Sylva Spoon

30 Things I Learned While Apprenticing

Thomas Bartlett1 Comment

My Apprenticeship By The Numbers

  • Miles driven: 4,000
  • Eggs eaten: 123
  • Bowls turned: 15
  • Time spent in meetings: 24
  • Trees felled: 1
  • Bandaids required: 2
  • Songs endured: far, far too many
  • Instagram Posts: 43
  • Things sawn in half: 2

Four months on, and I've finished my apprenticeship at Woodspirit Handcraft. I'm back in Madison, making things for myself again. I am supremely glad to have had the opportunity to take this apprenticeship. Seeing how a fully functioning craft business runs, learning new skills and having a few laughs along the way. 

Until taking the apprenticeship, I've been entirely self taught. Time and time again I've read or heard the importance of receiving high quality instruction. I saw the wisdom in that, but never acted on it. There is a lot one can achieve alone. However I think it's the rate at which one learns that is most impacted through instruction. I feel like my work is evidence of both what one can achieve alone and through working under high quality supervision. 

I've written a post for (I think) every day I spent at Woodspirit Handcraft. I wrote them for myself more than anything. I wanted a record of all the things I did. I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast (normally it's oatmeal, one banana and a dollop of peanut butter thrown in) so I knew I'd easily forget lessons taught to me four months previously. It seems that many people enjoyed following my adventures with Jarrod. Thanks to everyone that took the time to comment, email or in some way let me know they were enjoying the blog. I don't think I'll continue writing daily posts - my normal life just isn't that interesting - but I want to write a weekly update of what I've been up to or thinking about. 

Before that, I thought it would be nice to reflect upon my time with Jarrod and Jasmin at the Sunshine House. Here, in no particular order, are 30 things I learned while apprenticing:

  1. Having a teacher helps
  2. Wood is weird - Cracking, drying and warping oh my
  3. Blacksmithing is kinda scary - But exciting
  4. Form matters
  5. Repetition is key success
  6. You can probably make it a bit thinner
  7. The inside and outside of a bowl are two separate beasts
  8. Pole lathe hooks are complicated
  9. Small mistakes make a big impact - Bumps and uneven lines can easily make a great design average
  10. Sketching is a much quicker way to play with designs
  11. I like repetitive tasks
  12. Craft is important
  13. I can have the same meal as dinner or lunch for a week and not be bored by it
  14. Sludge Metal is a thing - just not my thing
  15. Have a plan - Stick to it as best you can, but accept that it probably won't go the way you want it
  16. Woodwork for business and woodwork for pleasure are two entirely different things
  17. Not all tools need to be razor sharp - Especially if you have strong hands
  18. Anvils are very bouncy when you miss what you're supposed to hit
  19. Snow tires help
  20. Good wood makes making easier
  21. Power tools and sandpaper both have their place
  22. Having a systematic approach - to both craft and business - is essential
  23. Working to a deadline makes sure sh*t gets done
  24. 'Within tolerance' exists for all things
  25. The reward of a thing well done is doing it - Being able to then sell it is also nice
  26. The BP station on US-8 in Tripoli will give you a free coffee if you get petrol there
  27. People love owning handmade things
  28. Indigo refers more the plants the dye was obtained from than the colour itself
  29. Critique ideas, not people
  30. If you do it full-time, you have to enjoy it