Image via Wikipedia

There is a lot of talk in the craft community about what makes one a “master_____.”  We hear about students, sometimes about apprentices, but no one talks about being a journeyman.  One does not simple take a class and then move from student directly to master.  There is an in between step, one where you travel from being an apprentice to being a master – journeyman.  Wikipedia has a wonderful description:

A journeyman is a trader or crafter who has completed an apprenticeship. A journeyman was a craftsman who had fully learned his trade and earned money but was not yet a master. To become a master, a journeyman had to submit a master work piece to a guild for judgment. If the work were deemed worthy, the journeyman would be admitted to the guild as a master.

This is the level I see myself at right now.  Yes, I will always be learning and taking classes, but I’m past the beginner phase of my career.  I teach now also.  But I know that I’m still not at master level.  I can see it in reach if I continue to put in the hours in my studio and keep pushing myself.  I don’t think that there is a specific number of hours (say 10,000 or 10 years) that will make me a master.  It’s the quality of my journey that will bring me to that level.

As yet untitled Collar VI ©2011 sterling silver, agate - This series of collars has helped to refine my soldering skills.

In this country, we don’t have one guild that judges us master.  The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen has a system of judging members work into “juried status.”  This is probably the most similar to what Wikipedia was talking about.  In Europe there are still places that will decide if you are a master metalsmith.  I know that I am not ready for that kind of judgement yet.  But I will continue to learn new techniques, practice and improve the ones I know, and hopefully progress down the path to master metalsmith.  Won’t you join me on my journey?

What about you?  Do you have a particular idea of what makes someone a “master” in your (or any) chosen field?  Is it truly just the number of hours one puts in or is the quality of the time spent as Lisa Call suggested recently on her blog?  Leave your opinion in the comments and keep the conversation going.

The Song Remains The Same

I was thinking the other day about tapes (that’s right, I said tapes!) that I got in high school and I still enjoy listening to.  In particular I was listening to Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden.  I thought about how sometimes we really enjoy listening to an album or a band for a short period of time, but then we either get sick of it or just forget about them.  I thought about what albums I still bring out on a regular basis and will probably continue listening to far into the future.

For many bands, the 90s grunge scene’s popularity let them rise to fame and then quickly fall out of favor when it ebbed.  Then there’s Pearl Jam.  They’ve managed to stay together and continue to make great music, even if it’s not played on the radio.  That’s because they were a good band to begin with.  It wasn’t about making music to fit a particular style, it was about making the music that meant something to them.  It just happened to coincide with what the world was primed for at the time.

Now you’re probably thinking, “This is a jewelry blog, what’s the deal with the whole music thing?”  (Or maybe, “Boy, she sure is stuck in the 90s.”)  My point is that if you remain true to yourself and make work that’s of high quality and craftsmanship, then it can last the test of time even if styles change.  If you tie yourself to trends just because they are popular, not because it fits with your design focus, then you’re doomed to always be chasing the trends to keep up.  As the trend is forgotten, so is your work.

I’m not saying that an artist can be ignorant of trends, or that trends can only cheapen your work.  Just take the time to create great work and make sure that while following the trend you are also working your voice into the piece.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but anything that’s worth something usually is.