The Whys and the Wherefores
September 24, 2016
I’m writing this on the plane from Toronto to Boston, my third coffee of this still young morning cooling on the meal tray. This is the first moment in the last almost two months that I’ve been able to even think about relaxing.
I think by this point most people that are reading this already know about the events leading up to this moment, and of the events still unfolding as a consequence. But I still feel compelled to write it all down, for two reasons, mainly:
One, this is probably the biggest decision of my life. And it’s certainly the most CONSCIOUS decision I’ve ever made, where the goal is crystal-clear, and my actions can directly influence that goal. I think I owe it to myself to chronicle the whole experience as a way to keep myself on the path, and to maintain a level of mental clarity. I always feel more equipped to make decisions when the mind is clear (duh), and I’ve always felt “clearer” when I write everything down…something I’ve not done in a very long time. More on THAT lapse in a later post.
I also need to develop my writing again, even doing this post is proving more difficult than it really should be…
Secondly, this thing I’m embarking on is unique. Oh sure, goldsmithing apprenticeships still happen, and I enjoy reading about apprenticeship experiences. But the uniqueness lies in the discipline – nobody (not in even Japan) approaches the metalworking traditions in a “traditional” way. The notion of apprenticing in this kind of work hasn’t been done at least since the end of the Edo period – even the metalworking programs the Tokyo Art offer are only a glimpse into the techniques, by offering only a baseline of technical instruction. Apprenticeships and full-time craft studios force a curiosity about the work, provide the necessary time to learn the skills correctly, and invite innovation in order to stay ahead of the curve – so students and studios are critical to the rediscovery of these atrophied artforms.
To be blunt, even those of us that are “students” of Ford Hallam are only scratching the surface of what we need to know; dedicated, mindful work is crucial to relearning these skillsets. A few online tutorials and looking at photos of antique work on museum websites are NOT ENOUGH – we do what we are able, but to do this properly, we need to find a teacher and immerse ourselves in the work as an apprentice, deal with the steep learning curve and be prepared to give more than we might be prepared to. It’s like a question I was asked what seems like eons ago: “WHY do you want to make tsuba?”.
So it is this very particular necessity and unique situation that requires a chronicler. Much how my teacher has blazed the trail exposing this kind of work to the world, as one who has undertaken the challenge I humbly submit myself as someone who will attempt to shed a light on this thing that needs to be done.