Apprenticeships…or Life Swaps?

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Over 500 years ago, Leonardo daVinci spent six years of his life as an apprentice to Veracchio who was an experienced sculptor, painter and goldsmith. Veracchio had many students whose main responsibilities were grinding and mixing pigments, preparing panels for painting (before canvas), and working with clay and bronze. daVinci’s interests were incredibly far-reaching.  He was a great engineer and architect, designing many of the main structures in Milan. He invented the parachute (who knew?), designed the first cannon, created the turnspit for roasting meat, canal systems to irrigate fields, a well pump for water.

He made maps of Europe, and the first accurate drawings of the human anatomy (we’re all familiar with that one), invented scissors, made a machine to produce concave mirrors, designed a revolving stage for plays, and oh, in his spare time, created some of the most beautiful paintings known to man. He also designed the first bicycle, some 300 years before the first one was seen on the road!I mention this for two reasons. One, I’ll be spending a month in Italy and Morocco this spring, and am bursting with joy just thinking about all the great art, food and culture I’ll experience in Tuscany and Umbria. And the tiled designs in Moroccan architecture, and the argan oil (from a rare thorned tree in SW Morocco), which I plan to bring back by the gallon! And two, I am very interested in exploring the possibility of exchanging experiences with other everyday people, both here in the U.S. and abroad.

Conducting an apprenticeship, like they used to do in Europe.  Here in the US, most non-paying apprenticeship programs are offered in the building trades (housing construction, framing, electrical trades, etc.) but why not expand that to any area of interest? Like pottery, glass blowing, hiking, painting, music, agriculture, writing, sculpture, Indian cooking… or simply exchanging locations and cultures for a few weeks. One of my favorite artists learned to sculpt by being a “gopher” for a more experienced artist in California who taught him the basics; from there he moved on to his own creations. You don’t need to be an “expert”; just willing to have an open mind and share the ebbs and flows of your own experiences.

Remember when Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy exchanged life experiences in the movie Trading Places? The storyline was referred to as a modern take on Mark Twain’s novel, The Prince and the Pauper. A homeless street hustler and an upper-class commodities broker cross paths and craziness ensues. Or the true story by Nancy Weber who in 1973, writes about how she completely swaps lives…clothes, jobs, names, lovers….everything….with another woman for a month?

OK, both of these examples are extreme but, I don’t know…follow around a pig farmer in Idaho? Pick grapes and make wine in the Pacific Northwest? It doesn’t have to be extravagant; there’s much to learn through engagement in another’s daily activities and life story, if even for a short while.

If I could become an apprentice and if there was a “directory of apprenticeship opportunities” (sort of like a Craigslist), here are my top three: horsemanship, painting, and Tai Chi.

What would you choose?

My friend Lucy naturally demonstrates how to savor a perfectly roasted marshmallow


0 thoughts on “Apprenticeships…or Life Swaps?”

  1. Sounds like a great trip!
    I spent the winter lifting things and crawling around in the grease for a neighbor of mine who is an auto mechanic. I learned more about tools and autos in three months then in all my previous 45 years. Many portrait photography studios still "mentor" today. If you don't mind working for $5.00 an hour it is a great way to learn a fun craft.

  2. Hi Fallen Timbers…I went on-line to find possible apprenticeships and was quite surprised not to find much; maybe I should expand my search to "bartering" and "mentorship." Thank you for your comment on this subject.

  3. Hi Monica ~
    Thanks for stopping by my site earlier…had to come and see :~) Like your writing — thinking and style. Lived in Alaska a couple of years myself — Wasilla and Fairbanks. Now we're in Colorado to stay.

    At this point in life, I'd pick being a top chef's apprentice…especially Mediterranean cuisine. Yu-um-my :-p

  4. Nice blog! I'd apprentice in horsemanship…although I spent most of my life riding. I haven't done so for the last six years and I really miss it. I would also find a mentor to apprentice with in the area of spiritual direction so I could become a spiritual director. I already do this to some extent but without the training.

    Congrats on producing so many books! I'm impressed.

    And thanks for stopping by my blog, As the Spirit Moves Me–one of the many I write. Not sure how you found me, but I'm glad you did. I hope you also discover my writing blogs. Links to all I do can be found at

    Have a super trip!

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Welcome to the creative playground of Image, Sculpture, Verse.  I live in a river town nestled in the Chugach Mountain Range of Southcentral Alaska.



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