In March, we enter into the third edition of The Making of a Craftsman series where we talk a little about what it takes to be a master craftsman. At the heart of ELM is our team of dedicated master craftsmen who reliably produce medal after medal of impeccable quality every day. In this series, we explore the unique and fascinating journey of an apprentice in his journey to becoming a master craftsperson.
Gladwell rules that one has to put in 10,000 hours of practice to be successful in any field. While some may not fully agree to his quote, this is especially true in the medal making industry where craftsman must put in long hours of hard work and dedication to be commissioned as a master. There are no shortcuts and every day brings new insights and lessons.
The journey to becoming a master craftsman at ELM is a long and tedious one. Talent alone is not enough as the process requires grit and a commitment to work hard. This is inculcated through the demanding training programme developed in-house over the last 50 years. Right from the start, an ELM craftsman is trained to display excellence in and out of the workshop.
A typical day of an apprentice starts with being the first to reach the factory, usually about two hours before his mentor arrives to ensure the cleanliness of the place. In addition, the apprentice checks that his mentor’s tools are in optimal working condition and arranges them exactly how his mentor wants them to be. Through this, the apprentice understands that preparation work is just as crucial as the crafting works because poorly maintained tools will not create the precise finishing that he is looking for.
Taking care of the workshop is the main role of the apprentice in his early days. He is expected to faithfully repeat the same tasks daily until he has gained the full trust of his mentor; then, he will have the privilege to progress to the next stage of the craft which is the hands-on training.
Hands-on training is the best and most effective way to learn as the apprentice gets to create real products and face real challenges. The making of a medal requires a series of unique manufacturing processes from the preparation of raw material to the more complicated die-making procedure. The apprentice is required to master each process before progressing to the other. This is done by absorbing every instruction taught by his mentor during this on-the-job mentorship, again repeating the same task daily until perfect.
Under the watchful eyes of the mentor, the apprentice work will be thoroughly scrutinised to meet industry standards. Especially when he is handling expensive precious metal, there is added pressure to get every piece right. That being said, everyone knows that only the best apprentice is trusted to work with precious metals and one must feel really proud and very nervous to be given that task. On-the-job mentorship is the most demanding part of the apprentice’s training as he must be open to corrections and constant improvement until he reaches his 10,000th hour of practice. This is also the period when an apprentice will make the most mistakes due to lack of experience and will be instructed to recreate the product over again until excellence is achieved.
Through repeated handling and working in the workshop, the apprentice will grow to become more skilful in his craft; coupled with a hardworking attitude, time will tell if he will finally gain enough experience to be commissioned as an ELM master craftsman.
Driven by passion and commitment, a master craftsman is constantly on the look-out for better techniques to incorporate into his work. No matter the size of the medal, the amount of hard work remains the same.