The current exhibition at Artisan features ‘a baker’s dozen’ of crafts and tradespeople that have found ways to revive the practices of apprenticeship which have been in a steady decline at TAFE colleges.

This has been caused by so many changes in manufacturing practices, and, more recently, by the ideologically driven reliance on the private sector for the training and accreditation of the trades. However, there are alternatives.

As the curators of Apprenticeship: Work & Stories Aaron Barton and Richard Stride suggest all the artisans here show a passion to bring to light their mastery of the craft in order to compete in today’s marketplace.  And what this exhibition also does so nicely, is to show the various routes that can be taken on the way to becoming skilled at a chosen craft. The practioners in the exhibition show how crafty they have been at seeking out ways to apprentice themselves with and without the aid of existing courses.

One such way has been for a relationship to be forged between Karim Haddad and his daughter, Leila. Here in amongst the various exhibits, are knives or blades, made by Leila who started as a six year old and is now just 13. Such an intimate relationship in the making of tools is a delight to see, but too difficult for the requirements of accredited courses.

Yet another example is signwriter Rick Hayward, who completed a signwriting apprenticeship and worked in the industry before deciding to specialise in hand painted signs. He travelled to California for work experience with Bohemia Signs and on return to Brisbane, set up a business with his partner Emily Devers. Trading as Frank and Mimi, they specialise in traditional, hand painted signs, and their work can be seen in the visual identity for this show. Rick and his partner Emily’s education now continue through an international network of traditional signwriters.

In the exhibition, Aaron Barton’s furniture making sits comfortably with the other more traditional trades of the blacksmith, shoemaker, woodworker and leather worker, but some in the show have created their own pathways. Brick maker Clare Kennedy chose India as a site for learning traditional methods, while tinsmith, Ian Morgan, started off as a metalwork teacher and now has his own business, Tinkers World. Drummer, Peter Bosworth, uses locally sourced materials and techniques to handcraft his drums into unique musical instruments.

Whichever way you walk round it, the exhibition reads as a convocation of artisans each with a story about their work. Whether it is letterpress or leatherwork there is a clear interest in reviving craft-based practices, and making them affordable in today’s domination of mass-produced goods so often manufactured cheaply overseas. The Apprenticeship is an informative well-designed exhibition with delightful narratives about hand crafting unique works, which suits the exhibition space of Artisan.

Dr Charles Zuber

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