A healthy debate is sometimes required in order to address problems or find solutions to changes. Recently, I have attended a few guild meetings to speak about creativity. I wasn’t surprised by the demographics of the meetings’ populations. There were some middle aged women, but the majority of guilds consisted of retired seniors. I was troubled by the fact that most guilds do not have any new blood and have dwindling populations.
Why are the guilds becoming obsolete? Lately, I have had numerous conversations with industry experts regarding this topic. Many are confused by the regression of guilds. I think the answer is really simple, but I have been told that my view is a bit narrow and simple. However, I firmly believe that the Internet and economy play very big roles in this case. Here’s what I think is happening:
- Guilds in major populated areas (such as cities) seem to have an easier time recruiting younger crafters, but even these guilds don’t have huge numbers in comparison to the overall population of the city. And rural and farm community guilds are dying off altogether.
- Guilds have a stereotype of being filled with seniors. More so, they tend to consist of people who have known each other for many years and a clique has been established. As an outsider or a young person in this situation, I believe it would be much more intimidating and possibly difficult to form relationships between the two generations.
- There seems to be an unspoken level of creativity that is acceptable among some guild members. For example, I attended a meeting where a woman displayed a gorgeous afghan which she quilted on a quilting machine. She received light applause for her effort. During the same meeting, another lady stood up with her hand-quilted quilt and was given cheers and strong applause. To me, they were both equal as it would take a creative spirit to achieve either one. Both projects required unique skill levels that were worthy of positive and equal praise.
- In another meeting, I was told by a senior that something I was doing wasn’t worth anything and that it was a stupid and impractical idea. I was very disappointed that she felt the need to share that with me instead of trying to find a positive remark. However, in major shows and among the online community, the same project was getting heavy hits and extremely good praise (though most of the praise was coming from the younger generation online). To me, I would never join this guild because of the insensitive comment alone. And my simple argument is that crochet doesn’t always have to be a sweater or scarf. It sometimes can be a fun pointless project that gives me joy.
One lady commented that my terminology and true spirit of the love of crochet was refreshing. She liked how I spun things around. She never thought to do some of the projects that I have done online because she didn’t see the point. My thought in return to her was this, “The younger generation needs to find connection to crochet and knitting through other ways. Maybe the hat is dedicated after a TV character or even colors inspired by a movie. If the crafter feels engaged in a project they love, they will pursue it with passion instead of being forced to do something that they don’t care about.”
The guilds are reducing but where are the people going for creativity? Simple… the Internet. I was listening to several groups talk about having 2-7 members left in their groups. I thought to myself of how I have almost 16,000 members on Facebook and nearly 44,000 fans on YouTube. I know that my favorite sites like AllFreeCrochet.com and AllFreeKnitting.com have a combined following of over 1 Million people. I stand behind my belief that I think today’s guilds are online and don’t ever meet in person.
I think with the ever-changing family dynamic and the busy work schedule of many, most people do not free time to squeeze into their afternoons to meet with a guild. Some people will say, “It’s only 1 afternoon a month.” But for many, that’s one afternoon too many in a month since they cannot take time off work.
Essentially, online communities and forums have developed over time to provide busy-but-creative people with outlets for their crafts. People can check into forums night or day and find their own time to communicate others. Online communities also allow men to feel less intimidated about joining a predominantly female scene, thus creating a broader demographic.
The one thing that I will caution is that even though crafting fairs and conventions are decreasing in attendance, we need to be cautious about avoiding human interaction. I work at a store once a month in order to talk to consumers about their crafting skills. It’s through those interactions that I learn further skills and understand new trends that are coming. If we avoid fairs, conventions, gatherings, and shops, there may never be a real life opportunity to meet people. The shows and shops will just shut down because of lack of attendance. To me, I would greatly miss these opportunities and I think as a society of crafters, we would realize how vital it is to have them after they are gone. The online community doesn’t truly replace one-on-one demonstrations and technique trading skills.
Until next week, share with me your comments. What else do you have to discuss about this topic? What’s happening in your community with guilds? If you are in a successful guild, what has changed to keep it positive and going strong?