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6043Re: On apprenticeships

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  • Norman L McKnight
    May 31, 2006
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      Perhaps the word apprentice is a stumbling block. I haven't read all
      of the postings on this, but I do know that the printing trade is no
      longer what it once was, & traditional "apprentices" are no longer in
      demand by printers. There are, however, still people who would like
      to learn the craft.

      I took printing as a shop elective in junior high school in 1949. I
      had to really start all over on my own when I finally got a press and
      decided to print. I did very well learning on my own. I am a careful
      worker, I have a keen eye for typographic form, for what combines &
      what does not, & I am highly motivated to achieve fine printing; but
      the difficulty of learning on one's own is that you have no one to
      put to rest bad habits or awkward procedures. I am still learning &
      unlearning even since 1994. This is ok in a private shop, but for
      someone who runs a commercial operation, or who has substantial
      commitment to a commission which must be done correctly & on time,
      it is just not possible to cut corners with experience. It is thus
      not hard to see why some experienced printers are reluctant to take
      on what are sometimes loosely called "apprentices."

      I have encouraged at least four people on this List in their first
      steps, or second steps. None of them became an "apprentice," but
      they all became good printers. This is because I gave what I could,
      but mostly they were self motivated & the successes they now have
      are largely their own; so my role was not as master/apprentice, but
      as friend/encourager.

      The "apprentice" that I now have will one day be heir to my library,
      icons, print shop, etc. So I expect he will have to learn how to
      use it, or else what good will the gift be? I think encouragement
      to all of the "newbies" so-called is an important responsibility of
      those who have experience; because it is not just the technical ex-
      pertise that we offer, it is the encouragement itself that counts.
      The "newbies" will ultimately have to fend for themselves anyway.

      I recall the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of Matthew ch. 13,
      where some of the seed fell by the wayside & was soon picked up by
      the birds & came to naught; some fell in stony places & having no
      good soil flourished briefly then withered away to nothing; & some
      fell in good soil & brought forth some an hundred fold, etc. It's
      as much up to the "newbies" to create the environment for learning
      as is it is for the teachers. Your learning will not come from the
      traditional "apprenticeship" environment which is contractual; it
      will come form many places, mostly your own.

      If you really want to print, you will find the way; & you will find
      that there are wonderful, generous people who will help you.

      Norman McKnight
      Philoxenia Press
      Berkeley
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