The story of the founders of the first national organization in Canada to serve craftspeople and secure recognition of crafts as art.
In 1905 two Montreal women, Alice Peck and May Phillips, founded the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. Inspired by British and American women in the arts and crafts movement, and spurred by their thirty-year rivalry with Mary Dignam of the Toronto-based Women's Art Association of Canada, these two created an organization that revived popular interest in traditional handwork done by women, Canadiens, Indigenous people, and new Canadians.
The Canadian Handicrafts Guild broadened the definition of art and the artist in Canada. Linking decorative arts with home arts and handicrafts, the Guild consistently showed them together at annual exhibitions at the art gallery in Montreal and formed a permanent collection documenting old and contemporary crafts. The Guild women combined creativity and philanthropy, voluntarism and an entrepreneurial spirit, education and concern with quality, in a movement that provided income and recognition to craftspeople and a craft legacy to Canada.
In Good Hands is alive with the interplay between art and social history, and the issues this dialogue raised at the time and those we bring to it now constantly overlap. It deals with noblesse oblige and the era's patronizing attitude to cultural difference, but shows how the Guild consciously fostered an inclusive national feeling by exhibiting and selling crafts of all Canadians on an equal footing. It also draws a much broader perspective of women's roles in shaping our culture than has been the norm in Canadian art history.