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apprenticeship thoughts

updated sun 30 jun 96


Jonathan Blitz on sun 16 jun 96

Greetings Fellow Mud-Slingers!!!

I thought you might find interesting something that I recently posted
to rec.crafts.pottery. A college student posted some questions about
the topic, and I found myself overflowing with a little advice.

While I WAS an apprentice for two years, I did it part time (I was in
High School), and in retrospect I believe that it was pivotal in my
success in this field. I would give you the following advice:

1. Make sure that you really like the person you are apprenticing
for. I have an ongoing business partnership with the potter I
apprenticed for, and we really are the best of friends. Conversely, I
knew an otherwise very talented guy who was soured on production by a
bad apprenticeship experience, and went on to become a waiter because
of it.

2. Don't get exploited, and don't exploit anyone. This means that
the potter who you apprentice for has to provide you with reasonable
compensation for the time you work. Whether this is studio space &
instruction, or wages, is up to you. Don't work for free, but also
try to provide these folks with a decent level of responsibility.
Nothing is worse than a loser wannabe in this field. These kind of no
discipline dilletantes account for the dearth of apprenticeships in
most areas.

3. Choose the potter based on their success. I know that this sounds
pretty shallow, considering the number of amazingly talented starving
potters out there, but 90% of what I learned during my training was
the techniques of successfully operating an art based business. I
would suggest that there are sure alot of very well educated artists
out there who are not working in the art field ["you want fries with
that?"], because of inadequate training. I think you should find
someone who couples skill, artistic sensitivity, pragmatism, and a
flair for marketing their work. Do NOT under any circumstances work
with someone who seems frustrated. They don't have what it takes, and
they certainly can't show you either. I have seen too many of these
folks go under to count, and who wants that kind of bad taste in your

4. Don't get rebellious just for the sake of rebellion. Your work
will probably look like their's for a while. It should since you are
using the same clay, the same glazes, and are exposed to their work
all the time. Also, don't be offended if they steal a few of your
formal compositions or ideas. You should be flattered, and besides,
in 29,000 years of ceramic history no idea is truly original.

5. Honor the contributions of your mentor to your success. The
commitment that you are asking for from the potter you apprentice with
is enormous. This person, if they truly want an able apprentice, will
be training you in every aspect of their working method. They will
share with you all that they have learned, and involve you in their
livliehood. You often become as close to them as their family, since
they can't pass their skill on to their own children. I know that it
sounds corny, and often times an apprenticeship is not anything close
to what I have described, but the true apprentices often go on to
produce finer work than their master's. This no doubt is the plan
behind it.

Jonathan Blitz, President of Applied Aluminosilicates, Ltd.
8153 Big Bend St. Louis, MO 63119
Applications Engineering/Borosilicate Coatings

Putting the finishing touches on my new MFT!!!!