Scottish Guild of Handicraft


The Scottish Guild of Handicraft was a group of ‘artist designers formed in 1898 ... an idealistic collective venture'. 1 Its activities were influenced by the writings of William Morris and belonged to the wider social, cultural and political movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Guild's chairman, A. M. McShannon, hoped: 'If art were used in a proper way there would be ... a more joyous life for the people ... If people conserve what was good in costumes, architecture, furniture ... it would be a better world.' 2

The Guild was an informal collective promoting applied arts that was attractive to the growing number of female craftswomen, enamellers and jewellers in Glasgow. 3 Their 1902 exhibition, held at the Guild Galleries, 414 Sauchiehall Street, included work by Agnes Raeburn, Phoebe Traquair, William Birnie Rhind and Robert Burns. 4 In 1903, they officially 'registered under the Industrial Societies Act', as a shareholding co-partnership. 5

In 1905–6, the Guild took part in the Labour Party's 'co-operative workers' festival' at Crystal Palace 6 , and also moved their base to Stirling, romantically hoping to give 'the work done ... a more truly Scottish character'. 7 In reality, their output included modern electric lighting and associated fittings, although they still hosted travelling exhibitions of model workers’ cottages, intended to replace old ‘barrack-like’ tenements (1909). 8 The Guild’s optimism and innocence did not survive the economic circumstances after the First World War, and it closed in 1919. 9 Their assets, ‘sheet metalworkers ... plant and electrical fittings' valued at £677 13s 0d were sold at public auction in 1923. 10


1: Elizabeth Cumming, Hand, Heart and Soul, Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2006, p. xiv.

2: Scotsman, 10 February 1906, p. 8.

3: Jude Burkhauser, 'By Women's Hands: The Metalworkers', in Jude Burkhauser, ed., Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880–1920, Edinburgh: Canongate, 2003, pp. 178–84.

4: Scotsman, 15 December 1902, p. 9.

5: Scotsman, 3 November 1903, p. 4.

6: Scotsman, 24 August 1905, p. 5.

7: Scotsman, 10 February 1906, p. 8.

8: Scotsman, 25 March 1908, p. 14; 10 April 1911, p. 13; 22 June 1911, p. 14; Scotsman, 28 January 1909, p. 8.

9: Edinburgh Gazette, 7 February 1919, p. 784.

10: Scotsman, 5 February 1923, p. 1.