For generations, a master craftsman took on an apprentice. The excellence of the master's skills and experience, in all it's marvellous pedantry, was handed on slowly and earnestly, because the master knew that his work, principles and reputation would be reflected in the work done by his student, and seen by his customers. This kind of ongoing support, quality control and development was the perfect symbiosis of creative excellence, and it still is, if you can get it.
During the 60s to 80s though, with the convenient, mechanized, cheap world upon us, masters understandably became fearful that their dwindling customer base would not sustain an extra worker, and even may be taken on by apprentices leaving early and becoming competition at cheaper rates, so they stopped teaching - stopped passing. Higher overheads also meant they needed to charge full price for their workers right away. Governments decided that teaching skills institutionally would be enough to get folks started, so they took the role of the master in trade schools.
Pretty soon, tradesfolk/businesspeople, encouraged by governments, began to seek out pre-trained youngsters, and over the decades, were in turn trained to expect more and support less. This is where the excellence symbiosis was lost.
Come forward to this decade, and two things have happened, quite apart, but affected raretradesfolk dramatically at the juncture - the community has finally begun to come back to balance, and increasingly sees the cheap and convenient for what it really is - transience. People are consuming the cheap and cheerful, but returning to the traditional trades for substantial, beautiful, useful objects worthy of inheritance. They are also seeing that transience isn't free - it produces waste. Something treasured and repairable has a light touch on the earth, and on your life. That's now more valuable than ever. Though raretrades may be seen as sentimental and historic, they are in fact as modern as it gets.
At the same time though, governments are groaning under the mounting cost of institutional teaching, and what was once efficient is now encumbered, and lacks depth and nuance - the hallmarks of creative excellence. Creative trades are being defunded at a rate of knots, and even this basic skeleton training thread is or has disappeared.
HERE'S THE THING..
We have customers, we have willing creative learners, we have the right community environment and global momentum, but few masters left (literally) and no clear pathway to take us there. Even the supply chains for traditional equipment and materials we use have been lost here, and we must go overseas, increasing the cost exponentially.
We MUST get back, with not one-size-fits-all policies (which got us here in the first place), but case-by-case opportunities for raratradesfolk to connect with each other, with now retired masters or overseas teachers, and with their customers.
WE CAN REBUILD THE SPECIALIST CREATIVE MASTER-APPRENTICE BOND.
The new Creative Industries framework in Victoria is a beautiful opportunity that cannot be missed, to facilitate relationships again, invest in a new engine of ongoing quality skills and principles, then benefit economically, socially and culturally from the immense potential of raretrades in this state, and then to export our template to the rest of Australia, and even abroad.
It is raretrades' time again.
If you feel as strongly as we do that #RTradies should be seen and heard again, then the Victorian government wants to hear from you. Go to the Creative Industries Strategy consultation page online (link below) and put your views across on this and other themes designed to build a plan for future government directions in our field. The creative Industries have been identified as growing at twice the rate of other sectors in the economy. It is time.
It matters. It is important for #raretrades and creative industries everywhere, and it will be heard.