A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
BISBEE FIBER ARTS GUILD
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In 1992, Anna Marie Storrs and Joan Ruane organized the first Bisbee Fiber Arts Festival. It was held at Central School and was a non-profit event to educate the public about fiber arts. From that beginning, local fiber artists began to meet and share ideas. They continued the fiber festival to coincide with National Weaving and Spinning Week in October. Each year, the fiber festival varied with the addition of a fashion show or juried fiber art show. It was held in various places, but was always free to the public. Fiber artists had demonstrations, displays, and even fiber art workshops available for the public.
In 1999, the Bisbee Community Y gave permission for the Bisbee Fiber Arts group to use their basement for a studio and classes. Donated looms and other fiber arts related equipment and supplies were added to the studio. Donations came from both members of the group and fiber related companies, such as Schact, Beka, and Harrisville.
In 2000, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, gave the Bisbee Community Y a grant to purchase equipment and supplies to support the fiber arts educational program. This and many donations from the Tucson area gave the Bisbee Fiber Arts Group a solid base for the next 20 years. In 2002 the Bisbee Fiber Arts Group became the Bisbee Fiber Arts Guild (BFAG).
Since then, BFAG has had continuous fiber arts classes, which encompass every aspect of fiber arts. Some of the most popular classes include weaving and spinning. Weaving students learn many techniques from rag rug weaving to complex patterns on multiple harness looms. In addition tapestry and Navajo weaving classes have been taught. Spinners learn to spin cotton and wool using spinning wheels and spindles. Other classes have included natural dying, felting, basket weaving, paper making, knitting, crocheting and quilting. The guild has had study groups which meet on a regular basis so members can share knowledge and ideas. Members have unlimited access to the facility and equipment.
Many classes are taught by BFAG members; however, the guild has brought nationally and internationally known artists to Bisbee for classes. In recent years, Tom Knisely (weaver), Toni Best (gourd artist) and Patti Barker (felt artist) have taught members and non-members and inspired much creativity. The guild has been fortunate to have grant support by the Bisbee Foundation to bring in these visiting artists.
In addition to classes, guild members have participated in outreach activities in the community, such as working with Girl Scouts and the Mariposa School in Naco, Mexico. Our guild participates in many Bisbee community parades such as the 4th of July, BRAT, and Return of the Turkey Vultures. Our social justice program reaches far and wide. In 2020-2021 our members provided supplies for the Navajo Quilt Project. All of our community activities advance local knowledge of traditional fiber arts.
The guild supports and encourages members in local cottage industries through our sales shop. Not only is this an economic opportunity for members, but it also promotes development of important skills and creativity in traditional fiber arts.
In 2016 Bisbee Fiber Arts Guild became a not-for-profit (501(c)3 organization dedicated to fiber arts. This status allows us to explore many grant opportunities.
As the guild moves forward, we envision expanding our membership and increasing the number and variety of classes. We will continue to use the talent in the guild for in-house and on-line classes, as well as bringing in artists from around the country.