The Story Thus Far…

by Kevin

I suppose a bit of background is necessary before I start talking about the particulars of the apprenticeship, or where I am in my Japanese metalworking practice – I’ve gone back and re-read the last few posts, and realized there’s a two-year gap to be filled. Again, I think most of you know the story because you follow my work on social media…but I don’t want to take any liberties with what I think people know. That isn’t very mindful to the future, and I don’t mind telling the story again.

Let’s see – my last posting about the work itself was in October 2014, just as I was getting ready to announce my first solo show. Long story short, it was a series of utsushi of some openwork tsuba, meant to introduce the general public to my work. I’m very fortunate to have friends that own a coffee shop in Toronto, and they support local artists by showing work in their gallery space – so off I went. The show went very well, I ended up selling every piece, and had some stimulating conversations with people coming from other disciplines that had never seen this kind of work before.

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Right around this time I was also becoming very dissatisfied with my day job. I’d been a production designer at a downtown graphic design firm for 14 years, and was starting to let myself be open to the idea of “moving on”. Sure enough, an opportunity came up at a high profile design firm…so I went through the interview process, and got hired relatively quickly (which was an ego boost that I really needed at that point – the new gig promised a very different role than I was doing currently, one that would make use of the seniority I had built up).

But as they say – when it rains, it pours.

Not 24 hours after I had been hired, I was having a conversation with Ford and he very casually dropped the invitation to apprentice with him. I missed it at first, actually. Then I scrolled back into the conversation thinking “wait, what?”.  I can’t remember exactly what transpired next, but suffice it to say that we chatted about things a bit more and I had to respond with a “conditional” acceptance.

Now, what is that, you might ask? Well, given that I was offered an opportunity to step away from graphic design (a field that I wasn’t being fulfilled by at that moment) to do a thing that I was growing to love, I was surprisingly unsure about what to do. I had just been hired for a new gig that would allow me to do many things I couldn’t at my old job, and (of course) it came with a substantial pay raise.  But when faced by a/ a thing you want as much or more, and b/ having to give things up to pursue it, I sometimes hesitate (well, usually is more apt). So the conditional acceptance was a deferment of sorts. We’d revisit the offer in a year (it ended up being a year and a half) – which would give me an opportunity to do as much as I could in the new design job, and feel better about walking away from a career that I’d sacrificed a lot to get into. For whatever reason, I couldn’t JUST let go – because of the immense investment of time, I felt that there were loose ends that needed to be addressed before I did.

Yes, I know it’s completely unnecessary. But we do funny things without the benefit of hindsight, don’t we?

And that’s it, really. I started the new job, got to work with some amazingly talented people and be part of some great projects. At the same time, I started pushing myself harder in the metalworking and produced some of my finest work to date. I entered the NBSK Tobunkyo competition in 2015 and 2016, placing very well both times.

Finally, things started to wind down for my life in Toronto around the time I was getting ready to travel to Japan to accept my award for this year’s competition. I received a notification from my landlord that I was required to vacate my apartment of 11 years, so that he could use it when he and his family moved to Toronto from Thailand. I took that as a sign – uprooting my life to move to England as an apprentice wouldn’t require much more than the uprooting of my current living arrangements. Plus, I was becoming more and more aware of the commitment I’d need to make in order for my work to make any appreciable advances in the future. The decision suddenly wasn’t hard to make.

Which brings us to the present. We’re now drawing to the end of September, and I’ve been technically homeless since the end of August. I spent a few weeks with my parents, then left Canada for rural New Hampshire, where I’m writing this. Ford will be coming over to teach a series of classes at Tannery Pond Forge then we’ll be heading back to England at the end of October, where we’ll be prepping and running a couple of classes for the folks in Great Britain/Europe.

Now you’re all caught up, dear reader – and I can move onto some more meatier topics.