Accepted Paper:

Searching for the light: mentors, teachers, and an apprenticeship in glassmaking  
Elishka Stirton (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Fieldwork often takes unexpected directions and you end up working in places and with people you could never predict. This talk describes paths taken or curtailed, mentors discovered, and teachers gained, in a search to understand light and how it is used and perceived by glassmakers.

Paper long abstract:

A luthier in learning to create an instrument must learn to shape their material according to its sonorous qualities. A glassmaker, in seeking to make their object must explore and observe its qualities and capacities for light. Apprenticeship in glass is often, in practice, an apprenticeship in attention towards light. During my apprenticeship with glass artists and at a glass school in Czech Republic different teachers and mentors emerged.

In this paper I will explore the role mentors play in apprenticeships and in fieldwork. I will consider the ways in which one comes to work with particular people and places, and to choose certain people to work with (or who choose you). The paths to whom one works with are not always straightforward. In apprenticeship who one chooses as a teacher can be key. Mentors can be catalysts for change, transforming one's understanding of perceptions and questions posed, opening doorways and forging unexpected connections. Mentors are not always one's teachers or who one might expect them to be. In this apprenticeship and anthropological research might share some commonalities. In this paper I trace my own journey in coming to work with particular artists and makers. I ask what happens when one's plans become derailed or who one works with must be changed. Such changes affect the questions one follows and indeed this has changed my own understanding of how perceptions of light play a role in the creation of things of glass.

Panel P070
Apprenticeship: Illuminating Persons and Places through Shared Practice and Performance