(based on notes by Anne Leclercq and John Vedel-Rieper)
World Crafts Council (WCC) was established in 1964 as a non-profit membership organisation. It was set up to promote an international interest in crafts and encourage contact between craftspeople of different countries.
Although WCC had been founded by an American, Mrs Aileen Vanderbilt Webb, and the secretariat was based in New York City until 1984, there was strong European involvement in both management and membership affairs from the beginning. The committee which guided the organisation in the early years included several European members. By 1974, when WCC celebrated its first 10 years at the 6th General Assembly held in Toronto, discussions were in progress about a new structure which would reflect regional commitment. This was implemented following the 7th Assembly in Oaxtepec, Mexico in 1976. Five independent regions were established - Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America . These were to come together, through their presidents, with the elected WCC President to form the Executive Board.
European members were already working in co-operation, as they had met in Oslo in 1973 to prepare for the first European Regional Assembly which took place during the General Assembly in Toronto in 1974. Two years later there was a second Assembly in Oaxtepec. A crafts conference was held in Cracow 1977 at which national delegates developed ideas for the European structure. This enabled the first European Board to be elected in Kyoto in 1978 after the bylaws of WCC had been ratified at the General Assembly. The first board consisted of 8 elected members:
One of the other European delegates in Kyoto was Elena Averoff, WCC Hellenic Section, who was President of WCC from 2000 until 2004.
The Board wished to establish a permanent organisation for WCC Europe to provide the basis for strong and regular collaboration within the Region. After much discussion and consultation it was agreed at the Assembly in Florence in 1979 to set up an independent secretariat funded by European members. Terms for regional membership were set out and an annual quota payment introduced, separate from the fee paid to WCC International. The scale of payment was based on a system which took into account the form and strength of each national entity as well as the economy and population of the country.
A secretariat was set up at South Woodford Road, London, UK, run by the European Excecutive Co-odinator Malcolm McIntyre Reid, formerly of the British Crafts Council. Among other activities the secretariat arranged the tour of the exhibition ‘The Bowl, and assisted with arrangements for annual meetings and the associated conferences and workshops.
The seventh European Assembly took place in Vienna in 1980 in association with the 9th WCC General Assembly – which proved to be the beginning of a difficult period for the whole organisation. The General Assembly in Vienna attracted 1500 delegates and the international conference with international workshop programme, studio visits and lectures was considered a great success. The costs, however, were considerable, and were unfortunately financially damaging to the Austrian WCC entity, the Austrian Crafts Council.
The founder of WCC, Mrs Webb, had died in 1979. Without her generous support it was no longer possible to maintain the level of international activity, nor could the headquarters to provide financial aid to the regions for their programmes. Despite this European activities continued through regional funding and the strong involvement of its entities. The European Assembly at which future policy is defined, has continued as an annual event since 1977. It remains a valuable means of reinforcing international co-operation between crafts organisations in Europe to achieve publications such as the WCC-Europe Directory and the list of Crafts Galleries. It also enables agreement on common action through projects such as Easycraft and the European Prize for Contemporary Design-led Crafts.