I have always admired artisans, most especially Masonic artisans. The Beehive has posted articles about David Naughton-Shires and the Masonic Art Exchange and the Masonic stained glass windows of Ryan Flynn – among others.
So it was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to interview Patrick Craddock of The Craftsman’s Apron.
In Colonial America Freemasons created their own aprons. Their wives or friends or a local shop would sew exactly what they wanted to display on their apron. Most Freemasons in our early history wore custom made aprons. As we became an industrialized nation the art of sewing was lost by many households and Masonic aprons were mass produced in factories just like shirts and pants. Standardized machine made Masonic aprons became the staple of most Masonic Lodges.
Craddock takes us back to the true art of hand crafted Masonic aprons.
For a good view into his apron making process was featured in the Scottish Rite Journal.
Craddock believes that how a Mason presents himself is vitally important to his character, his development and how he sees himself and feels about himself as a person.
“Your own journey in Masonry should have proven that the apron is the most important symbol to the Craft as it is the physical representation of what the Craft is.”
“To a thoughtful Brother the apron should remain the focal point of his self examination and reflection – and should be the focus of continued reflection and self examination – year after year – as he grows and matures in life and in Masonry. He will consider what it means to be worn with dignity and honor. He will reflect on his actions and will consider the apron as a reminder, or standard, for his actions and deeds.”
“It is often said that dress is the first impression of identity that one person conveys to another. It is for this same reason your apron should be considered every time you enter the Lodge.”
“Have you ever attended a Lodge and worn a borrowed apron pulled from a drawer or box outside the door of the Lodge? Have you ever seen that one apron with coffee stains on it? If you grab one of those old worn out loaner aprons from the box and tie it around your waist as you hurry into the Lodge room, do you ‘wear it with pleasure to yourself and honor to the Fraternity?’”
“We suggest that the best way to start a period of introspection is by donning an apron of exceptional quality and beauty, an apron that YOU purchased for YOUR own use, an apron that you have a personal and intimate relationship with. It is YOUR “badge of a Mason” and the one piece of regalia that you should take the most pride in. It may be a plain lambskin of elegant proportion or it may be heavily decorated – but it should never be made of cheap material or shoddy construction. Your apron is the most identifiable way to express your commitment to Masonry.”
Brother Craddock is in the enviable position of having turned a hobby into a business.
It all started in 1991 when Craddock was performing in Civil War Reenactments. The one thing he felt he was lacking was a decent period Masonic apron. The more he looked for one the more he came up empty. Finally the only way left for him was to create his own.
That first apron brought rave reviews and requests from other Brothers for one of their own. For 20 years Craddock hand crafted aprons operating a hobby strictly by word of mouth. Two years ago he gave up his day job to devote full time to making aprons.
Craddock starts with a real Lambskin that is hand cut. He employs a seamstress who hand sews his aprons. Then he himself applies the design. The apron can be round or square.
Craddock’s first apron was a hand painted creation. Today he still does hand painted aprons. In fact a hand painted apron customized to the individual is called a Bespoke Apron. But hand painted aprons are time consuming and cannot be produced in great numbers by one artisan. So Craddock now also creates original designs digitally using a commercial grade museum art reproduction system. This is a lower cost option that is still an original Craddock design and can be customized with Lodge Name or other wording and other options. Stock aprons are another digitally painted apron available and these can also be personalized. Again they are original Craddock designs but the designs have already been produced and a template can print out the design without having to go through the process of first creation.
Bullion Embroidered Aprons
Not all aprons are painted aprons. Craddock also produces bullion embroidered aprons. On bullion aprons spun bullion wire is formed into individual decorative pieces and then applied to the apron.
There is yet a third type of apron Craddock makes, a combination apron both painted and bullion. York Rite and Scottish Rite aprons are also available. He will create wherever your vision takes you.
Some Masonic artisans are brilliant creators but they fail miserably at presenting and marketing themselves. Not Craddock. He has created a very professional website that can be converted into 15 different languages at the click of the mouse, an instant chat feature where questions can be immediately answered, a rotating main message that adds flair to the site and ample examples of his creations.
On this beautiful and functional website you will learn that Craddock also makes Lodge officers aprons sold by the set, officer’s collars, Masonic shirts and ties and a Masonic ring of his design. He has recently added some Masonic gifts of unique creation.
Craddock is sitting Worshipful Master of Conlegium Ritus Austeri No. 779, Nashville, TN a Traditional Observance Lodge chartered in 2009. He says about his Lodge:
“We have set high standards for ourselves and work hard to try and surpass those and keep raising the bar on those standards. We require each of our members to attend Lodge in white tie and tails. We do not require our visitors to wear tie and tails, but we do expect them to wear a dark business suit – at a minimum. Another interesting thing about our Lodge is that we have custom Lodge member’s aprons. All members of CRA wear the same apron. We do not wear officer aprons. The officers wear the jewel of their office on custom designed collars. CRA has only twenty members, we meet quarterly, and we average 90% attendance by our members. As a charter member I was one of 16 men, of like mind, who knew we wanted to experience Lodge with the standards we have set for ourselves. I was Raised in O.D.Smith Lodge No. 33, in Oxford, MS. I was a 21 year old undergraduate student when I approached the door of the Lodge.”
Craddock possesses superior historical credentials. His education includes a BA in American History (Univ. of Miss., 1989), MA in History with an Emphasis in Historic Preservation (Mid. Tenn. State Univ., 1992), and M.Phil in 19th Century Military History (Univ. College of Wales [Aberystwyth], 2001).
He is a York Rite and Scottish Rite member, a member of the Masonic Society and a Board member of the Masonic Restoration Foundation. He has been written up in the Northern Light Magazine, The Plumbline, The Masonic Art Exchange, The Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction and one of which he is most proud a prominent part in a video (included here) that the Grand Lodge of California made for the Henry W Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
You are apt to run into Patrick Craddock for not only is he a gifted Masonic artisan but also an articulate lecturer. He travels often and sets up a vending table for The Craftsman’s Apron at various Masonic conferences and symposiums across the nation. He offers two lectures.
“Admit Him if Properly Clothed: The Evolution of the Masonic Apron in America 1740 to Present” is a PowerPoint presentation with about 100 images that documents the changes and evolutions of the Masonic apron as well as the influences that created those changes. The other presentation is called “Worthy of Being Worn: The Importance of Masonic Regalia”. This presentation is more philosophical and encourages the viewer to think more about his apron and why it should be a more personal piece of regalia. Craddock has lectured in: TN, CA, AL, IN, NY, NH, PA, VA, & D.C.
Successful people are multi- talented and multi-faceted people. If you take a look at Brothers David Naughton-Shires and Ryan Flynn you will notice that they have interests and expertise in a wide range of different areas. What they do in one field is buttressed by what they know in another. When you combine a working knowledge of mathematics, science, history and religion with such sub headings of scholarship perhaps such as numerology, sacred geometry, historical preservation, symbology, ancient mystery schools, Gnosticism, computer science and other such studies, you become a well rounded person able to pull from other areas for your vision.
Patrick Craddock is another such person following in the mold of other successful multi talented Freemasons. He is a Craftsman, a Masonic artisan but he is also a historian, a lecturer and speaker, website designer, graphic artist and a very knowledgeable Freemason.
This background is vitally important for Craddock’s business. For when a prospective customer doesn’t quite know what he wants, Craddock can shape and define his vision. Quality, expertise, experience, education and knowledge all go into making The Craftsman’s Apron the best place to go to purchase a Masonic Apron.