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.

journeymen

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.

craftsman

crafts crafts

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. A beautiful post, Inese. I didn’t know that there are still true “journeymen” who roam the world. What a wonderful experience and load of wisdom they must gain. I love the fact that there are journeymen, craftsmen and artisans creating things with their hands, not for money, but for the intangible gifts – travel, friendship, beauty, wisdom. Your photos are great!

    1. Thank you so much, Diana! I hope they found a blacksmith and place to stay for a while before they resume their travels. It is a true school of life that would benefit any young man.

  2. Very informative post. Basket weaving or in Finland different wicker works are popular yet today. My wife used to some before she started quilting. She created a willow fence, which we had about 20 years when we lived on countryside.

    Coffee corner.

    Thank You for this very interesting post.

  3. Do the artisans travel like a band of carnival performers? What a magnificent post you share so kindly with us, Inese! I do like their costumes and would fancy an outfit like the journeymen’s.

    1. No, they don’t perform at the fairs or carnivals. They travel to find a job with the local masters, for a week or a month, to get paid so that they can proceed with their travels, and learn from the different cultures. The journey lasts three years and a day. It is a very honorable quest, they are doing their best so that the next journeyman who comes after them would be welcome in the area too. Their costumes are made to last long, and are resistant to the elements. To get one, you have to complete your professional training first, be unmarried, and discuss this with your Professional Guild. I guess you can find a twisted tree branch and make a staff like theirs. It is the closest you can get to look like a journeyman 🙂 By the way, there are journeywomen too.

  4. When I was young and didn’t know what life was all about I had worked for a blacksmith in the states
    Learned a lot ,but it was lessons that took the rest of my life to understand
    Thank god for Mr Cooper
    As always Sheldon

  5. Oh my word… I knew all about journeymen, of course. I studied history and learnt all about the guilds, the apprenticeships and the journeymen, who went on the road exactly as you describe in your article, before returning back to their home town, imbued with new ideas and skills to take to their local guilds, enriching their local culture and becoming master craftsmen. What I DIDN’T know is that the practice is still alive and well! Thank you so much for this lovely article:)

  6. I’ve reblogged your very interesting post, Inese. I didn’t know that journeymen still existed, this is the first I’ve seen or heard of them. Fabulous photos of various crafts, too.

    1. Thank you so much, Jean! So, you didn’t see them in Youghal that day? I so hope they have found a blacksmith and work, and have a roof over their head.

  7. Your posts are always so informative. This one is no exception. It is wonderful when traditions are still followed. We don’t see as much of this over here in the US.

    1. Thank you so much, Patricia! I have read that some journeymen travel to Americas. Hope you will meet them in the streets one day 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! Yes, I have read about France when putting up this blog. Isn’t it great! Glad for your country that you keep the tradition going.

  8. I have great respect for those who make an honest living working with their hands. You post the most fascinating gems! You should have your own series on PBS 🙂 I’d definitely watch it!

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 I am afraid I don’t have enough material for posting gems on a regular basis 🙂 I still cannot believe I met the journeymen all the circumstances considered.

  9. Fascinating read. I’m afraid the United States does not have journeymen (as far as I know!), but I’ve loved visiting craft fairs and flea markets where artisans sell their work. It’s not quite the same as a journeyman, but the trades millennia old prove that the human hands are capable of timeless wonders.

    1. Thank you so much! You can google, and you might be surprised, because they do go to both Americas, sometimes. I love the fairs, especially the ones with the workshops. It is amazing what the human hands can do.

      1. Yes! It’s been years since I’ve attended a Renaissance Faire (will you attend one this year?), but I was fascinated by the glassblowers and metalworkers there. Unique trades that people don’t “need” in their daily lives per say, but come ON–their work is the preservation of history! THEY are living carriers of history! We owe them a great debt. 🙂
        And not just because they’re wearing massive costumes in 90some degree weather. 🙂
        (That’s Fahrenheit, for the record. Let’s not boil anyone alive here.)

        1. Absolutely! Living carriers of history, the best part of the history, I would add. Carriers of ethic and wisdom that today’s world is sadly in need.

  10. What a wonderful post – absolutely fascinating. Loved reading about the journeymen and the photos of the craft workers and their crafts are superb.

  11. A fascinating and delightful post. The Journeymen remind me a bit of some of the more interesting Couch Surfers I’ve hosted over the years. Thank you! Léa

      1. Without a doubt. I shall watch for them on the road to and from town. I really enjoyed your post and thank you for sharing it.

  12. Glad I came by Inese, the wordpress link was not working. HUH! Nearly depriving me of these stunning pictures and another fascinating post. Loved the journeymen and how you then went onto to show these pictures of people who crate so much beauty with their hands. Wouldn’t have missed this for the world

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! What was wrong with the link? Is it something particularly about my page? They are changing things faster than I am able to update everything.
      Glad you like the post! xxxx

      1. It came up saying couldn’t be found, so I thought I will go over, cos I never miss your lovely posts. They’re such a treat. It makes you wonder how often that could happen…like the post IS there. They certainly do keep changing things but hey ho….. x

      2. I love all your posts. Would never miss them and this was such a nice shout out to people who work away like this often without the kind of reward they deserve x

        1. They have astonishing work ethic, and sense of brotherhood. I feel absolutely blessed to have met them. Lately I have been losing faith in humanity…

  13. What super-fantastic post, Inese!!!!!! Absolutely love it 😀 Your pictures are as always pure magic! I sometimes see Journeymen here in Berlin, but definitely not as often as 10 or 20 years ago. But what I didn´t know was that they also travel outside Germany – that´s so great! I was always fascinated by their style of clothing 😉 And again: I didn´t knew how much meaning stood behind it – THANK YOU so much for sharing this all with us!!! 🙂 And those artisans are wonderful! I also tried myself in basket weaving, it´s such fun 🙂 Well, as for for pottery you already know that I love that as well, don´t you? 😉 Love how you point out that the sheep weren´t hurt 🙂 That´s a wonderful skill indeed! And I couldn´t agree more with you: to work with your hands is very honourable indeed – and also very satisfying 🙂 Have a lovely sunday!!! 🙂 XoXo ❤

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Sarah! I know about your pottery making talents. I did a little bit of ceramic when I was younger, and I have weaved a dish once, but it came out not too round 😉 I admire people who work with their hands, including artists like you. Thank you again for your visit, have a great Sunday!

      1. You´re always very welcome, Inese!! Reading your blog has become such a pleasant habit, I wouldn´t know what to do without it 😉 And thank you so much for appreciating my art – you´ve supported me here from the start and I´m very grateful for it and so glad to have met you here on wordpress!!! 😀
        Well, my first basket wasn´t that good either, but I like it nevertheless 😉 Do you still have your ceramics somewhere?? I would love to see them! Have a very lovely week, my dear friend! xoxo ❤

          1. Great! 🙂 Normally it seems to be the other way round though 😉 Have met many proud parents showing off their kids art works! It´s always wonderful to see the smile reaching their eyes and let them twinkle with happy memories 🙂

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