Training and Education
The majority of learning is carried out in the workplace on a wide selection of differing projects. A three year City & Guilds course is included within the first four years of craft training.
"The Guild has brought me into contact with a diverse range of fascinating, creative people and offers unusual and exciting opportunities for work and travel. The environment encourages me to learn not through necessity or duty, but through inspiration, passion and curiosity. Already, my training has instilled in me a commitment to realising my own highest potential in my work.
I feel a sense of connection with the past through the unbroken traditions the Guild upholds and a profound sense of purpose, belonging and community amongst my fellow Guild members."
- FE, Craft Apprentice.
The duality of the Master and the Apprentice is the foundation all learning is built upon.
An apprenticeship in the classical sense is not merely a process for the acquisition of technical skills, it is far more significantly the transmission of a culture. Our Apprentices are shown a way of understanding and respect for quality and taught to acquire a love of good materials, To this day this cultural outlook is alive and well amongst our craftspeople and members.
One of the Master's jobs is to ensure that theory is not put above practice which often puts him or her at loggerheads with the academic elite. A system must be nurtured where human judgement, tacit knowledge, intuition, imagination, scientific fact and rule based method unite in a symbiotic totality.
"I think banker work and carving creates an intense relationship between the work and the craftsman. That feeling when everything is going right. I get so involved sometimes that I lose all track of time and I get lost in all sorts of ideas, almost fantasies I suppose. I find myself thinking of craftsmen centuries ago who worked on stone exactly the same way as I do now; nothing has changed, neither the medium nor the tools.
Michaelangelo claimed that all he did when confronted with a block of marble was to chip away and release the sculpture inside it, I feel that too.
I do no preliminary drawings for my intended work, I go straight to it and carve. I begin with an idea in my head as to how the finished work will look but I don't believe too much planning leads to fluidity and grace of work."
- Guild Master.
There is a tendency to regard such craft skills as been static and devoid of development but the environment created by the Master - Apprentice relationship encourages experimentation and innovation within a given tradition.
All of this is integral to the totality which is embodied in a traditional apprenticeship. It is also a process by which one learns, in a very practical way, the logistics of procuring such materials treating them and forming them in a creative process which links hand, eye and brain in a meaningful productive process.
Apprenticeships develop significant skills in the field of planning and coordination and produce quite astonishing levels of ability
Some of the other subjects covered in our classical training include:
Sculpture . Chemistry . Philosophy of design . Ocular rectification . Geology . Geometry . Art history Poetry . Dance . Philosophy
Although we are proud to have similar traditions to the Journeymen and Compagnons of German- and French- speaking Europe and Denmark, and connections to the Middle East and Southern India, we have our own training and journey traditions.
Our Journeymen are encouraged to work further afield and in unfamiliar technical and cultural traditions. After these three years, a journeyman can choose to produce another masterpiece and, if successful, the long road to being a Craft Master in the Guild begins, a minimum of 30 years from the start of their apprenticeship.
Agata Gomółka is one of our two Academic Apprentices. She has recently completed her Ph.D at the University of East Anglia. Her research focuses on the impact of materials and working methods on the aesthetic, form, and language of the body in stone architecture of the Romanesque period.
Her study is rooted in the engagement with material evidence, supported by her original analytical approach to viewing and photographing sculpture. Her involvement with the stonemasons of the Guild of St. Stephen and St. George is part of this preoccupation with the physicality of stone and realities of carving. Throughout the final year of her PhD, she was welcomed into the Norwich lodge of the Guild of St Stephen and St George to participate in guided practical projects that supported her work. She was offered opportunities to observe and interview working stonemasons and in turn shared her thesis and analysis with the guild members.
Agata was also supported to complete her own carving project with the dual aim of giving insights into the processes of design and carving and bringing closer the discipline of art history and the craft of stonemasonry.
"My involvement with the stonemasons of the Guild of St .Stephen and St. George has helped me immensely to advance my research into Medieval sculpture. My work focuses on the impact of materials and working methods on the aesthetic, form, and language of the body in stone architecture, mainly of the Romanesque period. Learning about the practicalities of carving, the relationship between the carver and the material, and the attitudes of craftspeople towards their work is helping me to better understand the sculpture from a period that left us little evidence beside the art works themselves. I aim to continue my work with the Guild, to play my part in bridging the gap between the discipline of art history and the craft of stonemasonry."
- Dr Agata Gomółka, Academic Guild Apprentice
Our academic apprenticeships are aimed that those wishing to work in craft or heritage sectors, Over the course of their training, the Apprentices are afforded direct access to craft masters as well as guild records and technical details often missing from academic sources.
The Apprentice either accepts a five- or seven-year term depending whether a journey is expected. A technical craft training is insisted on.
Records of study carried out is held at the Guild for the advancement of knowledge. Completion of the apprenticeship gives full Guild membership, with access to this community, Guild resources and networks.
Another of our Academic Apprentices, Assia Kaab, has recently completed a project In Iraq, working towards establishing housing for internally displaced citizens (who were mostly Christians and Yazidis). She has graduated this year from the University of Toronto with a Ph.D in Mesopotamian studies with a focus on Mesopotamian languages and was awarded The Outstanding Achievement Award by the Canadian Museums Association which is only awarded to one person or research group each year.
Excerpt from Master's speech to trainers and lecturers at London City University,
"Efforts to deskill craftsmen can only succeed if they are accompanied by the deskilling of the consumer. The deskilling of bakers, for example, can only come about if that awful cotton-wool stodge in plastic wrappers is regarded as bread by millions of consumers. Highly automated and factory farming techniques are only possible if the public believe there are only two kinds of potato 'new' and 'old' that cookers and eaters are the only form of apple, and if they cannot distinguish the taste of free range poultry and eggs from those produced under battery farm conditions.
The elimination of high-level skills in carpentry and cabinet making is possible because large sections of the public do not appreciate the difference between a tacky chipboard product and one hand-made from real wood with fitted joints or between the plastic container and (say) an inlaid needle box.
The concern for quality should not be misunderstood as an elitist tendency, quite ordinary working class family used to pass pieces of furniture from one generation to another, which although simple, embodied fine craftsmanship and materials.
If we do not make a stand, given time, more and more sections of the community will lose the capacity to appreciate craftsmanship and goods of quality."