community.

I learned that there were a handful of individuals that made an effort work. And from that time I've always focused on, regardless of what I do, trying to identify and focus on pivotal, enthusiastic, enlightened individuals who could make the difference. And within the Vermont craft movement, that's been the case, time and time again.

I invited (a person from the Federal Interagency Crafts Council) to come to Vermont to meet with the Secretary of the Administration at the discuss the idea of creating a state interagency crafts council, based on the federal one. And the concept, as I said, was to help the state agencies accomplish their mandated objectives through handcraft, a radical concept in Vermont.
I felt that what we could do in Vermont that would be unique is set up a state craft center, one or more, that would be the first in the nation where outstanding craftspeople, juried, could show and sell their work; that a greater public would become aware of the importance of fine art
artisanry, I should say -- and the reputation for Vermont craft would become more widespread... So through the Interagency Crafts Council we submitted a proposal for the creation of the first state craft center, which was Frog Hollow, and the second state craft center, which became Windsor.
(The very first American Crafts Council shows held in Vermont at Stowe and Mt. Snow were) the beginning of what today is billions of dollars in sales to the wholesale component of the shows. These shows are still very, very important, but they were the important turning point for marketing of crafts in a direct way to outlets throughout the world.
(At the first meeting at the Snow Bowl in Ripton to organize what became Craft Professionals of Vermont) This was the first time these people had come together and they were -- skepticism is a good word, I think. There was a lot of anger...I think when anybody is so isolated for so long their view becomes fairly insular and they were being exposed to one another and to the concept of craft as marketing and I have never found that concept as alien to the creative process, but for a lot of people in Vermont this was radical. And not only in Vermont: nationwide.

(By 1978) everything that I had set out to do was in place. You know, the Interagency Crafts Council was functioning and the State Craft Centers were operating. The Craft Professionals of Vermont Organization was functioning, the wholesale trade shows were occurring. This was the first permanent collection of craft. We had documented the economic validity of the crafts community.

We (national organizations) wanted to celebrate because we had been working at this for over 20 years together, 25, and so I proposed that we create a year of American craft in the United States and also Canada and Latin and Central America, a hemispheric celebration called the Year of American Craft. And everybody responded to that and I was the founding director was to be in 1993 and it did happen.