Apprenticeship and “on the job training” in our trade has been
shrinking for many reasons… mainly because those who have the
and knowledge worth transferring - are hobbled by the laws,
regulations, expenses, and blizzards of paperwork.
In my case, the time involved for filling out the forms for social
security, unemployment, workers comp, and withholding income taxes is
only one barrier. The government agencies allow you to deduct the
bill for the accountant, but not if you do it yourself. You still
have to pay the accountant. (Another reason why I choose not to do
direct retail/collect sales tax - I simply refuse to be an unpaid
employee of the state slavery was abolished some years ago - let the
galleries and retail stores do it:) There is simply too much
I will lose money training someone while paying him or her wages. It
takes at least a year for a trainee to become skilled enough to break
even on wages. My personal work is an odd combination of specialties
within the trade and this may not be true for others?
Swapping training straight across for labor is frowned upon by those
same government agencies - because they don’t get a piece of the pie.
Plus, now you don’t have the same protection for yourself or the
apprentice that you have if you do the paperwork and pay the
government and insurance. And then there are always people who look
at this and say that you are “using the apprentice” when you don’t
If you are not paying wages, you can’t get the insurance. If there
is an accident and someone loses a finger or worse - it will come out
of your pocket. Can’t afford that either.
Instead, I teach - for money. It is a straightforward transaction.
You get so much of my time and skills for so many intensive days at
The disadvantages to this system would make this a very long post.
Here’s a few:
Too many people have adopted the “McDonalds mentality”. They want it
all right now! They want to be able to do it as well as that piece
that they saw at a show, on an Internet site or in a magazine. And
they want to be able to do it in a week or even less.
Hand engraving is a perfect example. I have students who go out
before a workshop and buy thousands of dollars worth of tools,
thinking that that and a couple days intensive instruction will make
them an engraver. They don’t want to learn to prepare the meal they
want to eat it NOW!
3 and 5 day workshops can NEVER really cover all there is to know
about a specific technique. If anyone tells prospective students
otherwise, they are lying to them. You’ll get the basics and then YOU
have to develop th= em on your own. Usually without supervision,
advice, or further guidance.
Cramming huge quantities of and trying to master the
hand skills in these short time frames leads to mental and physical
overload. You forget. You get tired. I try to remedy this with
copious printed notes of the workshop content - and an
informal/relaxed classroom, but it’s not always enough.
There is relatively little time to really practice a technique. Some
techniques require a few hundred hours to become competent.
Students learn at different rates. Forcing them or limiting them is
not an ideal situation.
We have come to utilize this method of teaching because it is
expedient" not because it is the best way. People have jobs and
families, travel, food, and lodging expenses, limited budgets,
time, and other obligations.
Lastly, finding the kind of apprentice that I want to invest my time
in is very very hard to do. I need someone who will be totally
immersed in the work. Someone slightly crazy, bent, like I am.
Someone who sits down to eat reading up on the subject. Someone who
grabs a trade magazine to read in the toilet. Goes to bed reading
more or watching instructional videos.
Someone who is constantly and never-endingly IN the work. 24/7
Practicing between jobs. Working 'till the wee hours when the work
calls for it or the skill needs to be acquired. Someone without much
of a life, like me…
If there are any SERIOUS contenders for such a position, just let me
know. Especially if you have some real solutions for some of the
problems listed above! I can promise you that you’ll have long hours,
little or no pay, and will invest at least a year more likely two -
your time. Willing to= do that? Willing to suffer a little? In
you will know how to perform competently EVERY skill used at the
average jewelry bench - 200% better than I can teach you in any
intensive technique workshop. You will graduate to a" real" job,
knowing enough and being skilled enough to guarantee your future. You
may even be the one who takes over my studios a few years down the
Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA