Why be an apprentice?

I feel guilty writing on this topic. I became a man-at-arts about 5 minutes before I was offered the Laurel. For a very long time I did not have someone I called “my Laurel”. There are a lot of reasons (some of them wrong-headed) that fed into that decision. Even though I’m now coming at it from the other direction I wanted to address some of the features and benefits of being an apprentice.

First let’s define some terms and set some expectations.

“Hi my name is {your name here}. Someday I want to become a Laurel for {my Art}. To get there I’d like to be apprenticed to {some Laurel} who will help me along this path.”

Although it is possible to be Laureled for “all the things” it’s a much harder path to go down than to be an expert in a single Art. That said, if you can’t define {my Art} then how can you expect the Laurel council to be able to define it for you?

In this post I used the title “apprentice” but these reasons could all just as well apply to man-at-arts, minion, etc.

What does a Laurel do for you

“I want to be apprenticed to {some Laurel} because they are an expert in {my Art} and I want for them to teach me so that I can become better in our shared Art.”
If I had a dollar for every person who has said “there is no Laurel in {my Art} so I will never be in a peer relationship” I’d be a rich woman. It is possible to learn an art from someone without being in a peer relationship with that person, I refer to those people as my students. It is also possible to have a productive peer relationship with someone who is not an expert in {my Art}.

“I want to be apprenticed to {some Laurel} because I don’t understand what I’m missing and need guidance about next steps on the peerage path.”
This is not necessarily related to {my Art} it may involve learning their approach to research, emulating them to improve {my PLQs}, getting them to assign you the tasks they think you need to do to move along the peerage path.

“I want to be apprenticed to {some Laurel} because I like and admire them and I’d like to be associated with them.”
It is possible to hang out with a Laurel without being in a peer relationship with them. In fact I highly recommend that you spend a long while hanging out with someone before you hitch your wagon onto this person. Make sure you’ve really spent time with them and know who they really are, not just their public face. You really don’t want to end up in a peer relationship with someone only to find out later that their ideas of honor, attitudes and morals do not mesh well with yours.

I want to be apprenticed to {some Laurel} because I want someone I trust to be able to answer questions about {my Art} and {my body of work} should my name come up for discussion in the Laurel council.
In this way you can think of {some Laurel} as being your gatekeeper. If your name comes up in council and you do not have a gatekeeper then either no one will know what you are doing and your name will disappear from council OR a lot of very eager Laurels will descend on you and ask you all the questions in order to ascertain for themselves whether your art is at a level that should be discussed by the council. Believe me when I say it’s better to have a gatekeeper.

Am I missing anything?

{Some Laurel} can satisfy some or all of these statements. You and that Laurel should discuss your expectations from the relationship and check back periodically to confirm you’re both getting what you want/need from the relationship.

Last thoughts

“I want a Laurel to ask me to be their Apprentice”
This is a hard one. Getting into an Apprentice/Laurel relationship is kind of like starting to date. There’s a weird dynamic in this. What if {some Laurel} asks you.. and for whatever reason they’re not your {perfect Laurel}. Either you say yes.. then you later regret that you didn’t ask your {perfect Laurel} or you say no.. and then there’s this weird rejection in your past.
I think my preference would be for the non-Laurel to do the asking. That said… ask. Don’t hint. Personally I’m awful at flirting. I can’t tell when it’s happening so if you’re not blunt with me I will not pick up on it. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

“I don’t ever want to be a Laurel. I want to do art but I’m not ever interested in the responsibilities of being a peer.”
Being an apprentices does not necessarily lead to being a Laurel. In fact if you ARE an apprentice and you are stridently opposed to being offered the Laurel then by all means, be an apprentice and tell your Laurel flat out “I never want to be offered.”. This will allow your Laurel to run interference for you so that if your name should come up in council your Laurel can let the council know that you are opposed to the idea.
That said, if at some point you change your mind, communicate with your Laurel so that if your name should come up in council your Laurel can speak correctly on your behalf.
Not wanting to be a peer.. and not being in a peerage relationship means that if your name DOES come up in council there’s no one there designated to speak on your behalf to tell the council you’re not interested.

“I am a peer in my own right (Pelican, Knight, Master of Defense) and do not feel that I can be in fealty to another peer since I already have promised my fealty to the King/Kingdom.”
This is actually a question I have wrestled with for a long time. At Kingdom Collegium I mentioned this issue to Sir Leotulf of the Silver Hills and he had the best response. He said that his relationship with them was not a fealty relationship, it is a contract. This was like flipping on a light in a dark room. A peer may exist under contract while at the same time swearing fealty to their liege. I already keep a contract with my apprentices and we exchange a chirograph at their apprenticing but I was mistaking the contract for fealty. So there, for me the issue is resolved.

“I have been playing in the SCA for a very long time and  starting again as the low man on the fealty totem pole of someone else’s household would just feel inappropriate. .”
Ahhh.. for you I have the “dotted line”.

What is a “dotted line”? I work in a corporate environment. I have a boss and my boss has a boss and there’s a clear line of “who can ask {Sylvie} to do things and reasonable expect her to do them” but I also have folks who have a “dotted line”. These are the folks in completely different departments for whom I do work.. and they can ask me to do things but they’re not officially “the boss of me” and their requests come after any other “official” requests.

I have this situation in the SCA. For {reasons} someone is not comfortable with a formalized relationship but they have still expressed interest in having the guidance and gatekeeping that comes from having “A Laurel”.

It’s a harder relationship to manage from my perspective as the Laurel. Instead of popping them into the Facebook group of “folks who are apprenticed to Sylvie” I work with them individually in a one-on-one setup. I also have their express permission to step in and gatekeep for them if their name comes up in council.

I would suggest that if you feel that you need guidance from a peerage path but feel that you cannot join a fealty totem pole that you seek out someone who you respect and wish to work with and setup a “dotted line” relationship and give them express permission to represent you and gate-keep for you (should that come up). Otherwise I feel that you are robbing yourself of a potential fruitful relationship that can help you to grow and flourish.

* The feature image on this post is a picture of a portion of the chirograph I signed when I became man-at-arts to Master Leo Diogenes. Calligraphy and Illumination done by Mistress Danaë FitzRoberts (my grand-Laurel).

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