FOLK CRAFT AREA APPRENTICESHIPS: Carrying Traditional Knowledge Forward

Apprenticeships: Carrying Traditional Knowledge Forward

Many traditional craft artists feel duty bound to pass on what they know and the skills they have mastered, keeping alive the memory of mentors who make up their artistic lineage. This year’s Folk Craft area focuses on the role apprenticeships are playing in the ongoing vitality of traditions. Meet artists carrying on Indigenous traditions such as Wampanoag and Dakota adornment and Nipmuc techniques of preparing hides and making wampum, drums, and mishoon paddles. Discover crafts unique to the American experience with Western Boot making and New England ship wheels. Explore crafts that reflect our rich immigrant history with intricate Chinese paper cutting, Irish hand-lettered signs, and Dominican carnival mask making.

Learning a traditional art is more than just acquiring skills and honing techniques. To truly excel, an apprentice needs to be immersed within a tradition’s cultural context, absorbing the tradition’s history, aesthetics, and unspoken rules. This includes being able to identify and acquire appropriate raw materials and becoming proficient in the basics before improvising within the art.

Come meet eight mentor artists and their apprentices, all of whom have benefited from Mass Cultural Council-funded apprenticeships. See how the endangered tradition of ancient Uyghur calligraphy is finding new life here in Massachusetts. Learn about the metalworking and carpentry skills needed to make a ship’s steering wheel. Try your hand at cutting a Chinese papercut design. Enjoy all that our Folk Craft master artisans and apprentices have to offer.