Summa Inter Mediocria



Before craft training with tools begins are start with Archimedean principles teaching the trivium; rhetoric, logic, grammar. We also expect punctuality, respect and politeness.

THE ETHOS OF OUR CRAFT TRAINING. Students of a craft should learn by cultural experience; serving as apprentices and learning by watching, doing, imitating, working. The master craftsman, acting as role model, teaches and explains his art in a, do as I do fashion to his apprentices. Master / apprentice relationship where the subject is taught by examples includes many people who have the kind of thinking the craft needs but academic teaching doesn’t suit, after all we are teaching a practical subject even at the highest levels. Formalized learning (that is, reading and analysis) can be very demanding to some; practical learning can help balance book lessons by activity and involvement. Exposure to hands on work has value and benefit as well because it stimulates interest and inquiry at times when formalized learning may overload the students capacity to take in knowledge.

Cloister boss from south walk, Norwich Cathedral.

Unfinished copy of boss carving by a first year apprentice.

I find actual experience valuable for a number of reasons.
1) as a result of their observing me work, apprentices very naturally ask probing questions; through our question and answer exchanges, they develop greater understanding of the craft.
2) my working seems to have a contagious effect; for apprentices are always eager to watch some actual activity, then try it themselves.
3) by seeing that I can produce as well as explain the craft, I am firmly establishing my credibility, a step which results in my receiving more respect and developing better rapport. Apprentices learn by imitation and therefore it is important for teachers to establish their personal credibility and set forth quality examples. To summarize, the imitation of steps, the questioning, the verbal exchange of opinions and ideas are all crucial to the learning process and cannot be captured with just book learning alone. In my teaching, the Master/ apprentice or guild system can become both a subject of study itself as well as a model for learning and producing work. This give the apprentice a feeling of being part of this history. As I introduce the concept of the guild, I will teach my apprentices about its origins, history, purpose, and its vocabulary. From that start we will move into creating the guild experience, in which apprentices will create by stimulation, encouragement, and interaction. The objective of this lesson is to have apprentices:
1) experience learning by doing; 2) to experience the pride in creation of doing substantial quality work; and 3) develop a greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the crafts person and their crafts and for the business concepts, ideas and practices that they need to establish. 4) to build a muscle memory as a repetition of 2500 executions are needed to instil fluency of action in each skill. Students and apprentices look for experience in their master and someone to look up to not in a childish way but in a human way where the very experienced craftsman is seen to be fallible, they learn a huge lessons so often untaught, 1) when to say “I don’t know” and show this is normal and not a weakness but a strength, 2) the use of the masters greatest asset, the network of other craftsman, friends and colleagues who have, and happily share their experience within their craft 3) you are always learning and never know it all. The connection between master and apprentice creates a life long bond where learning continues and eventually travels both ways, I continue to teach my apprentices and others long after their qualification, this is the continuation of the connected training that I was lucky enough to have. A Restored Oil Painting?   'There comes a time in the life of all old cities when the city fathers should form a coalition government to decide whether their city is to preserve its ancient beauty or to become a second Leicester or a little Birmingham. Norwich, it seems to me, has reached this point. In fifty years' time Norwich will either not be worth looking at or it will be one of the most beautiful old cities in England. Few cities possess so many complete streets or half-timbered houses, some medieval, some Tudor - most are disguised by ugly Georgian plaster, which, if scraped off, would reveal the old red-brick and oak. Under intelligent treatment Norwich would emerge like a restored oil painting.' (H.V. Morton 'In Search of England' [1933])

Adding Value to the City... Reading this today, over eighty years after Morton considered the city's future, I am struck by his insight into the value of heritage as a cultural and economic asset. I am also thankful that, due to the efforts of organisations like The Norwich Society and the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, Norwich can claim to have emerged as something of an 'oil painting' in terms of its heritage assets.

Although, during their seven year training period, our apprentices will learn to master contemporary stonemasonry skills and techniques, they will also be playing a vital part into the future, in preserving the historic buildings of cities like Norwich, Trier, Rome, Istanbul, London etc. However, our presence in the city also has huge potential to enhance the marketability of the area. Not only will our Lodge, within the medieval church of St Clement's, be a centre of excellence for the craft of stonemasonry, we will be enriching the cultural life of the city through our regular guild processions through Norwich's streets.  

We are already negotiating with potential partners to showcase apprentices working at their bankers (benches) within other sites. We have huge potential to attract new visitors to the city. We are not re-enactors; we are the real thing. Our Master Mason and apprentices are carving a well-chiselled path stretching back to 1096 when our guild was founded. As I often tell people, some of what the Master is teaching the apprentices is part of an oral tradition whereby knowledge has been transmitted from Master to apprentice for over 900 years.

Spectacle, Spectators, Spending... And in terms of place marketing, authenticity sells. We will be adding value to the city in social terms, training young people for a lifelong career; actively engaging with 'marginalised' local communities etc. After less than a year in Norwich, we are already receiving visits from masters, journeymen and apprentices coming to see us from Europe's great guilds and cathedrals. We will also be using our international networks to, for instance, bring German journeymen and French compagnons to the city during the summer. We will also be inviting masons from other areas of the UK to the Lodge for carving competitions and other 'social' activities (tug of war etc). We will be bringing spectacle to the city - together with spectators with pounds in their pockets.   The whole focus of the Stonemasons' Training Partnership is to work to facilitate the training of the apprentices. We are currently developing products that will generate income to make this sustainable. However, we are also aware that our presence will be to the economic, social and cultural benefit of the wider community. For that reason, we are really pleased with the positive response we have received from local partners - not least, from our 'landlords', the Norwich Historic Churches Trust. I genuinely believe that, together, we will not only restore 'the oil painting'; we will also be creating some new masterpieces into the future.Building Heritage...
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