In 1990 (sponsored by the Winston Churchill Trust), I did a tour of US framers shops, and attended my first Guild conference. I don't want to over dramatize, but it had a huge effect on my life, and I would be very keen that other people get the same opportunity.
I had heard of the TFG, so I joined up, picked names out of the membership directory at random, wrote to them (most even responded!), jumped on a plane to NY, and went visiting. By very good luck I stumbled upon some very good people, who went out of their way to accommodate me, (by a total coincidence I even managed to gatecrash the inaugural meeting of TTRAG, (and suggest their name!). There was so much to assimilate and learn as the craft as practiced in North America (especially then) was as different from the way we do it as it is possible to be.
I came away with the overriding impression that Timberframing North America style, was practiced by exactly the same sorts of (good) people that I was used to working with here, (I'm thinking of putting 'Are you a miss-fit?' as the first question on our application for employment form!), and that although we both joined big bits of wood together with joints, we had nothing else in common, (techniques methods finishes designs etc. Square v Scribe).
It really opened my eyes, there was so much to learn, consider, adopt, adapt, or discard. Additionally it made me a firm believer in the TFG as a "Force for Good"
Ever since I did my tour I have been very keen to set up some sort of exchange scheme between the U.K. and North America.
Whilst I would be the first to admit that I have not succeeded with this project, (setting up the exchange), I have over the last few years put a fair amount of effort into this idea. The problem is always the same: The high level of bureaucracy / red tape that exists in the immigration departments of all of our countries.
Our first Canadian (who was great success) cost us $5,940.00 USD in administrative time to import. (the 3 we have now all have U.K. Passports / U.K. wives, with the result that we did not have these costs).
Our policy at the moment (resulting from a lack of time to devote to sorting the problems out) is this:
If you are a Timberframer and you can as a result of your own circumstances and / or efforts get yourself the paperwork that lets us pay you legally, then we will be happy to give you employment for 6 months or more.
What is needed is a gathering place for all the information on this subject, and at the moment I would propose that this is a good a place as any to get things started
It might be good to set it up something like:
Timber Frame Companies who would be willing to host exchangees (made up word)
People who would be willing to act in an enabling or facilitating role
Timberframers who would like to be exchanged
Details of existing schemes that we could adapt or follow
Details of/from people who have successfully swapped or exchanged
Bodies or organizations who could be "tapped up" to fund such a programme
Since I will be at Whistler, maybe we could gather a group together one evening, and drink a huge amount of beer - no seriously, - see what we can get started.
I have to be honest and say that I personally will not be able to be the catalyst for this, but a catalyst, or White Knight who can devote the time required to make this thing happen, will be what is required, - any volunteers??
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity
The Optimist sees Opportunity in every difficulty