History of the New Mexico Silk Painters Guild

By Mildred Woodrow, August, 2012



Mildred was honored on her birthday at a meeting

In celebration of Mildred's birthday, the refreshments were extra special at this meeting.

In the early 1990’s four silk painters met to form a group for support, the exchange of ideas, and constructive critique of our work. Three of these original artists are still members and our goals remain the same. We met once a month in our homes. I remember times when there were only two there, and we still managed to talk for a couple of hours.

Our meetings are still basically the same. In the beginning, the hostess served small refreshments but as the group grew we decided to have a “pot luck” with members bringing something periodically. While this has little to do with silk painting, it does give us the time to visit, catch up on news, and form the close bonds which hold us together. Each month’s hostess sends out minutes of the meeting both as a record for those present and as information for those who were unable to attend.

From the beginning we have always had a “show and tell.” We brought work of which we were proud and work that was not at all satisfying—other members were almost always able to give constructive suggestions that would “rescue” our less-than-satisfactory pieces. As our group grew we have had to limit this sharing to one piece from each artist, but the great feeling of this sharing and the knowledge that what we have done will be viewed with respect by the others has not changed.

Scarves painted at the Fiber Arts Fiesta, donated to the American Cancer Society

We soon called ourselves The Albuquerque Silk Painters Guild and began having group shows. The first was at the fledgling Fiber Arts Fiesta, where we had a selling booth and some small educational materials. The Fiber Arts Fiesta is held every other year, and we have always been one of the exhibiting guilds. Our area evolved to consist of an exhibit wall of our work (and usually work sent in by silk artists from other areas), another of educational panels, and the highlight of our area—a table where people of all ages could try their hand at painting on silk. These “attempts” were/are done on scarves which are then given to the local Cancer Society for their “Look Good, Feel Better” program. At times members will have an individual vendor booth, which is always interesting, instructive, and hopefully successful. The only problem with this (since members often head up other guild booths / exhibit areas and try to be of assistance with other Fiesta jobs) is that it results in spreading ourselves too thin, with also having to cover our guild booth. But we persevere and it all works out!


Open Space show

Show at the Albuquerque
Open Space, 2011

The guild holds several group shows a year. Some of our favorite venues have either closed or changed their exhibit policies to hold fewer and longer shows of any group. It is becoming increasingly difficult to arrange, but new venues appear, and most work out very well.

It is very unusual for a member not to participate in these. At the meeting preceding each exhibit we bring the work we intend to show—originally this was to make sure there was no unacceptable work (not up to the individual’s professional standards). This no longer seems necessary, so our sharing at that point is more to have an over-view as to how the work will all come together for an impressive show. To strengthen this objective, a short list of criteria was created for work to be exhibited. These are simple guidelines to insure the most professional looking exhibit we can present.

Hanging the shows: at times a few members do the work in conjunction with someone from the site. Less often, the site hangs the show. At other times, we arrange the work in groups that work well together, and then two or three take over the actual hanging of each group of work. We will have both clothing and wall pieces at any exhibit. At one show several years ago, we each brought our first piece of silk painting and pictures of ourselves working. These made up one very interesting wall and were especially fun in contrast with current work.


Silk Road show

For several years we have held what we call a Silk Road Tour and Sale. For three years this was held in three or four homes located around the city. These were moderately successful—some areas more than others. The main problem was that often visitors did not want to drive to widely separated venues.

We are now experimenting with holding these shows in one location with everyone exhibiting and selling. The very real problem is finding a venue large enough to accommodate everyone. We have not given up, but will soon need to reevaluate this whole idea.


We hold workshops during the year—some led by members and some by outside instructors. Some of these have been silk screening and painting on velvet, shibori, the use of soy wax as a resist, adding other materials to the usual silk dyes, manipulating fabric to remove the serin thus changing the whole texture of the silk, and transfer printing onto silk. While everyone may not be interested in each workshop or be able to incorporate it in their work, just learning of a new idea is stimulating and adds to one’s growth as an artist.


Members worked together to set up the guild booth at the Fiber Arts Fiesta.

It has never been a problem to find someone to do any necessary job. Everyone seems willing to do whatever they are best suited to do. Some have done the same work many times, ie: submitting proposals for exhibits, making the labels for our work, handling our monies, planning ads for shows, submitting a newspaper announcement—all the jobs necessary to keep a group functioning smoothly. I think our respect for each artist and their work and the “family” atmosphere we achieve account for this. When someone has done a particular job for as long as they feel able, they simply say so, and someone else (sometimes after a period of silence in the meeting!) will volunteer to take over. We have never had officers nor felt the need for them. Recently a member was named “president” so we could qualify to become a member group of SPIN.

The “office” of treasurer became necessary as our money arrangements changed. For many years we had no dues—our only expense was the mailing out of notices of the meetings by that month’s hostess. As the group grew and the cost of doing this also grew we began dues of $10 a year. Before long everyone was “on line” and postage was no longer a problem. Then came the expenses for shows and ads, and our dues were raised to $15 a year. If the activity is one in which everyone participates, the cost comes out of our treasury. If it is something involving only a few, they split the cost and cover it themselves.

Several years ago we questioned whether our group should be strictly limited to those painting on silk. We had several newer members who worked in other textile techniques. When the subject came up there were some very sad faces around and the question, “Where will we go...there are no other groups for us!” It was quickly decided to keep them all and the group has been nothing but better for it. They bring new points of view for all of us, and everyone has profited from their inclusion.

“We are now proud to be the largest and oldest such guild in the country.”

quilt day

We gathered in August, 2013, in Mildred's studio to paint our guild quilt for the 2014 SPIN conference.

When others contributed their ideas for this “history” the most repeated comment by far was the acceptance and respect for everyone's work. Also mentioned was the regular meeting schedule which keeps us in close contact, the many shows during the year which kept you “on your toes” with new work and, by far, the comradeship of those just starting in the field, those more experienced and those of nationwide repute, the lack of expecting new members to conform to an established “hierarchy” (which we never have had!). While our group has grown steadily we have lost a few members: some who were more “hobby” oriented with little interest in growing, but more often because of moving to another area or changing their artistic medium.

As to our name: our membership grew steadily through those who saw us at shows, the Fiber Arts Fiesta, people who took classes with those of us who teach, someone we saw at a show, etc. When people began driving an hour or more from around the state to be part of our group, we changed to The New Mexico Silk Painters Guild.

We are now proud to be the largest and oldest such guild in the country.

New Mexico Silk Painters Guild