The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis

The Eastwood Gallery ( in St. Paul has posted this important piece of information on a little-known but very important Arts & Crafts enterprise called The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis. We have supplemented it with additional information for you.

“Any Minnesotan familiar with the Arts & Crafts movement should be aware of the Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis. This teaching and training group, which existed from about 1905 to 1918, was headquartered in a building still standing in downtown Minneapolis. The Handicraft Guild produced some exquisite examples of craft and artwork and promoted a values system that still resonates today.

“The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis emerged in the early 20th century as the heart of Minnesota’s Arts & Crafts movement, but its origins are rooted much earlier in the cultural life of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Supporters of the arts in Minnesota at the turn of the century believed that art schools were more important initially than the development of art museums and collections. Schools, it was thought, would establish the community’s commitment to art and bring a growing, ever changing pool of artists and ideas to the area.

“The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis profited from this philosophy, evolving from a number of small artistic associations before it was formally incorporated in 1905. Through its success in furthering the ‘intimate relation between the Theory and Practice of Art,’ the Guild attracted distinguished instructors, studio artists, lecturers, and students, including painter Grant Wood and tilemaker Ernest A. Batchelder.”

In a 1912 publication entitled Handicraft appeared the following:

“A small beginning was made in a salesroom on the fourth floor of a business block where articles were sold on commission. Almost immediately came the demand for instruction in the crafts. Classes were formed and competent instructors employed. From this modest beginning the Guild arrived in less than four years to the dignity of a three-story building especially designed for its needs. There are shops equipped for production in the various crafts and the Guild craftsmen produce much of the work placed on sale.

“The Guild workshops have helped to create, as well as supply, a demand for specially designed and well made articles. The metal department is frequently called upon to design and make suitable fittings for definite places. The Handicraft Guild pottery has become well known for its beauty of form and quiet, rich color. Architects are interested in the tiles produced and orders for specially designed mantles are frequently received.

“The crafts represented in the salesrooms are taught in the Guild school by the craftsmen in charge of the various departments, thereby insuring practical, workmanlike methods and good structural design. The combination of school, productive workshops and salesrooms unites the interest of a large number of workers. In addition to the rooms used by the Guild, there are several studios occupied by cooperating craftsmen. The assembly hall is a valuable adjunct to the Guild. Between three and four hundred people may be seated, and with the permanent equipment of stereopticon and piano the hall may be used for many purposes including lectures, special exhibitions, concerts and social gatherings.”

The Handicraft Guild Building was designed by William Channing Whitney in 1907 in a Georgina Revival interpretation of the Arts & Crafts style. Since 1988 it has been protected by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, despite attempts to tear it down for a modern development.

The metalwork department at the Handicraft Guild appears to have been the most prolific, turning out both hammered copper and sterling silver items, most notably bowls, flatware and desk accessories. The mark most commonly associated with their work is HANDICRAFT GUILD MINNEAPOLIS. One of the largest public collections of their work can be seen at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

– Bruce Johnson