NGS sigwriting apprenticeship programs: Gamechanger DIT

Since starting up the MAP courses at NGS in Dec 2018 we have had 4 new start artists rolling through with several lining up for a chance to learn from doing.

The whole idea came about a few years ago while talking to Tobias Newbigin about how important it is to offer extended learning programs.

With the rise of the Internet, skills, patterns, and ideas are being shared more widely among people engaged in the crafts, which seems to break with some of the underlying assumptions about the lone genius craftsman and ‘the Dying art’ misnomer. Much about craft has been focused on the hands of the artisan, or the ‘gemstone’ knowledge used by the maker, but as artists collaborate in a larger extent some other perspectives could be of use, especially since the surrounding environment seems to take a more active involvement in the production than the mere maker.

”It’s also about Sable Sisters alongside Brothers of the Brush!”


Increasing Internet prevalence has made this even more obvious, as do-it-yourself instruction and the sharing of skills are abundant in arts and craft forums online, blurring the borders between influences, makers, and situated modes of production.

Combining theories of cognition and knowledge migration from super-organisms like ant colonies and their “bodyhood” with our own development of slant and ”gradient” advancing we offer a perspective on how collaborations alongside focused training actualize new craft capabilities and professional opportunities.


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This course proposes a wider understanding of do-it-yourself activities in the guided learning environment as a shared endeavor toward expanded collaborative capabilities; do-it-together rather than yourself (DIT).
Of course we know craftspeople work in teams, in shared workshops, in historic traditions: all are inscribed in a social framework. But how can we come to understand craft as a collaborative practice, and what conceptual models would render the capabilities of craft collaboration more visible?

One way to understand craft as a collaborative endeavor could be to learn together in a project centred way. After all things are never separable from their relations with the surrounding environment and more importantly the people we share them with. Associative learning enables the artist to grow in a co-supporting way.


It could be argued that learning from Youtube or Instagram allows a limited and altered field and by contrast within a classroom or studio environment a sense of loss based on a false start or rehearsal based frame work rather than the actualisation of achievement gained from the living, challenges of the coal face.

The Program therefore centres on starting, producing and completing whole projects together.

Learning and sharing together is a value and guiding principle of NGS allowing accomplishment and experiences that feed the important problem solving base.

Bodyhood and manner of operating
as a totality are intrinsically dynamically
interlaced; so that none is possible without
the other, and both modulate each other
in the flow of living. The body becomes
according to the manner the living system
(organism) operates as a whole, and
the manner the organism operates as a
whole depends on the way the bodyhood
operates. (Maturana 1997)

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That’s not to say that all studio based learning becomes overshadowed by the success gained from the living experience in the outside world. The inner world of the studio can become a shared spawning ground for great change as it offers reflection within a secure environment.

Shared artistry can build skills among a community and engage civic life, as Sennett exemplifies in his discussion on crafts in ancient Greece. Within this tradition, he sees the workshop as a site for social liberation: The workshop spawned an idea of justice,
that the things people made cannot be seized from them arbitrarily, and it enjoyed
a kind of political autonomy, at least in Greece, since artisans were allowed to
make their own decisions about how best to practice their craft. (Sennett 2012: 57)
Sennett’s link between crafts and autonomy points towards a freedom to do. However,
this is not primarily an autonomy focused on rights originating from the individual, but
instead the advancement of collaborative crafts and shared gestures as capabilities to do.

Which protocols shall we use to liberate and cultivate more capabilities within the crafter community and beyond? How do we interconnect our practices?

Finding new alliances and ways of learning allows us to taste and release a more dynamic and powerful potential of craft, a craft of crafters, and take craft forward from our inner to outer shared worlds.

Nick Garrett NGS