In 2018, we started a cane weaving apprentice program as an experiment. It's unexpected success prompted us to expand the program to carpentry and polishing.
In 2018, due to a shortage of cane weavers from traditional weaving communities, we took in a few young apprentices and put them under the mentorship of the senior weavers. Our expectation was that they would learn a few basic skills and assist the experienced weavers. Much to our surprise, the apprentices not only learnt basic skills in peeling and preparing material, but picked up more complex weaving techniques. In a few months, they could weave an entire seat or back on their own.
Several young cane weavers who joined as apprentices are now full time employees of Phantom Hands. Their skill is on par with, if not better than, the community based weavers who work for us. The training program we put together has helped them acquire a specialised craft skill that can give them a livelihood as long as cane furniture is made.
Young apprentices join the cane weaving program regularly. The interest it has garnered, and the success it has achieved, encouraged us to expand the program to carpentry and wood polishing.
Apart from being a way of providing livelihoods and meeting our own skill requirements, we hope our apprentice training program will help in preserving and propagating craft skills beyond traditional communities whose numbers are dwindling.