Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis

The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis was formed in 1904 by the women founders of the Arts & Crafts Society of Minneapolis. With its deep roots of craft tradition, this is considered by many the oldest arts and crafts society in America.

“The Guild came into existence last fall to meet a pressing need for craft classes especially suited to requirements for training teachers of the public schools in handicrafts. There was also a recognized want of such training by others and there was no salesroom for artistic craft projects nor any means of bringing the work of the local craftsmen to the notice of the buying public. The project of the salesroom in which a stock of articles could be kept and orders taken was heartily approved and furthered by the local Arts and Crafts Society, which is one of the oldest and most successful in the United States.” The Craftsman / May, 1905

The founder and president of the Guild was Emma Roberts, she oversaw the guild from 1906 to 1917. Other prominent figures and designers included James Winn, Bertha Lum, Ernest Batchelder and Douglas Donaldson, see more of their work under our California and the West section. Batchelder was hired to structure the Summer School for teachers programming and his design aesthetic really helped shape the guilds output.

The guild was quite varied in their work, teaching and working in metal, leather, ceramics, bookbinding, painting, textiles and more. Their metalwork is very unique and identifiable with the guild. The forms tend to be quite simple and usually feature some sort of stylized design pattern as cut out work or acid etched into the surface. You will find abstract secessionist pattens, peacocks, squares, stylized flowers, bugs, rabbits, ships etc. Objects include lamps, bowls, candles, spoons, desk items, trays, frames, jewelry and smoking accessories. Most items are made of copper, but some brass was used in combination with copper. Guild items are marked either with a full signature done with impressed block lettering or with a small G inside an H, often etched in by hand which can look quite crude and fake at times.

The Guild remained in business and active until 1918, when it was folded into the University of Minnesota.

Reference: Art & Life on the Upper Mississippi 1890-1915 / Minnesota 1900. Michael Conforti, editor. University of Delaware Press. 1994.