How We Started
Keeping in mind that history is always from the perspective of the storyteller, here is my version of the beginning of this group.
“Looking back, I am in awe of all our years of growth. You have done so much and continue to grow and be an asset to our community. You have always had a special place in my heart as I, personally, had a hand in your birth.“
In the beginning, this idea of a guild was formed by Helena Braun, Rita Hertogg and myself as we were driving home from the Fraser Valley Quilters' Guild meeting one September afternoon in 1985. I was a quilting teacher at Fraser Valley College and the Fraser Valley Quilters' Guild for years and Helena and Rita were two of my students who were really interested in quilting so we carpooled to attend meetings at Guildford.
Someone mentioned how nice it would be to have a Guild in Chilliwack. While we all agreed, not one of us wanted to take the project on ourselves so we agreed to take it on together. We all decided to chip in some money to rent a hall, advertise and have the first meeting to see what interest there was. We rented the Chilliwack Art Center on Oct 6, 1985 and held our first get-together. A lot of women showed up. I do not really remember who was there, however, I do remember Penny Siddons. Penny and I already shared mutual friends and soon became fast friends on our own, due to our mutual passion for quilting.
Some more of our original members are: Evelyn Belsham, Marjorie Fast, and Jackie Arnold. (Sorry if I missed anyone, those are the people I remember.) We charged $1.00 at the first meeting and the Chilliwack Quilters’ Guild was formed.
Helena Braun (a retired school principal) offered to conduct the meetings for the first 6 months so we could establish ourselves and in the next few months we went forward and established some rules; cost of membership, classes and the many things that are needed to run an organization. In April 1986, we had the first elections, I was elected President, Norma Gleig was elected Secretary and I think Penny was Vice President. Evelyn Belsham was placed in charge of membership and she has stayed in that position for twenty years, and did a great job. Helena immediately organized a quilt raffle. She facilitated the sewing with guild members and I ensured the quilting was done.
So now came the hard part. Getting Started: We had a lot of decisions to make in deciding what kind of quilting group we wanted to be. So we formed a committee to answer those questions. Penny, myself and Margie Fast and several others, who names I am not sure of, were on that committee.
Our first questions was, what kind of quilting group did we want to be? Our answer was to be a Guild as opposed to a quilting group;
Guild: is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for
mutual aid and protection and for the furtherance of their
professional or artistic interest.
Our goal was to emphasize learning, not just for the experts but for the “newbie”. We want the love of quilting to be for all skill levels. That is why we do not have juried shows because that makes it become competitive and you lose the joy. While we do have prizes at our shows, they are voted on by the public who just vote for what they like. We wanted to keep the costs of membership and the classes down so it was affordable for all levels of income. And I think we have achieved that as now our morning classes are free and our membership is the least expensive of any Guild around.
We knew our membership would not cover all our costs and we wanted to spend our time quilting not fund raising. The decision was to have a quilt show every year and kill two birds with one stone, funds raised and shared our joy of beautiful quilts wit the public. We would raffle a quilt along with the show. That changed when the evening guild was formed and then we held our quilt show opposite years. (Chilliwack PieceMakers’ Quilting Guild is a separate guild).
This is working well, but times are changing, and the government policies continually change. It is more complicated when we raffle anything, including draw baskets. Basically we can raffle a quilt as long as we donate back to the community. Rather than hand over money to charities we decided to donate to “We Care” as this supported our basic love of quilting and supported our commitment to the community.
We knew we wanted to be a non-profit organization; and not a charity which entailed registering with Victoria and writing a constitution. Writing the constitution is not an easy thing and takes away from our love of quilting. So we had to decide what our goals were and they were:
- To bring artisans interested in quilting together
- To instruct aspects of quilting
- To promote enjoyment and mutual assistance among quilters
- To promote to the community an appreciation of the artistic value of quilting.
We wanted our Guild to be about sharing information and making the meetings a fun place to be and to make all people welcome who wanted to learn the art of quilt making. Sometimes, in groups this does not happened but we have worked hard to maintain those high standards. I believe at the 30 year mark we have definitely stuck to our goals that we had set for ourselves. The Guild has tripled, and growth offers different challenges. We have shared so many different experiences of trunk shows, teachers and sharing of the joy of learning. For me it has been an amazing journey and I hope that the future will continue to offer as much amazing joy and learning as I have known in the past 30 year.
Can you believe our fledging group actually managed to have a display at Expo 86? Hey, we were impressed with our 'can do' attitude and the bar was set high!
We held our first show in 1987 at the Art Center. We even had a brass bed on stage, all decorated with quilts and quilting things. We continue to host a show every two years and they have always been very successful. We have done some very interesting things over the years; we had a lady from Arizona display the huge Quilt, Tree of Life that had been featured in a play. We have had many professional teachers as guests. I cannot even begin to name them all. Carol Ann Palmer from the US came twice. We have attended many quilt shows in other areas and learned a lot about quilting. Our emphasis has always been on learning and growing in our creativity. We have always tried to keep the cost down of membership fees and classes so it is available for everyone.