The Yadkin Valley Craft Guild Mentor-Apprentice Program

doris.jpgThe Yadkin Valley Craft Guild created a Mentor-Apprentice Program to fulfill its mission to promote crafts education in an 18-county serving area in northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. This educational mandate evolved from a 2003 analysis done by Angelou Economics titled "Comprehensive Economic Development Study for Northwest North Carolina." This report urged the creation of a vibrant and growing network of small businesses, which should focus on crafts and cultural tourism, to replace the lost textile, furniture and tobacco industries of the area. The design industry, specifically arts and crafts, industrial design, and software, was particularly recommended.

The Mentor-Apprentice Program creates and supports an initial year-long relationship between a master artisan and an aspiring one, with the goal of developing talent and proficiency in a specific craft. Training materials and equipment for the program for the first year are funded by grant monies from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the NC Rural Center. The program is a grassroots economic development effort enabling individuals to become self-employed in an area of fine or heritage craft. In context of course, the Guild sponsors seminars, workshops and lectures to assist the apprentice in the financial and marketing aspects of owning and operating a craft business.

sybil.jpgThe field-based apprenticeship takes place in the private studios of Guild exhibiting members who serve as their mentors. Apprentice candidates are screened for aptitude, commitment and entrepreneurial spirit. The cost is a non-refundable fee of $35 to join the Guild. With the current approach, the apprentices receive no income except that which comes from the sale of their work during the first one year stint.

Mentors volunteer their time and receive a complimentary membership in the Guild. They are charged only a ten-percent commission on artwork sold in the gallery shops. These shops are located at 122 West Main Street and the Foothills Arts Council in Elkin, NC and at Rag Apple Lassie Vineyard in Boonville, NC.

Current mentor/apprentice pairings are offered in the following media:

  • clay (wheel-thrown, hand-built)
  • fiber (spinning, weaving, wearable art)
  • glass (stained, fused, slumped)
  • metal (precious metal jewelry, blacksmithing)
  • photography (film, digital)
  • print-making and frame-making
  • wood (turning, fine cabinetmaking, instrument making)

sandy.jpgFor example, the Guild expects mentors to share with apprentices their skill and insight as an artist, develop the talents and capabilities of each, and provide ample hands-on time and critique. Mentors explain creating a working studio, budgeting time and materials, and entrepreneurial issues like the costing and marketing of finished pieces. The mentors keep an outline of their instruction and an approximate log of hours doing so.

Apprentices, on the other hand, are expected to dedicate time to learning from the mentor and the studio environment. This involves prioritizing the apprenticeship experience over other activities. The Guild expects full-time apprentices to work about 30 hours per week at their craft. They must be reliable and conscientious and keep a time log of work done both in the studio and at home. This opportunity to work with a master artisan is not like taking a class, but rather is a focused effort to become sufficiently accomplished in a craft to produce an income from it.

Both mentor and apprentice agree in writing to this relationship for one year's time and sign a form releasing the Guild of liability. Individuals interested in becoming a mentor or apprentice are encouraged to contact the Mentor-Apprentice Coordinator.