Trish Ashton, Dishtowel Project Director
In 2013, the San Antonio Handweavers Guild celebrated their Diamond Anniversary! As one of the oldest guilds in the country, members wished to create a living tribute to honor their past and look toward the future. Called the Dishtowel Project: 75 Towels for 75 Years, the collection of towels took over 12 months to assemble. It was unveiled at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference in May 2013.
In 1938, Mary Meigs Atwater travelled from her home in Basin, Montana to offer a 2 week Hand- Weaving Institute course at the Witte Museum in San Antonio Texas. The news accounts from the time stated that this was the first time an Atwater course was conducted in the Southwest. Thanks in part to a $200 stipend paid to Mrs. Atwater by the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Convention, weavers only paid $12.00 for a week of instruction. Already well known in the fiber arts community, Mrs. Atwater was called the “Dean of American Hand Weavers” in the local press. Students had the use of 25 foot powered and table looms. Instruction was also offered in inkle weaving, card weaving, and braiding.
Tireless in spreading a love of fiber arts, Mrs. Atwater also offered a weekend seminar course to allow working teachers the opportunity to attend her course. Soon after the workshop concluded in December 1938, twenty women from the Atwater Workshop formed the San Antonio Handweavers Guild. They, along with nine other women from the area, were the 29 charter members of SAHG. Seventy-five years later, Mrs. Atwater’s passion for American handweaving still inspires a vibrant community of handweavers in San Antonio, Texas.
The Dishtowel Project: 75 Towels for 75 Years SAHG launched its ‘75 Towels for 75 Years’ project in March 2012. Guild members were asked to create a handwoven towel in colors and structure of their own choosing. At each guild meeting, Trish Ashton, Project Director, encouraged members to add a contribution to the collection. Time was set aside each month to allow members to share their creations with the community. Many wove their first towel to be included in the collection. In the end, the towels came from 44 current guild members. Contributions also included 3 towels long cherished from guild members who have passed away. Structures included twill, waffle, overshot, Huck lace, and Summer & Winter. These 75 individual towels collectively create a display representing the groups’ unity, diversity, and strength.
The project committee members, Trish Ashton, Nancy Chronister, Rasa Silenas, Roseanne White, and Donna Vaughan, wrote the original guidelines for the project, photographed the submissions, and are producing an e-book of pictures and project notes of the whole collection for SAHG members. The final collection was first displayed at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas (CHT) 2013 Biennial Conference, Dallas, Texas, held May 30 – June 2, 2013. The Dishtowel Project will remain together as a visual reminder of strength and vitality of the SAHG as they celebrate their anniversary through the coming year.
Jeannette Wilson, SAHG Member
Members for 25 years+