In 2016, a rare opportunity in the Historic Trades and Skills Department of Colonial Williamsburg arose. After the retirement of two wonderful Journeymen, the Joiner’s shop had some vacancies!
Upon careful consideration, Master Joiner Ted Boscana opened up three apprenticeship positions in the Joinery, allowing for three new historians and craftspeople to enter the world of the Historic Trades and Skills. Amanda Doggett, Scott Krogh, and Peter Hudson were ultimately offered and accepted the positions, undertaking quite the task: studying architectural finish work for 6 years and agreeing to continue the trade in the 18th-century fashion, someday becoming journeymen. All three had worked for the Foundation previously, and talk here about their experiences becoming an apprentice, transitioning into a new world, and learning about 18th-century woodworking, one shaving at a time.
As of this week, I have officially been a tradesperson with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for 90 days. If you had asked me a year ago if I ever thought I had a snowball’s chance at getting into the trades, I would have answered with a firm, “no.” The Trades and Skills of Colonial Williamsburg is an elite institution that seemed far and above the skills of some little upstart from Yorktown with a big mouth and a thirst for interpretation. Lucky for me, I work for a great place that is all about opportunity and growth. So when a position opened up at the Joiner’s Shop, I gave it a shot, thinking, “the worst they could say is no. I might as well try.” And here I am (big shout-out to my very understanding and patient boss who took a risk hiring a small, left-handed redhead with an attitude).
If you knew me before I worked at the Joiner’s shop, you probably saw me at the Colonial Auction every week. I loved that place and the people I have grown to know and work with have become my family. There I faced some of my most challenging experiences professionally, but also saw some of my greatest victories and learned a whole lot along the way. I am now located full-time at the Joiner’s shop, learning the ins and outs, ups and downs, the flat and not-so-flat aspects of Joinery in the 18th century. Have I faced some challenges? Absolutely. What a change between what I used to do and what I do now. I have had to relearn interpretation entirely. I’m physically exhausted at the end of the day. Learn to use muscles that I didn’t even know I had. Do I love it? Heck yes. How cool is it that I not only get to learn the skills of a woodworker of the 18th century, but I get to talk about it to the public while I do it, and work with some wonderful guys who have quickly become my friends. Every moment, truly, every HOUR, I learn something new. I’ve gained callouses on my hands, gotten better at math (it’s true, I actually used to be WORSE), and look at the world a bit differently. I notice when a room has crown molding. I look for the grain in hard-wood floors.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me in my new career, and feel very fortunate to be a part of it.
June marks three months into my six-year apprenticeship as a Joiner in Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg. The three months have flown by very quickly. I first started as an orientation interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg four years ago and later worked as a public sites interpreter before obtaining my apprenticeship. From my earliest days at the Foundation, I knew I wanted to work in Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg. Working in the trades, I could best serve the mission of the museum and grow both professionally and personally. In my younger years, I worked for my father who was a carpenter and contractor. Also, I’ve helped my parents restore their 18th-century house in Southside Virginia. That’s really where my interest and experience in woodworking began. I love history, working with my hands, and education. The Joiner Shop combines all of these aspects for me. I feel very blessed and thankful to have obtained an apprenticeship here. It has been both a rewarding and challenging experience thus far. I’ve had both successes and failures. In the short span of three months, I’ve grown immensely and learned a great deal. I’m excited to come to work every day which brings with it new opportunities, challenges, and learning experiences. I look forward to continuing to progress through my apprenticeship and building my ability, skills, and knowledge. The Joiner Shop is a perfect fit for me.
If you had told 18-year-old Peter Hudson that in nine years, he would be an apprentice Joiner at Colonial Williamsburg, I have no doubt in my mind that he would have been absolutely baffled. But that’s where a History major and a love for learning and teaching will get you: a wonderful place that you never, not in a thousand years, thought that you would be. I remember the first time that it really hit me that I could make a career out of dressing up in a costume and building things. I was studying medieval architecture in France, and I visited a castle that was being constructed using twelfth century tools and materials. I was impressed, and intrigued. Fast forward five years, and I was interning in the Brickyard here in town, learning exactly how much sweat is involved in reenactment and Historic Trades. A lot. A lot of sweat is involved. More than you could ever imagine. And I’ve never looked back.
That’s not to say that I’m brimming with confidence and think that I know what I’m doing. Every day that I’m in the Shop, I learn something new. Each new experience just drives home that I have only the barest understanding of the most basic skills. Sometimes, this leads to frustration. The Master of the shop, Ted Boscana, has to remind me on a weekly basis that this is a six-year apprenticeship, not a six-week correspondence course. So I’ve been learning to suppress my inner perfectionist, who I never thought existed in the first place. And math! Of course, there’s math. I would never have thought that I would be exhorting children to go home and practice arithmetic, but here I am. Fractions, you sly devils! Woe to me, the Liberal Arts major, who thought to avoid math all of his days.
This is not to say that I’m not having the time of my life. I wouldn’t trade this position for anything. For every red moment of frustration, there is a new connection that I make with a guest who inherited a set of planes, but never knew their significance. Or there’s a kid who wants to pick up EVERY tool and find out what it does. I love the moment when something clicks for a guest, and their world grows. When school groups start asking questions without being prompted. I’ve found a place that lets me share my love for learning, and is helping me to grow and learn every step of the way. So to my 18-year-old self, I would say this: Have patience. Good things come when you work your hardest. And practice math. Practice all of the math. You’ll need it.
About the Bloggers
Scott Krogh, Peter Hudson, and Amanda Doggett all recently became Joiner’s Apprentices in the spring of 2016. Scott, a native of the Eastern Shore and Virginia Tech graduate, worked previously in Public Sites for Colonial Williamsburg as well as for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. Peter, a northern transplant, has been in Virginia and working for Colonial Williamsburg for a year, starting at the Brickyard and somewhat adjusting to southern summers. Amanda previously worked for the Products division of CWF, and was born and raised in Yorktown where she lives now with her fiancé. The Joiner’s Shop is located at the Talliferro-Cole House on Duke of Gloucester Street where the three apprentices study under the tutelage of Master Joiner Ted Boscana.