The Vanishing Master

May 23, 2012 Comments Off on The Vanishing Master by

Through interests and avocation, I find myself straddling the design and fly tying worlds simultaneously. Every so often, the design side rides to the forefront, flags flying.  For individuals who have an interest in the design and creativity issues, this post is for you.

A most thoughtful discussion has just been published by design educator John McWade. Read his piece, The Vanishing Master, and don’t miss the comment section.

The replies are largely from trained publication designers.  Most of these folks have long backgrounds in print publishing.  Many bemoan the shift to electronic publishing, Kindle and the like, and the demise of the printed page and the long-standing craft associated with fine publishing. To describe the field, think “dinosaurs”.

McWade: “You spend a career mastering a craft, over decades becoming so deep, so knowing, so capable, that you are now the wise old man or woman to whom even teachers of teachers come for guidance. And then the craft vanishes, leaving what?”

Valerie Brewster (veteran book designer): “That’s what’s going missing! We’re not making masters. The changes are coming so fast that everyone is always beginning.”


The observations about the loss of mentoring seem relevant to this Web site:

Lucinda: “This has been a huge frustration for me. I loved having mentors to help guide me through my career. This all changed 10 years ago. Now, the ones with the most knowledge tend to be a generation younger and not yet equipped to be a proper mentor. It leaves me on my own, searching the web for answers.” 

Linda S.: “…there are, nevertheless, masters. Call them teachers, historians, mentors, skilled professionals — they are not only adept at the latest gadgets and gizmos but have a depth of knowledge encompassing technologies that have now become obsolete, and life lessons that will never be obsolete.”

Jeff Farmer: “To have mastered a dying art comes with a sad feeling of being alone with no one left to talk shop with, and so much craftsmanship that never comes to life.”


My love of fly fishing advanced through mentors. Hopefully, through this site, some of that knowledge and love for the sport can be rerooted and regenerated.

The advantage of the Internet is that younger fly anglers congregate here, and most feel comfortable learning through electrons.  While older fly fishers are getting online more, a large percentage still stumble about in the Web equivalent of the blinking VCR clock syndrome.

It’s also evident by the grey beards in attendance at the fly clubs, that the segment of the population active (at least in fly clubs) is an aging group.  There’s a lot of ongoing effort to introduce the sport to young people, but how well this “takes” is still to be seen.  A lot more is changing in the cosmos besides an aging population.

In this unanchored world, fly fishing and fly tying are a comfort – with long roots into history, a continuing tradition and manageable change.  On outings into the outback, surrounded by nature, with fly pole in hand, one can feel grounded and centered. That’s a treasure and a rarity.


McWade’s venture is the always excellent Before & After Web magazine.










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