Today i want to talk about professional guilds and organizations which are of interest to costumers and crafts artisans.
Too often i hear students and colleagues dismiss the usefulness of such organizations as being "too expensive" to join for "just a resume credit." I can only assume that this type of statement is couched in ignorance, because professional organizations worth their salt provide so much more than "something to list on a job application," and in this industry, we have some great ones if you only know where to look! So, peruse these, and if you spy one for which you feel a good fit, i encourage you to join!
First, a couple of media-specific guilds:Surface Design Association
The SDA is aimed primarily at serving artists and designers worldwide working in the medium of textiles. They welcome artists, costume designers and production professionals, textile designers, and so forth. Membership begins at $60/year, though you can save some cash if you pay for multiple years at once. As a member, you receive their full-size glossy quarterly journal Surface Design Journal
, as well as their quarterly print newsletter and email updates (and, as a member, you can submit work for publication). They host a biennial conference, offer grants and scholarships, maintain a swatch library and an image library (great for putting together powerpoints and class lectures), and perhaps most exciting for freelancers: they provide the opportunity to enroll in a group insurance plan which provides health care, long term, accident, critical care, and disability
. Yes, you read that right: you can get health insurance as part of your membership in the SDA. That alone is a great reason for students on the cusp of graduation to join, especially those looking at a period of freelancing and job-hopping, or those intending to make a career out of self-employment as a working artist.Handweavers Guild of America
The HGA is deceptively named, since it is in actuality an umbrella organization that also emcompasses spinners/knitters/crochet artisans and (perhaps most relevant for costumers) dyers, and its membership is not limited to American citizens alone. Membership in the HGA is inexpensive for a professional guild--$40 per year ($32 for students) or $70 in two-year increments--and comes with a range of great benefits, such as your subscription to their full-color glossy trade journal Shuttle Spindle Dyepot
(to which you may also submit work). They maintain a couple of great library collections on textile topics, from which members can borrow books, periodicals, videos, and slide collections (the book/periodical library is a free service, but the video/slide library charges a small rental fee. They offer a huge range of learning services, from mentorship instruction to formal workshops to their highly challenging self-paced "Certificate of Excellence" programs. They host a biennial conference, sponsor a yearly juried exhibition of fiber artworks, and award a wide range of substantial grants and scholarships.
If you live in one of the regions where there is an active milliners' guild (NYC, Chicago, or the west coast), those can be a great organization with useful membership benefits as well. So far, for those of us who don't live in one of those hub areas though, i haven't found one that seems to have any overarching benefits for satellite members--mostly they seem to focus on working as a group to foster the millinery trade in their area in ways like organizing wholesale buying circles among solitary practitioners, buying group ads in fashion publications, and hosting locally-specific events like exhibits and fashion shows and hatwearing cocktail parties and such (hi, fun). What i really wish would happen, is that the many disparate milliners' guilds across the country would band together under an umbrella guild, and get together everything perkwise that goes along with that--publishing a journal, hosting a trade convention, and so forth. Then i think membership would benefit milliners outside of those hubs as well.
In addition to craft-specific organizations, there are also the theatre-specific organizations, whose existence most folks know about, but maybe the exact particulars of membership are hazy.United States Institute for Theatre Technology
USITT is perhaps the best-known in North America because of its huge conference held in different US cities each year. In addition to the yearly stage expo, they also host a biennial tech expo (specifically for scenic, props, costume, lighting, and sound artisans), a yearly costume symposium, and offer grants, fellowships, scholarships, awards, and theatre-specific international travel tours. They publish the quarterly TD&T: Theatre Design and Technology
, set industry safety and excellence standards, offer various technical certification programs, and send a delegation each fourth year to the Prague Quadrennial international theatre competiton. Membership is $105/year for an individual ($63 for students or $84 for seniors).
Under the umbrella of USITT, there's the Costume Design and Technology Commission
, a special-interest group serving the needs of costumers in the for-profit, non-profit/regional professional, and academic fields. The CD&TC sponsors a number of projects in addition to their yearly symposium, maintains two listservs for costume topics as well as a number of related archives and databases, and offers a yearly award to upcoming young designers and technology professionals.
In addition to USITT, there are the regional theatre organizations, which are dedicated to serving a particular area of the US. The one applicable to my area (North Carolina) is the Southeast Theatre Conference
. Regional organizations like SETC often have very similar structure to USITT, in the sense of publishing newsletters and journals on regionally-relevant theatre topics, offering grants and awards, and hosting conferences and the like. They usually also maintain a job board with postings in your part of the country. Sometimes these regional organizations are even splintered down to the state level: for example, here we have the North Carolina Theatre Conference
, which addresses concerns in the industry at a state level, such as lobbying for arts funding opportunities and job creation.
Hopefully, this post makes a good case for why you might choose to join one or more of these organizations, besides just so you can list it on your resume. In terms of "full disclosure," I'm a member of the SDA, HGA, and USITT, myself. And, if you belong to an organization not listed here and want to mention it in the comments, i'd love to hear about it!