A conversation with Debby DeLashmet on craftsmen’s guild

By NIKKI ROWELL,

As a creator of stained-glass pieces, Debby DeLashmet joined the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi in 2006. She took over as president of the Craftsmen’s Guild in December 2018. Delashmet is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and long-time resident of Jackson. She recently spoke with Sun staff writer Nikki Rowell about her new role and all things Craftsmen’s Guild.

When did you first join the Craftsmen’s Guild?

“I’ve been a member since 2006, and I’ve been a board of directors member for three years.”

What first interested you in joining the Guild?

“One thing I used to do is show horses. When I moved to Mississippi, I continued doing that downtown by the Trademart. I had a break between classes and saw a show going on. I went in and I was amazed at the talent there. I had already been doing stained glass for a few years. I started that in ’95. I started going to Chimneyville and the preview party. Finally, about 13 years ago I got up enough nerve to apply.

“You have to apply to get in, and you have to go through standards every three years to make sure your level of craft is still up to par. We accept new members every two years. Those who are close, we give them a mentor in their medium that will work with them, because we want them to reapply. We have all levels of ability and all kinds of mediums.”

Tell me a bit about the Craftsmen’s Guild and its mission.

“The mission is to promote fine craft. Fine craft is something that is three-dimensional and useful. That’s why you will see bowls and vessels and spoons and plates and windows, because it’s something that is useful. We want to promote fine crafting in young people coming along now, because the world we live in now, everything is digital.

“We have a young artisan program, where we like to help young people express themselves through working with their hands. Really, our mission is to keep fine crafting alive in Mississippi.”

How has it been for you as you continue in your craft?

“I started in stained glass. Three years ago, I began looking into fused glass, which is a completely different technique. I take classes from other craftsmen here, and I think about how I can use those skills in my craft. When you see people doing these things, it influences what you’re doing because of the way they see an item or the world. I think it’s exciting to see what other people do. It makes you want to go home and create something too.”

When did you become the president and how is it going so far?

“I became president in December.

Have you always had an interest in art?

“My mother was an artist. From the time I was a little kid, I was drawing. I’ve worked in several different mediums. I’ve done leather-working, metal-working, wood-working, needlepoint. I painted and did murals in my house. But, when I got to glass, something about the way light shines through glass to me is just so beautiful and it changes all day long. I’m not an abstract artist. I’m a naturist, especially beaches and oceans and outdoors. I don’t have any curtains in my house. I just have stained glass in it. I’m not traditional at all, so I took classes so I could learn to make it myself. When I ran out of windows, I started selling it. I sold out of my house for a while before I got involved with the Craftsmen’s Guild.”

When did you first find stained glass as your preferred medium and develop your style?

“About 25 years ago. My two boys had a window in their bathroom, and we wanted to put glass on it. I wanted to do a whole underwater scene. So, I went and took a class. I went to the first few classes and came home and started drawing this big underwater scene with a manta ray and all this coral. It’s still up.”

What inspires you?

“Just being outside. Being outside is better than inside, even when it’s 90 degrees down here. I would so much rather sit outside and listen to the birds than be in an office. My parents are the same way.”

Tell me about some of the events that the Craftsmen’s Guild puts on.

“Right now, we’re cleaning up our website so that people can get on it and see events that are coming up. With this new board of directors, we’re becoming more active. Chimneyville is our biggest event, which is the first weekend of December. That’s our main focus.

“However, since we have this lovely place out here, we are planning on doing a wine and dinner pairing in the spring. We’re also planning our white elephant sale in March. It’s really fun because everybody brings things to donate to the craft center and to donate, and they can put whatever price on it. With that, we’re going to have a tool sale. As artists, we all tend to start in one medium and get into another and then you end up with all of these tools you don’t need. So, artists are all going to bring their extra tools and sell those.”

What sort of artists are a part of the Craftsmen’s Guild? Variety of mediums and styles?

“We divide up into seven mediums. Glass, which includes stained glass, fused glass, pottery. Fiber, which is all of our knitters and weavers. Wood, which is wood turning and wood carving. Metal art, which also includes jewelry. Mixed media, which is a combination of all sorts of crazy things. We have other categories, because sometimes we will have someone, and we’re like I don’t know where they go. And clay.”

How many members? Are they all from Mississippi?

“No, we have people from all over. Anyone can apply as long as you meet the standard requirements for your medium. We like for them to come and participate. We have a little less than 400. We’re always encouraging younger members to come in. That’s why we established the young artisan program. We want to keep them going.”

What about classes offered through the Craftsmen’s Guild?

“I love them. We have a whole wood working shop and an excellent word turner. They will have a class in there and will turn out these bowls and spoons. We also have a welding shop, and that’s our metal workers. They will make knives and things. They will put out what you’re going to make, so the student knows. I’ve done the hand building class, which is down in the pottery shed. We met for four nights, and by the end everyone knows everybody else. It gets to be a real camaraderie thing. We have Sheep to Shawl, which is a big event. That’s with our weavers and loomers. We have hand loomers who bring their looms in. They bring actual sheep out and shear them and turn it into the fiber they can use. It’s really interesting to do. We’re hoping to get a master calendar and get a list of classes out so people can see and plan for them.

What sort of things are in the gallery?

“In the gallery, there are mostly commissioned pieces. We always encourage the craftsmen to put things in the gallery. Every section of work is down there. It’s really incredible.”

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