History of the guild
The Handweavers of the Savannahs was formed in 1972 by Emmie Howard and Janet Bailey who wrote a grant to purchase equipment. They first met at members’ homes and later at Carter Oliff’s small restaurant on Drayton Street and Perry Street. Meetings were then moved to Oatland Island Wildlife Center. When the main building fell into disrepair, the guild moved to Fiber Department at Armstrong University (now the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University).
The name was changed to the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs in order to more appropriately reflect the membership. Members come from all over the Savannah area - from Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head to the North to Statesboro, Pooler, Rincon to the West and Richmond Hill, Hinesville to the South. Members are not just handweavers, but they represent all kinds of fiber art techniques from handspinning, knitting, quilting, crochet, felting, beading, papermaking, bookbinding, basketry and a variety of others.
The guild was invited to move back to Oatland into their 2nd floor fiber studio May 2011 after the building was totally renovated. Monthly guild meetings are held in the Main Building or Welcome Center at Oatland Island Wildlife Center September through May. The Welcome Center was built in 1927 by the International Brotherhood of Railroad Conductors as a retirement home. The building has a rich a varied history serving as among other things, a home to the CDC (Center for disease Control). The land and buildings are currently owned by the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Education is the keystone of the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Each year more than 20,000 students take part in their award-winning programs. The Fiber Guild hosts a variety of workshops for members and the public to encourage an understanding of the fiber arts. They also participate by demonstrating and hosting children’s fiber art activities in several Oatland yearly festivals including the Fall’s Cane Grinding Harvest Festival and the Spring Sheep Shearing Festival.