Organizing: making the best of time and talent

Here's another thread to address issues about managing guilds effectively. Most of us have busy lives and plenty of obligations. It's hard enough to find time to weave!

But guilds have to be managed well keep them thriving. Some of the issues are: how to recruit people to serve on the board of directors, knowing when to establish a committee to solve a problem, how to communicate effectively, how to make the best use of meeting times, and on and on...

A question was just raised: how do we get someone  handle programs and workshops for the guild?

Here are my thoughts. First, what a big job that could end up being! I think one of the first things you could do would be to prepare a "job description" for your group.  Just letting people know exactly what the expectations are for the position, and also what help and resources are available to them could help them decide if they are willing to take it on. If there is someone who has handled the function in the past, would they be willing to mentor the new person for a length of time?  Also, you may discover, depending on your group's size and activities, that you may need to have more than one person doing the job.

At the end of each year, our guild hands out a questionnaire asking what members would like to study next year. We also ask what were our favorite presentations during the past year. Since we're so small, we rely on our own talent for most of the presentations and workshops. Two of us were the official "program committee," but most of the actual program planning ended up being worked out at a lively meeting over lunch, where the whole board and other members were present. It was a lot of fun. But, again, we are a small bunch.

Workshops, where there is a lot of planning, registrations to handle, and managing on the day of the workshop are another matter. Any input out there from those who have handled workshops? Or programs?


Posted on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 03:30

Getting officers for our guild is like pulling teeth. All the people who have done it are getting tired of doing it repeatedly and are ready to step back, but those that haven't don't want to step up for all the usual reasons.

One thing that seems to be working is the programs--it's basically a 2 year stint, as the current program planners (usually a team) are planning for 2011. They'll plan and schedule this year, and as the programs occur next year, will administer whatever is necessary to take care of registrations, guests, etc.  Our 2010 planners have done all the planning and now handle the actual workshop logistics. We usually do no more than 1 or 2 "major" workshops a year at this point, and then monthly meeting programs which can be presented by a guest or a member--a new technique learned at a workshop, lecture on travel, hands on demos and projects, etc.

We do have a survey each year which helps.  Lots of casual and spontaneous brainstorming happens as well.

I also love the idea of writing up a job description--while we have documents of that type in our original charter, something that's more current and friendly would probably be a real help in bringing new folks into the officer roles. The roles have changed a lot as the membership has changed over the years--the majority of us have jobs, families, and other usual time constraints. We're finding that team positions are working best at this point--we've had co-presidents and co-planners several times already.



Posted on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 13:33

From the standpoint of both a taker and giver of workshops, and having managed them for small guilds:

It is helpful to have one person handle the arrangements with the workshop teacher from start to finish.  If you have trouble finding a person it is fair to offer free or cut rate attendance at the workshop to the coordinator, especially if they house and host the the teacher. 

This person should work out the contract details between the guild and the teacher, collect write-ups for the newsletter from the teacher, encourage members to sign up, collect any participant information the teacher needs, disperse any information the teacher needs sent out (overseeing that all goes smoothly), make facility and equipment arrangements, and provide or find someone to house the teacher and pick them up at the airport if needed.  Ideally they will serve as teacher's assistant at the workshop (opening the classroom early, running out to replace a burnt out projector bulb, perhaps assisting the person whose loom is not ready or suddenly falls apart, etc. so that the teacher can teach the subject).

The way to sell this job is to look for someone who is either very interested in the subject, knows the teacher, or would like to make more contacts beyond their area.  It takes a lot of time in short bursts so the total hours are not high. It could be combined with the regular programming job or separated into its own job.  You want someone who is organized and reliable, but they do not need to be a high level weaver.  Enthusiasm makes it fun.

Laurie Autio

Posted on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 14:04

I am a member of three small MA guilds, plus a large one.  Little guilds tend to cycle a bit; small changes in membership and leadership have bigger effects.  If you are having the same people do the same jobs all the time there are some ways to bring in fresh blood.

First, look at your bylaws.  If you don't have bylaws, write some simple ones.  They should include a term limit clause (two years, for example) for a few key jobs including chair (president, dean), program chair, and workshop chair (if these are separate positions).  Other jobs (secretary, treasurer, newsletter editor, hostess) might not be limited.  Include a specified time off period, perhaps 4-6 years.  If you have trouble getting people to commit to two years as chair, etc., try one year terms. Allow two people to share a job.  Having it spelled out means that someone can't give in or be coerced into yet another term. 

Have the current duties spelled out so the job is not intimidating to a newbie.  When you write up the duties try to differentiate between what is necessary, and what is done because of the current job holder's personal style.  The main reason for getting a new person is to get new ideas and approaches and you need a little leeway to do that. 

When a new person takes on a job, have them assist or shadow the current one for a period before starting.

You may be able to get more volunteers if your board meets online rather than in person (no travel, can be done on the worker's schedule - even at midnight in pj's!).  A private board yahoogroup works well for many groups - once the board members get the hang of it.  It has advantages over a simple mass emailing because no one is inadvertently left off the cc list, there is a place to store files, photos, links, calendar, and an archive of the email. 

If your group is really small (10-12), consider eliminating most official jobs and make all decisions jointly.  Or, set up a rotation schedule for the jobs.

Laurie Autio

Posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 17:13

Thanks, Laurie, for your great ideas.

One thing that I thought about-- would it  be a good idea to have a separate day-of-workshop helper to run errands? I think it would be a quick burnout scenario if the workshop coordinator were promised free tuition to participate (which is a great idea), and to then be unable to do so at the last minute. Just thinking.... I've never done this, so I'm not sure about how demanding the job would really be.

Having board meetings online is a fantastic idea. That would free up so much time at the monthly meeting for the fun stuff!.

Posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 18:52

Often the understanding is that part of the reason for waving tuition is because the coordinator is going to be doing some things that may interfere with full participation.  Savvy groups often know their members and act to anticipate problems at a workshop.  For example:

1) Hold a joint warping session the day before to make sure everyone is ready by the beginning of the workshop.  This works well if you have people who chronically come under-prepared (winding warps or threading during lecture times), weavers whose looms are often threaded wrong, or beginners. It is a good time to catch loom problems (sticking shafts, crossed threads, broken cords) and fix them.  Most importantly, it can be a fun party time for the group, too.  Wine and chocolate, anyone?

2) Assign buddies to sit next to and help those who might have special needs - the beginner, the infirm, the emotionally delicate, the member with an unfamiliar (or known misbehaving) loom.  It spreads out the responsibilities and often helps people bond while dealing with problems discretely.   Might be nothing more than phoning Sally and asking her if she would sit next to Lou in case she needs a little help.

3) Figure out who is good with looms and ask them to bring a few extra tools in case of unexpected loom difficulties. 

4) Help the instructor match warps to appropriate people.  Just because Lynn has a 12 shaft loom does not mean she is the most advanced weaver and up to the most difficult warp in the batch.  And, perhaps the most advanced weaver also has an outside job and two little kids and needs a warp with fewer ends.

A little preparation and prevention means the coordinator (and teacher!) can relax more at the workshop.

Laurie Autio

Posted on Mon, 04/12/2010 - 20:38

Our guild has "vice-presidents" of workshops and programs. Two people: a "senior" and "junior". The senior is on her (his) second year of the two-year term and the junior is on the first year of the two year term. That way the senior can help set up the  next year's programs/workshops (who to contact, how, contracts, pay, locations, etc) and the junior can help with the logistics of this year's programs and workshops. We've had no problem finding candidates since we introduced the 2-year shared positions.

When it is time for a workshop, we "recruit" one of the attendees to write an article about the workshop for the newsletter.

Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 01:36

Thanks for your input, Flamingo.

I have a question.. . Well, actually, several questions: Is there a point of "critical mass" in terms of membership numbers when it comes to planning monthly programs? It seems that in a very small group, we keep relying on a core group of senior (I mean Experienced!)  members to present monthly programs. Are there ways to recruit new weavers to present a program?  Any ideas what would be a good subject? Perhaps history or weaving in a given culture?

Any ideas?


Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 05:24

It is too easy to burn out your senior members if only a few people are presenting. Things tend to get stale if you don't have a larger number of people presenting. 

Perhaps you could consider asking in outside teachers for some of the programs, with a small fee to cover the expense if your dues won't cover it.  Outsiders bring new ideas, new perspectives, and new topics. 

Try a study group on a topic and have each person present what they learned, no matter what their level is. An interesting one for a mixed level group might be a gamp group, where each person weaves and discusses a gamp and then weaves a project from it. Those who are capable can design their own gamp, others might work from published gamps.

Assign a meeting to each member.  You can assign topics or have each person pick a topic and give a presentation on it.  The more experienced members could help newer ones with finding references for their talks.  Topics might include weaving from different cultures or traditions, individual structures, design, color, creativity, equipment demos, finishing techniques, setts, fibers, a trunk show of a person's work and discussion of how they choose what they weave, painted warps or ikat, etc.

Not everyone is a good speaker or experienced enough to teach, but they might organize something different for when it is their turn to lead a meeting - a weave in (coordinating everyone bringing a random loom and perhaps round robin weaving), moderating a discussion of favorite gadgets or favorite references, etc.


Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 20:15

Hard to say what is a critical mass. I'm a member of a study group (maybe 8 active members) that meets every month (even in summers) and a guild with maybe 50-60 active members.

One year we combined our regular (saturday morning) meeting with afternoon mini-workshops. We recruited about 5 or 6 members to hold little tutorials (30 minutes to 1 hour) on various skills: inkle weaving, inkle warping, some clever finishing technique, a quickie demo of front to back warping, etc. I taught how to make an amulet bag (by teaching the 3 basic steps on a really tiny bag). Each person that "attended" my tutorial got a kit with enough beads to make the tiny bag and a threaded needle. (The first time I tried to teach it, I didn't thread the needles first and I spent all my time threading beading needles for the participants.) Each instructor taught the workshop 2 - 4 times (depending on how long it took) and any member who was free when a workshop started could attend. All the workshops were held in the same room, but spread out so the students could mostly-hear what the instructor was saying. If you can move the workshops into separate rooms, even better. Lots of your member know little skills they could teach. Not all skills are weaving skills. Some might be sewing, origami, napkin folding, stenciling, You might even find some craft projects online that would work. (Check out "wrist distaff" for an example.)

We did this several years in a row (because it was so much fun). Some instructors presented every year, but others were new each year. Make an effort to recruit some of the younger members as instructors.

We also sometimes do a "challenge". For example, I've run these challenges:

1. Each person must create a finished object that employs 3 design criteria randomly chosen (roll some dice or something) from a list of design criteria. For example, one person might get "include a house motif", "all blue", and "inspired by math". Do not let the victim choose their own! they must be forced upon the person for it to be a "challenge".

2. I found a simple but dramatic photo (piece of artwork) and scanned in the image. Then I expanded it and printed it on a color printer. I marked each sheet on back with its grid position in the finished image: A1, G3, etc.) Each person selected one of the sheets of paper that displayed one small part of the image. Their job was  to reproduce the image in the same scale in the technique of their choice. The only rules were: 1. the finished item had to be the same size as the printed image piece, 2. it had to support its own weight when hung from the top edge, 3. it could not hav any border. I pinned copies of the sheets of paper onto a bedsheet, and as people brought their finished pieces in, I pinned them where the matching image was. We got to watch the finished mosaic as it formed. Techniques included beading, felting, sewing, weaving, knitting (although I had to stabilize that one by bonding it onto a fabric.) The finished hanging was displayed in the guild meeting room for several months and then donated for something. (Charity auction? Museum? can't remember).

Posted on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 21:21

Thanks, Flamingo, for the wonderful program ideas. I've decided to start a separate thread on this topic because I think it would be a great resource to have this info in one spot.

I like the variations of the "Design Game" that people come up with. There are long-and-short versions that would be lots of fun, depending on the time available and the number of members participating (do you have enough people to form teams, etc.). But I absolutely love the Mosaic idea! How big was the finished piece, and how big were the individual parts? Did you do more to stabilize the backing when all the parts were together?


Posted on Thu, 04/15/2010 - 04:41

 The final mosaic was large! I didn't measure it, but it must have been about the size of a queen size bed. Certainly in that ball park. Each individual piece fit on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and there was some white space on each (the printer border). The white space was not to be reproduced (of course). I tried to find a photo of the finished mosaic, but we had a break in a few years ago, and the computer went missing (with all our photos). We've gotten more careful, but...

I may have tacked the sheet to another beefier fabric and I think I tacked the pieces on in some additional places (to keep them from swinging around too much.) The thing that surprised me was how well everyone did keeping the dimensions so perfectly. I know I had problems with my piece (I actually did some cutting and seaming to make it come out right.). The finished image was completely recognizable. (It was a foreground eagle with mountains and "sunset" colors in the sky.) By allowing each person to pick their own piece, the folks who were willing to put the extra effort into the fiddly details picked the eagle head, tail, etc. Those who wanted easy took sky blocks.