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apprenticeship, or crewing on a brigantine

updated tue 5 jan 10


Kelly Savino on sat 2 jan 10

Aw, Lili, leave the girl be. There's plenty of time later in life to worry =
about mortgages, vision and dental coverage, and career building.

When I was twenty-something, I was selling oriental rugs in Harvard Square,=
interviewing axe throwers in Oregon logging towns, sleeping in my truck at=
tractor pulls and rodeos, and camping alone in roadless Oregon wilderness =
areas. I was cooking for elk hunters on a wood stove in a cabin in the Blue=
Mountains and skinning their elk while they hunted. I was partying at Ken =
Kesey's farm, sleeping in his pasture next to the magic bus, making beadwor=
k and batiks, dancing at Grateful Dead shows and the Oregon Country Fair.

I only had a decade after undergrad to be free and independent, between my =
family of origin and my family-to-be. I followed folklore grant jobs from M=
aryland to Virginia to the Carolinas. I was documenting crabbers and oyster=
men, granny midwives and herbalists, coon hunters, moonshiners, boat buider=
s, Amish farmers and pound net fishermen. I never crewed on a Brigantine, b=
ut I spent a little time on a tugboat called Sampit between Southport and B=
eaufort, NC (Elizabeth's town.) They had a diesel cookstove, no lie. I reme=
mber the captain told the crew that I smelled awful pretty for a towboat, a=
nd they ought to roll me in the bilge if I was going to ride along and help=

I had a mud spattered 4wd Bronco with tape recorders, cameras and camping g=
ear in the back, surf rods and tiki torches tied to the roof rack, and a bu=
mper sticker that said, "Smith and Wesson: The Ultimate in Feminine Protect=

Single years with no possessions, no commitments and no long term plans wer=
e some of the most interesting years of my life, and will give me something=
to write about when I am old. Nannying and living on the cheap in Paris, a=
n improbable romance in Italy, street musicians in Amsterdam.

In 1989 I came home to Wilmington from an Independence day party with old O=
hio State buddies in Stone Mountain, Georgia -- (I had ridden through downt=
own Atlanta in the bed of a pickup, with a dead pig and a bottle of Jaegerm=
eister, and after the party found three bullet holes in my tent.) The funni=
est guy I knew in NC had just gotten a job offer in Texas, and on a whim, I=
went with him.

We've been married 20 years, now, in the same house in Toledo, Ohio, and ou=
r kids are 16, 14 and 11. It's a grand adventure and I wouldn't trade it fo=
r all the world. But I'm glad I had those years on my own between school an=
d responsible homeownership/parenthood/running on the employment hamster wh=

My college friend Leslie worked for months at a time on salmon cannery boat=
s in Alaska, living and eating aboard and wading knee deep in fish guts in =
rubber waders.. then she took her big fat paycheck and went to Europe, rode=
Eurail and traveled the youth hostels until the money ran out. And then ba=
ck to the fish to recharge the bank account.

Youth is for adventure, Lili. My advice: go now, while you can. Do whatever=
calls to you. There will be time enough for caution, diaper washing and co=
upon clipping, lawn mowing and snow shoveling. Get after it. It's a big wor=
ld and you only get a hundred years or so, this time around, if you're luck=
y and take care of the equipment.

Kelly in Ohio

p.s. Keep us posted on where you're thinking of apprenticing! It's probably=
like choosing a workshop: nobody will give you the dirt up front, in publi=
c, but you'll get some private off list warnings if you're headed for a dic=
ey situation. Take it all with a grain of salt and call your own shots. Go =
get 'em, girl. (website) (blog)

lili krakowski on sat 2 jan 10

Brenna: Happy New Year and may 2010 be generous to you.

I believe that "forewarned is forearmed" and that, while hoping for the =
best, one always prepares for the worst.=3D20

Are you prepared for an Apprenticeship?

You say you are 20, and a lawyer can tell you whether you can enter into =
a contract or not. MANY before you have gotten jobs while underage and =
been shafted because they were not of legal age to contract...A lawyer =3D
also will tell your about the merits of written contracts...

Do you have a way to make a decent living? Hand-to-mouth makes great =3D
movies, it is hell in real life. Can you earn a living should clay =3D
I never have supported myself by selling pots--I did by being a lab =3D
tech, teaching--and writing. Do you have an alternate skill?

All I have heard about apprenticeships has been dubious at best, awful =3D
at worst. A friend was apprentice to a wellknown (no, no one we know) =
potter. The agreement was free room and board, and a real teaching =3D
situation. The free room was in a converted and uninsulated shed; the =3D
food was miserable--heavy on baloney and white bread (NO! Not bread =3D
again!) and the teaching situation was cleaning the studio, wedging, =3D
doing all the dirty work. Fortunately my friend was well off--so she =3D
could buy herself proper food, etc.

It was one of my youthful dreams to crew on a brigantine. I visualized =3D
myself with a glorious tan, mouse-colored hair sunbleached gold, wearing =
starched white clothes and lovely espadrilles. (I did get as far as =3D
espadriles.) End of dream. Much later I met a young woman who had =3D
crewed on a sailing yacht--and her story was horrific. Overwork, =3D
exploitation, bad conditions, sexism [!] and so on....

It is the same with apprenticeship. If you are going to sign on for the =
trip, be sure you know all details. Loading and unloading trucks, =3D
washing floors and shelves, baby-sitting a kiln all night, and like that =
is not what you want. What are the time arrangements?

Also note:

1. Some famous potters have had terrible reputations as Masters. =3D
Details NOT supplied on request. It is much hushed up.

2. I do not know if apprenticeships come with Workmen's Comp, health =3D
and dental insurance. I do not know what arrangements are made for =3D
expenses such as new shoes, new glasses, entertainment, transportation. =
Check that out.

3. Here comes the heavy part.

You are 20. It would be wonderful if you were heiress to a large =3D
fortune, and never need worry about paying bills. But in all likelihood =
you are an average person who may/may not be able to count on =3D
parental/familial help for a couple more years--but then what?

If you want to go into any of the arts you MUST be able to earn a living =
in another career. (It used to be that clerks in bookstores, and many =3D
waiters in NYC either were actors, or poets.) You would be amazed to =3D
know how many artists, now world-famous, supported themselves for years =3D
at plumbing, waiting table, carpentry,hairdressing, bar-tending, office =3D
work and so on.=3D20

I KNOW that as soon as you suggest learning a useful trade, parents or =3D
similar will sigh and say:" Oh, thank goodness! She has come to her =3D
senses at last!". You and I (and all of Clayart) know you are not =3D
giving up your plans, only postponing them while arming for the battle =3D

My humble suggestion is that you spend the Summer and, if necessary =3D
more, learning a transportable skill. (A student of Hobart Cowles's, a =
woman, became a welder for a bus company to support her clay habit.A =3D
dancer friend was an office temp for years before success hit home.)

Then you can go off and apprentice, and wander the country visiting =3D
pottery studios--knowing you can pay your way. DO remember that =3D
setting up your own studio, even if it is a shared studio costs money. =3D
Clay is a costly occupation. One does not find a market instantly. I =3D
would guess it takes four or five years before you can hope to support =3D
yourself entirely with clay.

Many among us teach. Are/have been art or shop teachers in the regular =3D
school system; teach at colleges. I have no idea what that involves, =3D
how much studying you still would have to do...but the beginning of your =
career should be its financial underpinnings.

All the good luck in the world. Godspeed on your journey.

Lili Krakowski
Be of good courage

Maggie Furtak on mon 4 jan 10

As one who has both apprenticed and, yes indeed, crewed a Brigantine for a =
summer, I can heartily say, "Go get 'em tiger!"

As far as apprenticing goes, yep, expect to do some cleaning and heavy lift=
ing. There aren't many potters out there who can afford to take on an appr=
entice just out of the goodness of their hearts. But try to find an appren=
ticeship where you will be included in all aspects of the business, not jus=
t the grunt work. You want to learn how to do everything well.

When I did it I threw, trimmed, and glazed pots to help the boss meet produ=
ction deadlines. I photographed work, did data entry for the publicity mai=
ling list, and gallery sat. I mixed glazes, cleaned the studio, and delive=
red pots to galleries. I booth sat at craft fairs, did throwing demonstrat=
ions, and ran a children's clay class. We did raku, gas, and electric firi=
ngs. I was given run of the studio whenever I wasn't working with as much =
clay as I wanted and had free room and board. When I got strep throat and =
a fever of 104, my boss tended me like I was her own kid and paid my bill a=
t the doctor. Since she wasn't paying me, she found me a job at a local mu=
seum and some babysitting gigs so I'd be sure to have some money to enjoy m=
yself on the weekends.

I left feeling like I knew what was involved in just about every aspect of =
the pottery business. I felt much more secure about hanging my shingle aft=
er college as a result. Apprenticing is great with the right person. Go f=
or it.

-Maggie Furtak