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The Founders of WCC AISBL

Ms. Aileen Osborn Vanderbilt Webb, Ms. Margaret Merwin Patch, and Ms. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay made history on June 12, 1964, by founding the World Crafts Council International.

Their vision and dedication to promoting traditional crafts and artisans from around the globe laid the foundation for an organization that championed cultural heritage and craftsmanship on an international scale.

Hailing from different corners of the world, these pioneering women shared a common passion for preserving and celebrating the rich diversity of craftsmanship across cultures.

Through their collaborative efforts, the World Crafts Council International continues to serve as a beacon of support and advocacy for artisans, fostering cultural exchange and sustainable development in communities worldwide.

Their legacy remains an inspiration for future generations committed to upholding the value and significance of traditional crafts in a rapidly changing world.

Ms. Aileen Osborn Vanderbilt Webb

Founder and First President, WCC AISBL 1964-72

Ms. Aileen Osborn (1892-1979) hailed from a family known for their patronage of the arts. Educated in both New York and Paris, she cultivated a sophisticated appreciation for creativity and culture. Her union with Mr. Vanderbilt Webb, heir to a prominent shipping and railroad fortune, spanned 44 years and blessed them with four children and eighteen grandchildren.

A pivotal figure since 1930, Ms. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb embarked on a journey deeply entrenched in the realm of crafts. She spearheaded the formation of Putnam County Products, laying the foundation for numerous initiatives dedicated to nurturing craftsmen globally. Under her astute guidance, the American Craftsmen’s Cooperative Council emerged in 1939, followed by the establishment of America House in 1940 a beacon showcasing the talents of American craftsmen. In 1943, the Regents of the State of New York bestowed a charter upon the American Craftsmen’s Council, cementing its status as a non-profit national organization.

Ms. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb's vision extended beyond national borders. She founded and served as the inaugural editor of Craft Horizons, while the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York, a cornerstone of the American Craftsmen’s Council, was inaugurated in 1956. Her global perspective crystallized during a profound study tour alongside Ms. Margaret Patch in 1962, culminating in the seminal international conference at Columbia University in 1964. This historic gathering birthed the World Crafts Council, uniting craft leaders from around the globe.

Led by Ms. Aileen Osborn Webb, an affiliation of craft groups called the Handcraft Cooperative League of America is formed to develop markets in metropolitan areas for rural craftsmen. This same year, the American Handcraft Council, a separate organization formed by Anne Morgan (a friend and neighbor of Webb) incorporated in Delaware.

As Honorary Chairman of the WCC from June 10, 1974, Ms. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb's influence transcended borders. Her extensive travels, including attendance at biennial meetings, director's meetings, and regional assemblies, underscored her fervent advocacy for crafts as a vital cultural heritage. Her eloquence resonated in every corner of the world, championing crafts as a beacon of national identity and artistic expression. Her final public appearance at the WCC General Assembly in Kyoto, Japan, in 1978 marked the culmination of a lifelong dedication to the craft movement.

Ms. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb peacefully departed this world on August 15, 1979, at her Garrison, New York, home, leaving behind a profound legacy spanning over four decades. Her visionary spirit, philanthropy, and unwavering commitment to crafts continue to inspire generations, ensuring her achievements remain immortalized in the annals of history. As President of the WCC from 1964 to 1972, she presided over five General Assemblies, leaving an indelible mark on the global crafts community.

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Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay 
Founder and First President, WCC-APR, 1976-79

Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s (1903-1988) legacy leaves timeless imprints in Indian history as a towering figure of craft and culture. Her remarkable journey traversed the realms of politics, theatre craft, fine arts, and advocacy for artisans' rights. With a rare blend of courage and conviction, she fearlessly confronted political giants like Nehru and Gandhi, challenging colonial paradigms and advocating for the empowerment of traditional craftsmen.

Her visionary foresight foresaw the potential impact of Western industrialization on India's artisanal communities, particularly women in the unorganized sectors. In response, she established crafts museums and archives to preserve indigenous arts and crafts, including the iconic Crafts Museum in Delhi. Her unwavering commitment to promoting arts and crafts led to the institution of the National Awards for Master Craftsmen.

She spearheaded the establishment of the All India Handicrafts Board and served as the inaugural chairperson of The Crafts Council of India.

Collaborating with visionaries like Ms. Aileen Osborn Vanderbilt Webb, she co-founded the World Crafts Council in 1964 and served as its Vice-President, before assuming the presidency of the World Crafts Council, Asia-Pacific Region from 1976 to 1979. Her enduring legacy continues to inspire generations, epitomizing the indomitable spirit of India's cultural resurgence.

From the inception of the National School of Drama and the Sangeet Natak Akademi to the establishment of the Central Cottage Industries Emporium and the Crafts Council of India, her vision catalyzed the growth of these cultural bastions. Emphasizing the pivotal role of handicrafts and grassroots cooperative movements in fostering social and economic empowerment, Smt. Kamaladevi fearlessly confronted opposition from entrenched power centers, both pre- and post-independence. Her unwavering commitment to the cause earned her accolades such as the Sangeet Natak Academy Fellowship in 1974, the Padma Bhushan in 1955, and the Padma Vibhushan in 1987, recognizing her unparalleled contributions to India's cultural heritage.

Ms. Margaret Merwin Patch
Founding Member, WCC AISBL, 1964

Ms. Margaret Merwin Patch (1894-1987) was a distinguished arts administrator whose influence spanned across Massachusetts, Florida, and beyond. Born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1894, Ms. Margaret pursued her passion for the arts from an early age. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1915, she furthered her education at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Commerce and Administration, and later at the London School of Economics while living in London.

In the early 1920s, Ms. Margaret established Merwin-Davis Statistical Reports and Charts, a pioneering company specializing in statistical graphic design. Her entrepreneurial spirit and creative acumen propelled her to new heights, leading her to become a special consultant to the National Broadcasting Company in New York City and to pursue studies in painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

Throughout her life, Ms. Margaret's commitment to arts administration remained unwavering. From her role as art chairman of the Women's Club of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, to her involvement with organizations such as the American Craftsmen's Council and the Shelburne Falls Craft Center, Ms. Margaret tirelessly championed the promotion and preservation of local crafts and artistic endeavors.

Ms. Margaret's global impact was particularly notable through her affiliation with the American Craftsmen's Council, which paved the way for her involvement in the establishment of the World Crafts Council in 1964. Her collaborative efforts with colleague Ms. Aileen Osborn Patch laid the groundwork for international crafts conferences and cultural assemblies sponsored by the World Crafts Council, leaving an enduring legacy in the realm of arts and culture.

Ms. Margaret Merwin Patch's dedication to the arts continued until her passing in 1988, leaving behind a profound legacy of advocacy, innovation, and cultural enrichment that continues to inspire generations of arts administrators and enthusiasts worldwide.

Ms. Margaret M. Patch's significant contributions to the World Crafts Council AISBL are underscored by her extensive work and research in the field of African crafts. In 1961, Ms. Patch embarked on a comprehensive journey spanning 17 African countries, meticulously analyzing the state of African craftsmanship. The resulting report, divided into 11 detailed sections, offered a comprehensive overview of her findings, including insights into craft education, work products, marketing strategies, and the various individuals and organizations involved in the craft sector across Africa.

During her journey, Ms. Patch diligently documented her experiences through correspondence, photographs, and handwritten notes. Her letters, spanning from January to July 1969, provide a glimpse into the intricacies of her Africa trip, including discussions with officials from the US Embassy in Uganda and specialists in Madagascar. Additionally, photographs capturing Ms. Patch's interactions with locals during her travels serve as visual testimony to her immersive approach to research.

Ms. Patch's seminal work on African crafts did not go unnoticed. Her trip report was prepared for publication in various formats, including versions intended for Craft Horizons and UNESCO. Furthermore, her contributions were commemorated in tributes by esteemed figures such as Rose Slivka and James Plaut, further cementing her legacy as a pioneering force in the field of crafts. Through her dedication to research, documentation, and advocacy, Ms. Margaret M. Patch left an indelible mark on the global crafts community, embodying the ethos of exploration, collaboration, and cultural preservation.

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