The history of the Central Coast Handweavers, Spinners and Textile Arts Guild

A potted history of the Central Coast Handweavers, Spinners & Textile Arts Guild Inc.

In 1971 a handful of craft workers got together to spin the yarn – and in every sense – weave the fabric of our Guild. Joan Matthews, Arthur Forsberg, Maisie Taylor and a few others were the prime movers and held meetings alternately in their own homes. Their enthusiasm drew interest and numbers increased so more space was needed for their meetings and exhibitions of work. Contributions and members’ fees soon provided rent for a venue but finding these premises was a problem. A room at the local school was available but on the eve of occupation – disaster! The school burnt down. Luckily a bank in Gosford provided space required at that time for the planned exhibition which was a considerable success.

By the late eighties the “group” was a “crowd’ and had an impressive bank balance of $16,500 and actively were looking for premises of their own where the looms, wheels and equipment could be safely stored. Gosford Council became seriously interested in establishing a Cultural Centre in the Caroline Bay area but had no funds to financially assist the Guild. Camelia Rogers from Spinners and Margaret Hardy from the Art Group argued our claims vigorously at various Council meetings and were heard sympathetically but there was little practical help available. Finally permission from the Council was given for the Guild to lease a block of land next to the Potters with great help from two Council members involved in the development of the cultural centre, Anne Martin and Sid Trigg.

Hard work and dedication from Guild members raised money to obtain a building. With Camelia Rogers shouldering the burden of organising labour and working bees and her husband, Roy, handling the building side.

Members engaged in many fund raising activities, raffles, stalls, and a ‘favourite recipes book’ to sell to all and sundry.   The members   were about to purchase a small prefab cabin about garage size with facilities, when our Council friends offered us a derelict four room cottage on Council land that was due to be demolished.   We could have it if we arranged to remove it to our site, deal with the asbestos sheathing, reclad and reroof it, rehabilitate and install plumbing and electricity to Council’s satisfaction. No hesitation – Yes!

After a frustrating delay caused by unusual rains which made the ground too soggy for manipulation of the weight, the building was relocated in the dead of night to avoid traffic problems – and all hands were on deck, inside, outside and surrounding. As many male assistants as could be coerced were “volunteered”. In April 1990 internal work on our Cottage began in earnest. The neglected Cottage was scrubbed, sanded, painted and was made inhabitable. Donations soon made the house workable – refrigerator, range, cooking gear, cutlery, crockery and floorcovering. The sewer was connected and the new roof was installed and our Official Opening was held.

In the intervening years many members have come in and out of the door – many are now too frail to get here, have moved away or have passed on and the current members are extremely grateful to all those who have left a little of themselves within the Cottage so that we can join together and enjoy our craft, care and share, laugh and commiserate with each other.

We have taken the lead from the original members and those who followed, we have continued involvement with the local community from the Gosford Show, many school demonstrations, markets and our own exhibitions.

As with every other aspect of life, fashions in crafts wax and wane. Just now we have only a few weavers, although spinning is still popular. Knitting and crocheting are coming back into popularity but to ensure our membership is continuing to thrive we have expanded to include patchworking, felting, and textile art, even some embroidery and beading. We have varying workshops too. Recent workshops were held for felted landscapes;   Japanese meshwork; screen printing; cloche hat making; fleece dyeing; spinning and textile art pictures.   So this is why the title of the Guild now includes “Textile Arts”.   There are still folk who enjoy the traditional craft and some who do contemporary designs so our journey into the future looks very interesting.

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