• Robin

The Journeyman


I’m just one of those people who sometimes thinks she knows more than she actually does. Ask me a question, and I’ll tell you my answer.

So the word journeyman came up in a discussion I was having with my husband and his daughter. She asked: “What is a journeyman?” Without hesitation, I replied: “It’s the term for someone in a trade who would have to travel to find work.” I honestly believed that to be the correct, albeit abridged, version. Then today, as I am donning my procurement officer hat for my other part-time job, I came across the word again in dealing with construction contracts. “Hey! How cool? We were just talking about journeymen.” Yet the context seemed different, so I Wikipediad the word. “Boy, was I wrong...” :-\ Yup. Kinda like how I was wrong about what capricious means - which is “crazy” in a not-so-good way. Not “crazy” as in a fun, quirky, and ‘I’m so cute’ kind of way.

So, my definition of journeyman was wrong. OK, I learned. Here’s what the Wik said:


“A journeyman is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification in a building trade or craft... A journeyman earns their license by education, supervised experience, and examination… The term journeyman was originally used in the medieval trade guilds. Journeymen were paid each day. The word "journey" is derived from journée ("day") in French. Each individual guild generally recognised three ranks of workers: apprentices, journeymen, and masters.”


I enjoy that moment when assorted events or pieces of your life suddenly superglue together, like having two totally random moments about journeymen pop up in the span of a few days.

This connection, on a deeper level, is similar to the revelation I had in my year of Art History in college in which I learned how politics, religion, literature, science, music (to name a few biggies) really do all connect! All throughout secondary school, I fared well in individual subjects, but I had absolutely no idea that any of it interrelated. Subjects were taught in vacuums. Through the history of art, I learned how it is all connected and that was a major changing point in my {ahem} capricious attitude toward education.

Learning upholstery is very unlike learning a secondary school subject. It is a trade, afterall. Information is not neatly packaged in a textbook. Your comprehension of the material is not Scantron-tested at the end of a semester. You learn by sieving through myriad sources. There are countless books by many professionals, and these are very valuable resources. Yet even among these authors there are varying techniques, materials and tools used to achieve the same finished product.

So you read what materials you can grab, and you also watch YouTube videos. You experiment. You try. You may succeed, or you may fail. You had better have patience and good problem-solving skills like turning to Facebook.

Ah, Facebook. For as much as I can dislike it, it has and does serve a few valuable purposes. For one, I got reacquainted with a former 8th-grade boyfriend who is now my handsome hubby. {blush} Also, there is really good information to be shared around the globe by people who have the same interest. I am a member two upholstery groups that each host thousands of international members. It is my go-to for when I need-to-know, like: “where do I get that thingamabob that goes on the whatzit on the hoochamacallit? And where can I buy it YESTERDAY?!” And there’s also: “I wanted this result but I got that one, ugh, and how do I fix it?!” I think many of us on these groups owe much gratitude to the mentors and peers who hear and respond to the cries. This is our modern-day apprenticeship.

Even I, when feeling pretty certain of myself, will chime in to offer an answer to someone in the group. Aaaannnd… I refer you back to my opening sentence… (Sometimes you think you know something, but you learn that you don’t know what you don’t know – and folks on Facebook will be sure to let you know!)

Well, all in all, I don’t think my definition of journeyman was truly unfounded. Thomas Hardy, British author of many great literary works, based his stories around the 19th-century working class with its many tribulations. Characters traveled to neighboring towns and cities seeking work. In Desperate Remedies, Owen Graye, in order to begin an apprenticeship as an architect, had to travel to another town. Owen’s co-worker (and hero of the story, by the way) also journeyed in from another city. Characters, who were often tradesmen, were always journeying here and journeying there... So that's what a journeyman must be...Right?

In conclusion, I humbly dedicate this blog to my step-daughter who has only just begun her own journée. Enjoy all that college can offer! Find mentors and ask questions. People may not always have the right answers. Maybe they are still learning, too.

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