Old-style apprenticeship programs had ceased to exist by the time I began my journey in craft. But I never would have fit into a traditional apprenticeship scheme. I wasn’t settled enough for the discipline or capable of listening to and grasping all the directions. So I picked things up in a helter-skelter manner, and instead of a master-apprentice relationship, I had a series of mentors and benefactors. They were people who understood that I absorbed things at my rate, and all of them found that I learned best through what I’ll call the buffet method of learning.
In the buffet learning method, knowledge is laid out for you to sample. Then, when you become spellbound by some item in the buffet, your patron feeds you additional knowledge that you gradually absorb, master, and incorporate. There is nothing ingenious about it. It’s just a practical method of transferring needed information so the student can absorb it.
There are disadvantages to the buffet system. One of the shortcomings is that there is no organization or pattern to it, which is why some things are hard to pass on through it as a system. But, eventually, you realize there are holes in your education and start backtracking to get what you missed. For me, it’s why my library has hundreds of books. But others may do well with classes at community colleges, craft schools, and the like.
Many people come to art and crafts as secondary vocations later in life. Even if vocational apprenticeships still existed, they would not be appropriate. Simarlily most are not going to apply to formal art programs at colleges. Instead, most will paste together a method of tuition that will be a combination of classes, books, videos, and mentorships – a buffet system of learning.
Formally trained artists can sometimes disparage people who have mastered their skills without formal training. But anyone looking at the broader world of arts and crafts over the centuries might see that the informally educated produced vast quantities of valued art and craft items.
If all that was available were that produced by art school graduates, the world would be an artistically impoverished landscape.
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