I recently received an email message from an aspiring stonemason-
“I am eagerly seeking the opportunity to apprentice with a master craftsman. I noticed that yourself and other highly qualified craftsmen have apprenticed overseas – Italy, Scotland, etc. My question is simple; how do I go about procuring an apprenticeship? My sense of adventure pushes me towards opportunities outside of the United States, but short of hopping on a plane a trekking across Europe, I’m at a loss as to how to proceed.”
My general advice to this inquiry, and others of a similar nature, has been to direct the individual to the list of professional wallers on the Dry Stone Walling Assoc. website, www.dswa.org.uk. I don’t know any wallers or dykers who actively look for apprentices. But by making some direct contacts, by phone or mail, one may stumble into an opportunity. In my own experience I’ve found stone workers in the UK to be very friendly and helpful in whatever way they can be.
Most walling done in the UK falls under the heading of agricultural labor. It’s livestock fence repair done in isolated areas of the countryside. I’ve slept on living room floors in Scotland and once shared a double bed with another journeyman waller in a Wales farmhouse. Accommodations are often rudimentary, meals are catch-as-catch-can. I’d advise someone doing an apprenticeship there to approach it as a long-term camping trip. Be prepared to look after yourself and expect to be wet much of the time.
That said, foreign lands can have extraordinarily beautiful landscapes to work in, and offer wide experiences for gaining knowledge and understanding of this wonderful, ancient craft.