When I started making whips, we didn’t have the internet and there were precious few people who would help you with anything. Today there’s a wealth of information about whipmaking in print and online. You have the APWA journals, Youtube, a couple of DVDs, books, and ebook tutorials on how to do just about anything related to whipmaking.
It wasn’t much more than a decade ago that I was still very secretive about how I made whips. You wouldn’t get anything out of me. I was so bad I wouldn’t even tell where I bought my nylon cord! I wasn’t the only one. With a few notable exceptions, you’d generally be hard pressed to find someone willing to teach you anything about making whips, especially nylon whips. Guys saw people wanting to learn as future competition and didn’t care to have any of that. In order to learn, you needed to earn a guy’s trust, become his friend, etc..
I want to say up front that I really don’t mind helping people. I help people because a few people have helped me. No man is an island unto himself. I think it’s good to pay it forward, and I often do. Yet, a couple of us whipmakers have noticed a troubling trend emerging.
In spite of all the information that’s available, a small minority of would-be whipmakers are just not willing to invest much in trying to learn the craft for themselves. Instead of taking the information that’s out there and learn from it, they’d rather fill up a whipmaker’s email inbox with questions about minutiae of the craft that demonstrate, in some cases, that they were not even paying attention to the resources they had. At times the emails can get down right demanding and eat up precious time for the whipmaker trying to answer them all.
Previous generations used to see the trial and error of learning as sort of “paying their dues.” They took the time to learn and practice until they got it right. They may or may not have had a mentor to help; they just set their mind to it and did it. I’m afraid my generation and the younger ones have come up in a culture of instant gratification and some have no desire to pay dues or invest the time it takes to become proficient at a craft.
In whipmaking, as in other crafts, there’s many things you learn from experience that cannot be transmitted magically in an email or over the phone. There’s no copy and paste method for developing certain skills. It’s just not going to happen overnight. You will still need a measure of talent and lots of patience to succeed.
Probably the one of the most talented students of my tutorial DVDs has been Jeremiah Lee of Dixiewhips.com. He bought my cow whip DVDs and within a year was making the kind of whips you see on his site right now. Yet, his whipmaking questions to me were relatively few and far between. He invested time, money, and sweat in learning the craft and the results have been simply stunning.
In conclusion, I want to offer up this bit of advice:
If you’re an aspiring whip maker, glean what you can from the resources that are out there, but don’t think you can avoid paying your dues. Ask questions if you need to, but don’t wear out your welcome. There’s some skills you will have to develop yourself no matter how many emails you send or what resource you obtain. Most of all, don’t be scared sit under the tutelage of those two time honored teachers known as Trial and Error. It will make you a better whipmaker in the end.