Journeymen in Ireland, and much more

journeymen

These young men are Benjamin and Simon, two German blacksmiths whom I met at the supermarket on my way home. They are journeymen, and their plan is to travel around the Atlantic coast and find work. They might stay in Ireland for a couple of months. If you meet them, please assist them with a lift or a place to stay over night. They have already slept outdoors, and they have no tent. I still feel bad because I did very little for them, but I met them right after I spent my only ten euros on groceries, and I had very little petrol left in the tank too. Otherwise I would drive them all the way to Youghal where they were heading to.

During our drive we had the chance for a chat, and later I read more about the Journeyman quest in the internet.

A journeyman is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an apprenticeship qualification in a trade or craft, and is considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee. The word journeyman comes from the French word journée, which means a day, because traditionally the journeymen were paid daily.  A 900 year old tradition is still alive – about 600 journeymen are on the road in Germany and abroad. They commit to travel for three years and one day and not to come within a radius of 50 km of their hometown during this time. The first year of the travels, the journeymen are usually working in a German speaking country. After that many of them travel around the world for the next two years.

This odyssey is called Walzmust, or the waltz, so they are known as journeymen on the waltz. During this time a journeyman perfects his craft, learns to organize his life and live in poverty. Three years on the road provide a wealth of experience and improve physical fitness. Journeyman is not allowed to carry much cash, use public transport and have a cell phone. Hitchhiking and walking is how he travels from place to place. All his personal belongings and working tools fit in Charlottenburger, a 80×80 cm wrapping cloth.

Every journeyman wears the Kluft that consists of a brimmed hat, collarless shirt, vest, jacket, bell-bottomed trousers and durable shoes. The color of the Kluft depends on the journeyman’s occupation – blacksmiths and goldsmiths wear blue. The buttons stand for the amount of working days and hours.

When they start out, the journeymen don’t wear ties. They earn the honor to wear the tie with their behavior. Also, they get an earring before the journey – back in old days it would pay for the funeral in case the journeyman dies. A wooden walking stick completes the outfit. It is made of a naturally twisted branch that the journeyman himself has to find and carve.

Each journeyman has a Travel Book where they collect stamps from the cities they visit, and their work evaluations. The guys asked me not to publish a photo of the book online. There is a page that says that the possessor of this traveling book is a trained artisan, that he took this road to get acquainted with the practices of work and the ways of living in other places, improve his knowledge of his trade and extend his experience of life. Also there is a request to assist him in his intention.

I find it amazing that these two men look like brothers even though they are not related, and came from different cities – Frankfurt and Munich. When people are doing something out of ordinary, when they belong to the brotherhood, the spiritual aspect of their quest shows on their face.

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There are many amazing people with amazing skills who beautify our life with the work of their hands.

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Ancient craft of basket weaving is one of the most widespread crafts in the world.

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Woodworkers can craft everything from jewelry to weapons.

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Hand-shaped pottery was in use 20 000- 30 000 years ago, and it is still popular these days.

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This artisan uses both the wood and the clay for her creations.

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There are thousands of things that could be crafted by a skilled artisan. A sauna hat, for example. It could be very useful. These are for wearing in saunas, not the steam rooms.

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This monk is also a jewelry maker. He looks delighted that a pair of earrings is almost sold. A little girl is not impressed though 😉

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Some people are a different type of artist. Because this man is an artist! And a sheep whisperer. You would say that if you saw his sheep shearing performance.

He starts with removing the belly wool.

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The entire fleece is removed, and thrown clean side down in a matter of a few minutes. No sheep were harmed in the process.

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It is honorable to work with your hands.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope this post encourages you to help a stranger, and to read more about traveling artisans.

inese_mj_photography Have a wonderful weekend!

204 comments

  1. What lovely tribute to those who work with their hands. I wish these two young men the best. They do bring back the romance to being a journeyman and to hard work and learning.

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  2. I’m always delighted to read your posts, not only because of your wonderful photos, but the stories you tell about people you meet and new places you’ve visited. Loved to learn about journeymen!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment! It means a lot to me. I too couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them, because it is not something you see in Ireland.

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  3. Such an interesting post, Inese. I had no idea that journeymen were still in existence today – and what a training they must go through! To me, the word journeyman conjures up images of craftsmen of long-gone times. How great that you got to meet that industrious and dedicated pair of young men, too. The photos of the variety of wonderful goods created by these skilled craftsmen/people are super. Working with the hands must bring an incredible amount of pleasure and satisfaction. Lovely post.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Millie! I was delighted to meet them and give them a lift. They completed their training as blacksmiths, and took off for three years to see the world and work. After they return, they can start their own business as Masters. They sacrifice a lot.

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        1. My posts are always far too long, Inese. I know they are, but I always have so much I want to say. 🙂 Louise says I should break them down, but I’d never get through all the posts I have lined up to write if I do that! I always worry that people will just get bored reading them. Ah well, that’s me – far too long-winded for my own good (so hubby Nick tells me).

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  4. This is such an interesting post! I had no idea about journeymen – well I thought they were old fashioned craftsmen in days gone by, but didn’t realise they still existed. I study German too so must ask my German friends about the journeymen. It’s great that they are keeping old traditions of craft alive and the travelling part is fascinating. I have just been reading through your old posts on the foxes and wanted to say how much I enjoyed them – I found the story very moving. Thanks for visiting my blog too and am so glad you liked the post on Lenno and the Villa Balbianello. I will enjoy reading more of your blog, best wishes Rosemary, Le Chic En Rose 🙂

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      1. Have just read your last wonderful post on the Fox Man – it’s so uplifting to read about his work with the foxes and his love of all animals! The photos that you have taken are simply amazing – the comments section was closed so I’m replying here! A lovely heartwarming post! Thank you! 🙂

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  5. I suppose because they have little cash that explains why we don’t see Journeymen in North America; how would they get across the pond? What a wonderful traditional way of learning a trade. Your other artisan photos are great.

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  6. It is a beautiful post and I love the fact that the tradition is kept. I was also thinking there’s a great book there! I love craft fairs and I’ve seen shearers work at the local agricultural fair. (I much prefer to buy presents at artisans fairs than mass made things but it’s not always possible). I hope to meet journeymen (or women?) soon

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    1. Thank you so much, Olga! Now you won’t miss them 🙂 You won’t see them at the fairs though, but rather on the side of the road. You can interview them for a future book 🙂 xx

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  7. What a wonderful post….one that has confirmed to me that in another life, I would like to be a Journeyman/woman:)…. It is indeed honourable to work with one’s hands. I say thank you every day that throughout my life I have worked with hands and of course, brush and paint. Wishing you a beautiful weekend, and I am quite sure that these two young men will find much interest and joy in their travels. janet.xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Janet! As an artist, you know well that vision and hard work are walking hand in hand. I too hope that these young men complete their quest, safely return home and open a new page in their life as Masters in their trade.
      Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and a great week ahead!
      Inese xx

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Irene! Most of them are working in Germany and France. I have seen photographs in the internet, but those were always stone masons.This is the first time I see blacksmiths.

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