Ryan's stories from his apprenticeship

Does anyone else have similar experiences with apprenticeships similar to what Ryan would have experienced? I love hearing his stories because it brings me back to both my early days learning GoJu Ryu as well as my 4 year tattoo apprenticeship from 2004-2008. I can really relate to many of his stories and lots of what he says about Kimuras teaching. In the ‘Detail Wiring Part2’ video he mentions people thinking how much faster learning would be if teachers taught differently, but the importance of spending the time and doing things over and over again. I really related to that point and it’s actually what gave me the idea to mention it here in the Forum. I could tell stories for days from both apprenticeships and I’m sure most other people could too. Does anyone have any interesting stories they’d like to share?

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I just finished watching a piece in the archive called The Apprenticeship. It brought me back to my first day walking into a studio full of tattooers. Not to consult with an artist about a piece, but to interact with them as one of their own. It was a completely different feeling and I distinctly remember, the same as @ryan, wondering what the hell im supposed to be doing. I was nudged and gestured to follow by the owner of the shop, to a small dingy back room where he stood me in front of a sink, quickly showed me a mountain of various dirty tools and products and said these need to be cleaned and they need to be ready by opening. I spent the rest of all day everyday for the next 6 months at that sink washing dirty tools, until I came up with my own more efficient mode of operation that would speed up the process and free up time in the afternoon. That was a turning point for me, when I realized it was up to me to decide how I learned these tasks, and how I applied the small bits of knowledge and little tricks I scarcely picked up on to show I understood the process and could complete the task with quality and proficiency. I too stood at that sink at least 3 hours a day for the next 3 years and I too used that time to reflect on my reasons for being there. Thinking about what I was going to do when I completed this 4 year drill of repeating daily chores, the repetition of soldering dozens of tiny needles, cleaning machines, setting up and tearing down the stations, drawing and making stencils, sweeping and mopping the floors and a dozen other tasks that needed daily tending. It was almost militant. But it was those daily tasks, and that repetition that gave me the back bone of my system today. It was that drilling that gave me the almost unconscious way of going about my mornings before the day starts to ensure I complete everything I’m supposed to that day. It was a gruelling 4 years, sometimes I questioned why I was even doing it, but at the end of every single day although I was exhausted getting home, I knew I was one day closer to realizing my dream of making beautiful tattoos for people on a daily basis. Although there are inevitably going to be industrial differences in my experience and that of an apprentice at a Japanese garden, the similarities, I’m sure are endless. Maybe this small glimpse into the parallels of my apprenticeship and that of Ryan’s will motivate some of you bonsai people with similar stories to tell us. I’d love to hear them!


Michael Hagedorn wrote a book on his experiences as an apprentice. Check him out at crataegus.com.