PHOTO BY Grant Gilmore
When you hear the word “craft,” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, visions of paper, glue and meticulously-curated Pinterest boards spring forth in a cathartic, epoxy-driven outlet for creativity. It’s true this is one definition. However, I learned from Executive Director Nancy Perkins the truest meaning of the word “craft” and experienced how some of Mississippi’s oldest art forms are being taught and preserved at this one of a kind facility in Ridgeland.
The Mississippi Crafts Center is located a stone’s throw from the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Checking in at 20,000 square feet, the impressive stone building serves as a home for the Craftsmen Guild of Mississippi and contains multi-use spaces where artists educate others in the nuance of their crafts. Nancy shares that the Crafts Center is equal parts “retail gallery, museum, education center and visitors’ center.” Nancy, whose personal interests include painting and writing, emphasizes the importance of these crafts to Mississippi: she compares authentic crafts to a natural resource, and says the main mission of the Craftsmen’s Guild — beyond preservation — is to provide a way for craftsmen to make a living from their craft.
Visitors can learn about pottery, woodworking, smithing and weaving to name a few. Nancy let me
peek inside several studios — including one used by local jewelry makers — and I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the work being done. Looms covered in intricate and unique, handwoven cloth stand at the ready and a brand new space dedicated to the art of carpentry is nearing completion. Referring to the location, Nancy emphasizes the importance of the Natchez Trace to both the Center as well as to the State of Mississippi and since the Center is a favorite spot of locals and out of town visitors alike. Classes are offered year-round (361 days of the year).
The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi also holds events, both on-site as well as in the community, year round. Perhaps the most well-known is the Chimneyville Crafts Festival held annually at the Mississippi Trademart and provides Guild Members an opportunity to showcase their skills to the general public. This year will also see the start of two inaugural events: Guild Spring and Summer Showcases to be held in May and August respectively. The Crafts Center is open as an event venue for both businesses and social events such as wedding parties--and a soon-to-be- finished trail will give visitors access to the hiking and multi-purpose trails associated with the Trace.