While it may sound a little fanciful or pretentious, the title of Master Thatcher is a prestigious one that requires years of schooling, apprenticeship, and commitment to achieve. It also serves as a reminder of the serious approach and artistic skill that goes into a learned trade. Thatching and trades such as woodworking, glassmaking, and blacksmithing require a lifetime of dedication.
I decided at the tender age of 7 that I wanted to be a thatcher. When I was 16, my school counselor gave me the names of 50 thatchers working in England, and I began looking for an apprenticeship. In England, a 5 year apprenticeship, in addition to college courses, is mandatory before a thatcher can work alone. During my apprenticeship I won my first award - for best journeyman / apprentice - for work on a roof in Essex.
When my apprenticeship was over I joined the prestigious East Anglia Master Thatchers Association and spent several years working in England. I won best Associate Members Cup for a long straw roof that I worked on in Essex. At the age of 25, I became the youngest thatcher ever to receive the Ely Challenge Cup, for my work on a Tudor cottage. In 1991, I was asked to take on a project in the United States. I'd always wanted to bring thatch back to the United States, and I accepted right away. The U.S. market for thatch has been steady, and I've been here ever since.