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apprenticeships/pro's and con's

updated sat 22 jun 02


Longtin, Jeff on fri 21 jun 02

A few thoughts come to mind.

I was what some would call an apprentice for 6 years. I started working with
my high school ceramics teacher in my junior year. By then I had two school
years under my belt and had strong clay skills. My function was not so much
to learn from the potter as much as it was simply to work for him. A few
issues you might consider before you begin:

When I started working with my teacher I was a wheel thrower. I decided, for
aesthetic reason's that I would not throw his pots. As the shape of the pot
is the guiding aesthetic I thought it best that he throw his own pots. (If
people were paying for his work I thought people should be getting "his"
work.) After he threw the pot I did everything else. I trimmed the pots , I
did any assembly necessary, I waxed the pots and I loaded the kilns. He was
responsible for mixing the glazes, glazing the pots, and firing the gas

I was paid an hourly wage so I suppose I was not officially an apprentice. I
was, however, not paid very much. No health benefit's either. In exchange
for being paid tax-free I was given free reign over the studio. It took me a
few years to figure out this was not the ideal situation I initially thought
it would be. As I was pretty much working 30-40 hours a week making my
teacher's pots, anyway, I didn't have alot of energy, or time, to make my
own work.

When I started slip-casting my work a few years later I was forced to open
my own studio, molds take up alot of room, and any benefits of accessing the
high fire reduction kiln somewhat evaporated. (Initially I was slip-casting
white earthenware.)

The experience of working daily in a working production studio was great
fun. Although my skills, per se, were not improved as a result, the
experience did give me exposure to the clay "community" early on and that
was invaluable! I would just suggest, however, that you lay out the
compensation, if there is any, in a very clear and direct fashion. Assuming,
that is, that your apprentice is bringing some clay skills to the situation.

If your apprentice is coming in cold...well're a very generous

Debateable issue: As you are benefitting from the apprentice's help should
you not pay him or her compensation no matter what the skill level? Yes you
may need to show them how to "do" it but are you not also showing them how
to do it "your" way and therefore asking them to do it in a very specific
fashion?. (A definition of an employee is doing it in a specified way.)
(An Independent Contractor does it their way you just hire them for THEIR
specific skills, an employee does it your way you just hire them for their


Good luck

Jeff Longtin

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Dalton [mailto:sdpotter@GTE.NET]
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 10:30 AM
Subject: An Apprentice


Last night I was asked if I would be willing to take on an apprentice. I
told the person asking that I will consider this and let them know next
week. Here's what I'm asking...How many Clay Arters or potters you might
know have apprentices? How did you set this up? Also, What do you expect
from them and what do they expect from you? One more, probably the main
issue, how is it working out?
Steve Dalton
Clear Creek Pottery
Snohomish, Wa

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