What is the Way of the Apprentice?

I’ve been writing a lot lately on craftsmanship and the workshop.

Last time, you might remember I talked about how hard it can be to find a good teacher.

I also said teaching and learning are kinda difficult when it comes to some things like learning a trade or craft… in particular, something that has a significant hands-on component.

And I said that you need a mentor… someone who is more than just a teacher.

All of this means that what I call The Way of the Craftsman could also be called:

  • The Way of the Apprentice. 

I want to explore this some more and make some connections between learning and teaching and the workshop.

Now… as I keep pointing out, it’s hard being a teacher when you’re a craftsman. 

Information transfer is difficult. 

A classic example is master violin maker Antonio Stradivari. 

Stradivari’s secrets died with him and generations of violin makers have been scratching their heads ever since. 

What was it that made information transfer so difficult in his workshop? 

Was he just a grumpy bastard who wouldn’t share his secrets? 

I guess he could have been…

Or was there more to it than that?

Let’s unpack it.

In your workshop, you often have to be everywhere at once. 

Like God. 

The master craftsman is the one who has to gather in and process thousands of bits of information that often only he can see the point of.

If that’s you, it’s not hard to imagine that you’re a bit like a mad scientist in a laboratory.

Imagine if you were Stradivari… with a head stuffed full of information and the imprint of hundreds or perhaps thousands of hours of experience and learning only you can how to join the dots.

Here’s the thing though: as a craftsman, you are greater than the sum of your assistants.

And that’s at least one reason why it’s hard to teach what you know.

Or if the shoe is on the other foot, that’s why it’s hard to find a good teacher. 

Here are some questions to ponder as you go about your day:

  • Have you ever tried teaching what you know?
  • How do you pass on things like daring and innovation?
  • Will your secrets die with you?

And here’s something else to consider. 

  • Did you know that the first steam engine was built in a workshop, not unlike the studio of Antonio Stradivari?

It was only after this, near the beginning of the 18th century, that the workshop evolved into the modern soulless factory. 

And don’t even get me started on the modern soulless education factories.

There’s more on all of this in my eBook if you’re curious. Which now, by the way, comes bundled with my 50 minute masterclass on craftsmanship.

Check it out or read more below.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

Leave a Reply