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Wondering about apprenticeships


#1

Hello Fellow Orchidians,

I was just wondering about apprenticeships and whether it is ever
possible to get one anymore. It seems they have gone the way of the
Dodos.

I have posted a few times here to see if there was any interest,
never received any type of reply. not once. I took the liberty to
contact all the jewelers and artisans in my area (Camden, ME -
Midcoast) and did a mailing. never a response. Then I called them
all, one by one. The response I got on the phone was “nope”, “not
interested”, one person told me they had “over $100,000 tied up in
their education and was not going to give it to me for free”, another
told me that his techniques are “secret”.

The approach I took as that I wanted them to know that I didn’t want
to just “take” but also wanted to “give” as I have a lot of
experience on the corporate side, for example I have been doing web
development on and off since the late 1990’s and would work to
develop/maintain a great website for them. I also have a lot of
Customer Services, Office Administration experience, etc. What I
basically wanted to do was barter in effect. that is, let me learn
your skill-set from you and in return I will do whatever I can do to
help you grow your business by putting my skill-set to work for you.
But I guess, that wasn’t too appealing to them and I just don’t
understand why. any thoughts? Anyone?

You see, I have always been involved in the arts in one form or
another my entire life. I always fell back upon this in lean times.
I have painted and sold work, I have silkscreened and sold T-shirts,
pen and ink drawings, made canes, tobacco pipes, I have done
photography and a whole host of other art forms as well. And then I
fell in love with jewelry design and fabrication when I started
putting metals on my canes. a way to make these beautiful little
sculptures out of precious metals and gems, well, I just fell in love
with it. It consumes me day and night. For me it is not a passion
now, it is a way of life as I know it is for many of you too or else
you probably would not be reading my pitiful little post. I do not
have the money to go to school or get a jewelry education for if I
did I would be there now. Thank God for Ganoksin/Orchid, were it not
for you guys I would know nothing except for trial and error. This is
why I tried to see if there were any apprenticeships, I thought it
may be a middle of the road way to learn the skills I so desperately
want (hunger?) to learn and in return I could try to use the skills I
have for mutual benefit for whoever was kind enough to “take me under
their wing”.

Anyway. I am not asking anyone for anything. I know no one owes me
nothing. I m just trying to understand. Is it because of the current
economy that jewelers are just not interested in apprenticeships? Is
it because the legal/business situation is not conducive to these
type of arrangements anymore? Oh well, I will forge on. I learn
something new every day. I will not stop ever. my path is clear. I
will be a maker of beautiful things one way or the other as this is
my destiny and the path I have chosen for myself. but boy, it sure
would be nice to be able to learn and work with/for someone who
knows so much more than me!

Thanks for your time and if you have any thoughts please let me know
what they are?

Kind Regards,
Rick


#2

Rick,

Pity you had no luck in Camden, and a few rude replies to boot.

Here’s the problem. There is nothing in it for the jeweler. If he
takes you on, invests his time and money, what keeps you from bolting
out the door once you think you know what’s what? What keeps you from
opening a shop across the street from him? Seriously, it happens.

Also, employers don’t really want employees who are consumed with a
passion. They want worker bees who will tirelessly do the same
monotonous work day in day out, so they don’t have to. Oh and jewelry
designers don’t really want to hire workers who want to BE designers.
You’d be stepping on their toes, They are the designer, not you. It
might seem like silly insecurity but its also business acumen. Why
should he train his replacement in the market?

As far as trading skills…if you were an established web developer
with an ongoing business concern, he might feel it a fairer trade,
pro-level for pro-level.

You might fare better if you get yourself some basic skills, and
look for an entry level job with a manufacturer. Once you’re in, look
at what’s needed for the next level and learn that. In Maine that
might be tough, in New York maybe easier when times get better. I
would suggest that at some point you specialize.

But a formal apprenticeship? I don’t believe it exists in the US.


#3

I wish you good luck in your quest. Fortunately, thru a local
business that I buy silver etc. From, I have made great friends.
Most are silversmiths and their skills vary in form. Any questions I
had they answered. I didn’t expect them to stop and show me. Though I
did show them my results and they would critique it. That is how my
"apprenticing " went, and I am still learning. So keep positive. Ya
never know when you will get lucky.

Trish


#4

The older you are the fewer opportunities there are. You want 'them’
to teach you; they don’t want you to teach them. The attitude you’ve
expressed in your email is not conducive to gain entry. Last resort
show up in person on an ‘off’ day; an ‘off’ day for the store. Short
and brutal!

KPK


#5

I have been following your interest in getting an apprenticeship but
the first posts I saw were asking for an apprenticeship in your
region so I didn’t reply. I have trained many apprentices, the past
few right off Orchid, one came to me from as far away from Tucson as
London. I am here in Tucson and would love to have someone with your
skill set trade me for my knowledge. If you are interested you may
contact me off list, [pataniajewelry at gmail dot com]

You may investigate my credentials by googling my name, sam patania.

Sam Patania
www.bahti.com


#6
Im just trying to understand. Is it because of the current economy
that jewelers are just not interested in apprenticeships? 

Rick, America hasn’t had much true apprenticeships since the
Declaration of Independence. That’s not a joke - in the beginning we
emulated England, then things changed. Getting work in jewelry is
only a bit more difficult that getting any other work. The person
needs to have genuine skills, is the biggest difference. You’ll get
much advise on this, no doubt, but I’ll put out a few thoughts.

You need to have genuine skills - nobody’s going to take on a
dreamer. I’m not saying great skills, but you need to have a start.

Don’t go to jewelry stores, go to manufacturers. Jewelry stores by
and large don’t make jewelry, they sell it and might have a
setting/sizing bench in the back. Manufacturers are nondescipt brick
buildings set out of the way, but they are there. I can’t name off
the small ones as there are many, but Tiffany and their like are
manufacturers. The suppliers to Stuller and to some degree Stuller
itself are manufacturers. Someone with 2 goldsmiths is unlikely to
hire a trainee, someone with 25 jewelers just might if you have
potential.

Don’t mail letters, don’t make phone calls, go and knock on the
front door. This is good advvise for any job that’s not corporate.

Don’t call yourself an apprentice. Tell them you are looking for
entry level work. An apprentice is a student looking for a free
ride, in many American’s view - see the first sentence again.

Nobody cares where you went to school and they certainly don’t care
that some jewelry show let you display there. What they care about
is if you can set baguettes straight. A paper resume isn’t exactly
useless, but it’s results that they will want.


#7

Hello All,

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of those who responded
to my post, both online and offline. You all are so kind and generous
with your comments, suggestions, and insights. And yes, with your
encouragement too.

Thanks especially to Mr. Patania whom I responded to offline. Thanks
also to Susan on a little island off the coast of Maine who was so
kind to offer me some books with which I can gain knowledge, like I
said Susan, I can’t wait to “devour” them!

The honesty and insight were great, brutal yes (ouch) but great.
After all, one cannot effect change without knowing what one needs to
change. The knowledge that you all have in this area and your
subsequent comments forced me to look through the eyes of the
jeweler, the prism he sees through. I guess I was a bit “myopic”.

I know now that I am not alone though. I received many offline
responses from others who had the same dreams and aspirations of
gaining an apprenticeship, the same hunger for knowledge, the same
desire to learn the craft that I have but never really vocalized it,
at least not in this forum I guess. I know we will persevere though,
all of us, because our desire to create just can’t be quenched by
simple words alone. From the time when the first cave man put his
finger in the muddy earth and dragged it along the walls of some
cave, he knew instinctively that he just HAD to do this. And so do
all of us, and so we will.

Kindest Regards,
Rick
threeangelsforge.com


#8

It is sad that a country like the USA does not have a body like the
Goldsmith’s Company here in the UK. A body that can set
apprenticeship programs and perhaps help with funding like our
Goldsmith’s Company will. If you would like to read more about our
system please check out this link;

It describes how the Goldsmith’s Company encourages indentured
apprenticeships and also helps with the wages of indentured
apprentices. Providing that the Master has gained the Freedom of the
Goldsmith’s Company and depending on the age of the apprentice and
the length of training involved, the company will give annual funding
throughout the term of the apprenticeship, payments over five years
that can total over 50,000 dollars. When a goldsmith had served an
indentured apprenticeship authorised by the Goldsmith’s Company, they
have to make their " Masterpiece" which is shown to the Prime Warden
of the Goldsmith’s Hall at a ceremony where the apprentice completes
the indentured term of apprenticeship and is made a Freeman of the
Company.

When I completed my apprenticeship this was my “Masterpiece” ;

During my career I have actually trained three apprentices, two
completed their indentured terms but one gave up after six months as
he was not really happy with the low wages, he became a cab driver
instead of a goldsmith.

I also trained an ex college student for about a year, but after he
had gained some workshop experience he left us and went back to
college as a teacher. He is now head of a design technology section,
teaching silversmithing and jewellery design and manufacture at one
of our best UK Colleges.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG


#9

Rick

This is my first post, and have been reading Ganoksin for a month
now. You’re post particularly struck a chord bc I too have been
wondering the same thing. I have not attempted to get an
apprenticeship position at all because I wanted to read as much as I
could to see if it’s even possible to secure. My approach to making
money through jewelry design and fabrication changes daily. Should I
learn as much as I can through classes (I attend classes at a local
museum so it is much cheaper than going to a jewelry school)? Should
I continue to sell pieces on commission? Should I approach boutiques,
museums and other stores to sell my jewelry? Should I try to get an
apprenticeship job? Right now I am selling through wearing my
jewelry, word of mouth and commissioned pieces. I believe time will
tell, and eventually my next step will present itself.

Rick, I do have some food for thought below…

Have you thought about different approaches? For example, you said
you called these jewelers one by one. Have you tried to approach
them in person? Maybe work on a few pieces and perfect them to the
best of your ability. I’m sure you already have some wonderful
design ideas in your mind, try these out on your own with the
skill-set you already have. After you finish these pieces, bring
them to the jewelers and artisans and SHOW them. This may benefit
you in a few ways. It will prove to them you do have some skills (so
they won’t have to start from square one with you), and they may
love your creative side as far as design. Your creative designs
could be something they could monetarily benefit from while helping
you on the fabrication side. Have you showed them some of the work
you have already done? I think it is harder to be turned down in
person.

I could be totally wrong, but the skill-set you listed they could
get at a much smaller cost. For example customer service or office
administration can be very cheap, website design is fairly
inexpensive, and a lot of people can do that on their own. And I am
not only referring to money, I am referring to the cost of giving
away years of learning their secrets (or $100,000 in education) to
someone they don’t know for “free”. However if you go to them in
person and present it in a way that you could be a team, that you do
have something as far as jewelry skills and design skills to offer
them, maybe you would have more luck.

I would love to hear what the fellow orchid members have to say!
Could Rick’s approaches be tweaked? Would my approach possibly work?
Should he even attempt to get an apprentice position? What are some
of your stories?

Desperately awaiting some generous feedback,
Colleen Paul-Hus
www.colleenpaul-hus.com


#10
Here's the problem. There is nothing in it for the jeweler. If he
takes you on, invests his time and money, what keeps you from
bolting out the door once you think you know what's what? What
keeps you from opening a shop across the street from him?
Seriously, it happens. 

I disagree. I have had several apprentices. Wouldn’t bother me a bit
if they opened their own store near by. I am very proud of what my
apprentices have learned and I have benefited from their labor and
camaraderie while they were with me.

But I think there is a very nostalgic idealized vision of what an
apprentice/master relationship should be that may in many cases
brand the would-be apprentice as not seeing things especially as they
are in the “real world”. Ask for a “job” rather than an
apprenticeship and I think that more potential employers ill take you
seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of apprenticeship. But there
is no strict sense of what this means anymore in our trade here in
the US. In my case it means doing my grunt work for low wages while I
teach you what I know. I am not sure if trading work for tuition is
even legal in this country. Not that I object personally, but lots of
people seem to think it is their business to dictate fair employment
terms that could make this a problem. Try to get a job. More like
what we do today.

Good luck,
Stephen Walker


#11

Rick,

I find your post very interesting as I have been looking for an
apprenticeship for after my contract with my current company is done.
I did a small apprenticeship over a summer after college and I found
it very informative as well as exhausting as I would go every day
after work so I was in the end putting in around 70 hours a week
between work and the apprenticeship, I didnt mind though as I
enjoyed the work. I also find your post very interesting as there is
the discussion going on about university vs. apprenticeship going on
at the same time. I have even started looking in europe but I am too
old for the apprenticeships there. I think it has been stated before
but taking on and also being an apprentice is hard as no one knows
what they are getting. As an apprentice my biggest worry is how will
I pay bills and eat. If I would have quit my job and worked at the
studio all day every day I would have been extremely happy and would
have learned more, but I would not have been able to eat or pay my
loan bills. In american sadly we do not have any form of set system
for apprenticeship in the whitesmith trades. All I can say is keep
trying, find a smith in your area whos work you really like and just
start showing up, get to know them on a personal level or just bug
the crap out of them enough that they finally cave in and take you
on as an apprentice.

Alex


#12

probably opening a can of worms, but as the child of veterans and
the mother of a vet and one active military in afghan, I think I can
get away with it. American has failed not only in training, but in
education in general… I can get up on a soap box and go on for
hours about practically every branch we have failed our citizens in,
however we the people have been complacent in allowing it, it is
sad, a lot of people are left to fend for themselves all their life
with no help medically or financially here, yet nothing is done,
because we elect the ones who do nothing, we’ll see what happens with
this elected group, but I’m not holding my breath. We used to have
JTPA, which helped in the hiring of welfare recipients, where the
employers got tax breaks and funded to an extent, but now, they get a
tax break only if I am correct. I have a daughter who moved home this
month because she is a disabled vet whose job ran out the very week
we had gone up there to see her. I have 3 boys One in Afghanistan, I
haven’t heard from in 3 weeks (the news is a no no here right now),
the reason he resigned is due to lack of jobs, the other 2 are also
unemployed one having lost his job because of cut backs and the
other because the company went under after the stock scandal. Its bad
here for certain folks. nuf said. this is an outlet I could not
survive without, I only wish one of them would take up an interest,
but they haven’t. So anyone out there selling right here in USA is
lucky, not just gifted. I have seen companies come and go where I am,
the usual one year prediction isn’t the norm anymore, they go under
within 6 months, everyone is cautious and not making the large
gambles in business. scary

Deb
sneezingh head off in dreary Texas weather


#13

Come to Australia, we even have a special category of
apprenticeships for “mature” students. For some trades anyway,
probably not jewelry. You could become a plumber though ;-).

Hope


#14

Check any job hunting advice site, and they do NOT recommend either
e- mail or telephone for contact. You can do either or both of those
for follow up, but the initial contact should be either mail or in
person; preferably in person. You might phone first to set up an
appointment.

Go by each place you are interested in first, just to visit - check
out the work on display, the atmosphere. Observe the interaction
with employees and customers. Is this a place you would be
comfortable working for? Do YOU fit their “look”, their “style”?
Think about this both in terms of what you do/want to do and how that
fits in with what they are displaying, and in terms of the store’s
image. If you are into Goth and the store is very chic, elegant
high-end then you will have to change your look to fit in - do you
really want to do that?

Make sure they are displaying work they created that shows mastery
of the skill sets you are wanting to learn/practice. Not every
jeweler or shop does every type of technique. Some have a narrow
focus, some wider. Take the time to check all of that out first.

Also get an idea of what their busy days are, and be sure to avoid
them when you come for a formal call. Remember - the customer is
their priority, not you. Even if you have an appointment, if a
customer needs them you need to be willing to step aside and wait
patiently, without getting bent out of shape. The customer pays the
bills, not you!

When you do pick a place that you think fits your needs, and you
feel you would fit, be sure to dress in a way that will fit the store
image when you go in. Again, some places will be fine with jeans,
some will want a more tailored appearance. Doing your homework
matters - you only get one first impression!

Have a neatly typed resume, corrected for grammar and spelling. Do
NOT go in for fancy colored paper and glitz - it is the substance
that counts.

I know some of this seems basic, but you would be amazed at the
people who apply for jobs while dirty, wearing clothes with holes, or
frayed, or showing inappropriate (for a business setting) skin;
chewing gum; sucking life savers; etc. Real turn offs!

Good luck, persevere, and don’t be afraid to ask, if you aren’t
given a job or apprenticeship, if they would be willing to give you
tips to improve your approach at the next place.

You might also see if there are any schools in your area that teach
metals that might need a teachers assistant (paid or unpaid). Might
be a way to get more training and experience and improve your
chances at what you really want.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
http://www.bethwicker.com


#15

Hi Rick,

One of the reasons you can’t find an apprenticeship is probably that
a company that might have taken you on before, now has to have
someone that can produce immediately. In the current economic
climate, there is no time for a learning curve, you must produce a
profit for your employer NOW, not three years from now.

Another factor may very well be your location. The New Hampshire
White Mountains and central Maine are where I started my jewelry
career, and I learned quickly that the tourist trade is good, but the
price points they look for are generally low. The locals will fork
over for a high-end snow machine, but their jewelry needs and desires
are minimal. In order to make anything more than a minimum existence
living in the jewelry business in coastal Maine, a company must foray
out into the bigger world. That’s why the Camden area is so strong in
wholesale designers. The wholesale jewelry manufacturing trade is run
on very thin profit margins. An apprentice tends to be a lot more of
a drag on productivity than an asset and it can take years to see a
return on the investment. Apprentices break things, need constant
attention and training and also need an appreciable investment in
tools. It is also a requirement of the law that they be paid, and
there are a lot of other costs associated with employees that are not
usually considered by the prospective apprentice. It requires a
sizable investment to take on an apprentice. An apprentice can
actually cost more than a wholesale manufacturer’s net profit in a
year, even a good sized company.

It has also become quite common for an apprentice to leave as soon
as their skills get to the point they are marketable. There is a lot
of talk these days about the deterioration of company loyalty to
their employees, but I can assure you that the disintegration of
company/employee loyalty is a two-way street. A company’s investment
in an apprentice is just not worth it any more when weighed against
the risk. Why should I spend three or four years to train you, buy
you tools, fix your mistakes, teach you all the tricks of the trade I
spent a lifetime learning only for you to turn around and leave for
$4 an hour more at the very time you start to become profitable to
me, probably to join one of my competitors. Ain’t gonna happen.

I take on apprentices, but I am extremely picky about who I take on.
Joe Gibbs, an exceptionally successful businessman in pro football
and NASCAR racing once said “Hire character, train talent”. That’s my
outlook on the subject. I hire only people I know or that come to me
from people I know and trust implicitly. My selection process is
based on personal character and work ethic. I’ll dump you in a heart
beat for the slightest infraction of my very strict rules. Fired my
own son for being late (I hired him back, but he didn’t know that I
would, and his tardiness disappeared as a result). Most people would
not stand for the treatment and high standards they sometimes get
here. But this is the way the old apprentice system worked. An
apprentice needs their master far more than the master needs an
apprentice, and that train of thought has all but disappeared from
the modern workforce.

If I’m asked about a benefits package or anything along the lines of
"what am I going to get out of the deal" during the apprentice
interview process, the interview is over. The prospect needs to find
someone else to work for. They obviously don’t understand the
apprentice system. Far too many people nowadays seem to be of the
opinion that the employer owes them something and is there primarily
to provide them employment and benefits. This attitude is completely
incompatible with the apprentice system. The risk of being sued by an
employee for things that used to be standard practice in an
apprentice program have made the entire system untenable. This is
why there are no formal apprentice programs left. It’s a result of
the law of unintended consequences. Some might think this is a good
thing, but in my humble opinion, it’s a damned shame.

All this being said, my apprentices are repaid for their loyalty,
hard work, initiative and selflessness. Ask them if they intend to
leave any time soon. They have learned the value of the old-fashioned
work ethic, the true meaning of loyalty and the personal job
satisfaction that comes from them. There is far more to be learned
during an apprenticeship than just gaining jewelry skills. If that’s
the only objective, that’s what schools are for. When my apprentices
become journeymen, they have built themselves a home and have earned
the privilege to be a part of the team. The privilege mind you, not
the right. My graduate apprentices understand the difference, or
they wouldn’t be here. No one has the right to be a part of this
team, not even me. We are all here at the discretion of our
customers.

These are some of the reasons why you can’t and probably won’t be
able to find an apprenticeship. I know you bring valuable skills to
the table Rick, but the sad truth is that those skills are available
on the open market for far, far less than what it would cost to take
you on as an apprentice. It is also the truth that while you are
doing those things, you aren’t doing the things a master needs an
apprentice to do. Things like cleaning the dust collector, sweeping
the floors and fetching lunch.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you did ask.

By the way, both my current apprentice and journeyman have
university degrees and started out at minimum wage sweeping floors
and worse. And they did so smiling, ear to ear, just happy to get a
tryout for a place on the team. That’s why I took them on. That’s why
they’re still here too, by their own choice. They made the team.

Dave Phelps
precisionplatinumjewelry.com


#16

Formal apprenticeships in the US are few and far between. I actually
went through one with a European trained master goldsmith 30 years
ago. I sig= ned documents that made me his indentured apprentice for
4 years. It was a formal apprenticeship that was certified by the
State. At completion I received a diploma. For me it was great but
honestly, I could have learned just as much without the
"apprenticeship". And nobody has ever asked to see my diploma (I
don’t even know where it is anymore), people only care about what I
can do. The thing is that it really is meaningless unless the person
training you is both very skilled and willing and able to teach…
It’s very conceivable that you could go through an actual
apprenticeship and not be very good at the end. My point is that what
you’re looking for are skills rather than an apprenticeship. Forget
the apprenticeship, what you need is a job in a busy shop.

You need to have a few things in order to land a job in a good shop
(besides good communication skills, giving honest answers and think
about taking the 16mm ball stud in your tongue out before the
interview). One is you need lots of natural ability, be good with
your hands, mechanical, artistic and able to make what you imagine
(not just talking about jewelry here). Another is you need some basic
knowledge of the tools and processes in the shop, you need to have
used them before (take some classes, self educate). And lastly you
need to be someone they want to work with, someone that they see as
willing to do whatever work they need done, not just willing but
enthusiastic about doing the work.

It’s people that work hard every day, get their work done well and
pitch in to help their coworkers that earn the right to be shown new
things…

Good luck,
Mark


#17
teach you all the tricks of the trade I spent a lifetime learning
only for you to turn around and leave for $4 an hour more at the
very time you start to become profitable to me, probably to join
one of my competitors. 

Nearly every single person who has ever approached me about
apprenticing has made the same statement during interviews- “Someday,
I’d like to have my own shop”. At this point, the interview is over,
and my decision has been made. From earlier experiences, I have
learned not to break that rule. Sometimes, depending how receptive
the individual may be, I will tell them why their ‘own shop’ just
killed their chances, but the majority are so wrapped up in their own
wants that they fail to realize who controls the purse strings of the
future. And I always hear the ‘will work for free’ thing as well, but
law and liability simply does not allow that situation. And wait till
our current Washington crew gets done with things. I probably won’t
be able to afford myself, let alone additional employees.

EdR


#18
By the way, both my current apprentice and journeyman have
university degrees and started out at minimum wage sweeping floors
and worse. 

David brings up what is important to remember - it’s the nature of
forums that everything is in sound-bites.

I got my first jewelry job as a polisher and grinder in a start-up
turquoise jewelry manufacturer. Nobody really knew what they were
doing, but they did a million in the first year. Sheer luck on my
part, plus I rode that tiger, too.

Saying, “I want an apprenticeship” in the US might be a bit ambitious
for some. Getting your foot in the door in any way is often a good
start. Also as David says, it’s all about merit - nobody cares
where you went to school or how fluent you are in ArtSpeak. Start by
pushing that broom, figuratively anyway. And if you have what it
takes, it will show and the rest will be history… Perspective in
all things - I’m very, very good at what I do, but in my last job I
worked with someone who’s ability made me look like a child. Nothing
like a little humble pie to make you try harder and learn more…


#19
My point is that what you're looking for are skills rather than an
apprenticeship. Forget the apprenticeship, what you need is a job
in a busy shop.

While I absolutely agree that learning skills is much more important
than the paper, an apprenticeship does have some good value when it
comes to marketing your work and establishing your credibility. The
public likes to see craftsmanship as an old fashioned thing. People
really eat up all that “lost art” rap. Jewelry is an emotional
product. Telling your story of how you got into it and how you
learned, if well told, adds a perceived value to what you are doing.
“Apprenticeship” speaks of an old fashioned passing on the the art
and mystery of the craft. Some people are fascinated by artists and
have very idealized visions of how they live. If you can
authentically be the person they hope you are, go for it!

Stephen Walker


http://www.celtarts.com


#20
My point is that what you're looking for are skills rather than an
apprenticeship. Forget the apprenticeship, what you need is a job
in a busy shop. 

My experience is somewhat unique, somewhat not, but maybe people
will find it useful…

At 19 I needed a job. After applying as a burgler alarm installer I
saw and ad in the paper for a grunt worker in a new jewelry shop -
silver and turquoise in Albuquerque, NM. On the strength of having
taken a university jewelry class (useless class - in particular, not
the whole system), summer sessions of lapidary, and toodling around
on my own, I was hired as low man on the totem pole. Our job was to
create unique and artful jewelry - within the genre, but we had
complete artistic freedom and that was policy. They WANTED us to
experiment.

I could go on about the drudgery and the paying-of-dues but you all
can imagine that well enough. Two years after I was hired into that
lowly spot I made a large inlaid concha belt that sold the next day
for $10,000 at auction. My first fringe necklace - turquoise and
silver - sold for $6,000 at another incarnation of the same auction.
People were coming in and asking if there was new work by me…
We were pumping out Laloma-style bracelets by the handsful. Lots of
stuff…

The thing is partly the work - going into a place where your job is
to make jewelry, whether you are trained or not in the process. The
main part is the machine behind you during all of that. You make it,
somebody else sells it and it just never ends - “We need more
jewelry…!”