Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Craftsman, an Artisan and an Artist walk into a bar...

...and find themselves just surrounded by wannabes. This is the one of those oft argued topics amongst the forums at etsy and I imagine anywhere that handcrafted goods are sold. I thought that I'd add my opinion on this subject to public record. First, I'd like to state that I believe these three thing are equals. Neither is any better or worse than the other, simply different.

The Craftsman:
The craftsman has a skill and uses that skill to create something usually based on traditional patterns or set steps. The craftsman generally creates something basic and functionally and if he/she is very skilled at their craft, they can charge a great deal and make good money doing it. This category contains many knitters, weavers, potters, woodwork, soap makers and jewelry makers.

The Artisan:
The artisan has a skill as well, but tends to deviate from the patterns and uses their creativity to expand on the traditional craft. Their designs tend to be slightly less functional than the craftsman's pieces and often need to find a niche market in order to make money from their work. This category contains the same kinds of crafts as the Craftsman category. The differences are that Artisan creates more of their own patterns and designs, uses unconventional components and is generally more artistic.

The Artist
The Artist doesn't need a skill, they have creative talent. Now they may have a learned skill that makes their chosen medium better, but that doesn't make the artist, the talent does. The artist does not tend to create functional pieces. Even when they are creating clothing, they go for form over function. Like the artisan, they need to find a niche in order to make money with their pieces.

Now, it is my opinion that most people know where they fit here. Some of us fit in all three. When I knit a scarf, I'm a Craftsman. When I turn a vintage collar pattern into a gorgeous tatted necklace, I'm an artisan and when I sit down with a pencil and paper and draw, I'm an artist. I think we need to stop arguing this point and look at what I think is the real distinction here.

That is, the bar full of wannabes. Every online market place is chock full of them. They are the ones constantly whining about not making sales and then when you check out their shop, it appears to be full of things that could have been made from kits. Generic designs that aren't put together very well. In days gone by, they would have been apprentices, working under someone until their craft was honed. Today however, we have the internet, 2000 craft stores and hundreds of magazines and talk show hosts making people feel like they can make everything without learning a skill first.

To paraphrase Ratatouille, just because anyone can cook, doesn't mean they should cook. Please, find something you love to do and are good at doing. Don't make jewelry because everyone is doing it and it can't be that hard. Don't try to sell your garter knit scarves, just because your mother likes the one you made for her. Support people who make things better than you could, keep learning and find your own niche!


Carey Lynn said...

and they lived happily ever after! great article, I enjoyed it.

that_rat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Blond And A Torch said...

What a great post!

Nora said...

very very true, Pamela especially that last paragraph!

Scott Bulger Photography said...

Standing ovation! Well said. Thanks for saying it.

that_rat said...

I always knew you were Crafty, Artsy, and Artisan-y...? :^) Keep up your good work!