Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Communications Assistant.
All information from this article was found in The Craft Factor, the Saskatchewan Craft Council’s magazine/newsletter, published from 1975 to 2004.
The 42nd Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival is taking place this weekend in Battleford, so let us take a moment to stroll down memory lane and take a look at its history.
Before the SCC was formed in 1975, the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival was known as the Battleford Craft Festival. It was organized by the Saskatchewan Government’s Department of Industry and Commerce. Jenny Hambridge was a key person in that department responsible for the first Battleford Festival in 1973. This festival was organized with cooperation from the Town of Battleford, who is still a major sponsor of the event 42 years later. Mayor Alex Dillabough was instrumental in bringing the festival to the Battlefords, and he was closely involved in the festival during his time as mayor. It is very fitting that we now hold the market in the Alex Dillabough Centre. An exhibition was included by the event organizers in 1974 and 1975 in conjunction with the Handcraft Festival, but it wasn’t juried, nor were the participants in the market.
Near the end of 1975, the Saskatchewan Craft Council was born (it’s our 40th anniversary this year!). The third annual festival was held in 1976 and the newly formed Craft Council supported the market. This was the first year a juried craft competition – a precursor to what is now the SCC’s Dimensions exhibition – was a part of the market. This juried exhibition was organized solely by the SCC, while the market itself was still organized by the Department of Industry and Commerce.
By 1978, the market was known as the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival. That year, the event took place at the newly built Battleford Arena, which is still standing next to the Alex Dillabough Centre. To ensure that only high quality Fine Craft was being sold at the market, the SCC introduced a jurying policy for the marketers. Artists’ work was judged based on standards established by the SCC, just as it still is today. By 1980, the SCC finally took over sponsorship and responsibility of the market from the Department of Industry and Commerce, and hired a coordinator to organize the festival.
In 1989, Susan Robertson (who is still an active SCC member) was hired as the full-time marketing coordinator at the SCC, and her responsibilities included organizing the SCC sponsored craft markets. This marked the first time a full-time staff person at the SCC was in charge of organizing the event. Before this, a coordinator was always hired on contract.
In the early 2000s, the juried exhibition Dimensions was still being held in conjunction with the Handcraft Festival, with the exhibition shown in the Alex Dillabough Centre and the market in the Arena next door. 2005 marked the first year that the jurying of Dimensions took place separately from the Handcraft Festival. This was to allow more events related to both Dimensions and the Festival to be organized, such as a Juror’s Talk and Critique for Dimensions, and various workshops and demonstrations along with the Festival.
Today, the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival is still being held in the Alex Dillabough Centre in Battleford, Saskatchewan. This year marks the 42nd year of the market and we are excited to continue to bring Fine Craft to the people of the Battlefords and area. We welcome six new artists to this year’s event — including Andrea Haukedal Blais and Michael McNeil — as well as some longtime marketers — such as jeweller Winston Quan, who has been at every Handcraft Festival since 1976. The SCC is proud of the Handcraft Festival, and appreciates the support of our members and patrons in keeping it going! We hope to see you there this weekend.