My goodness, I didn’t realise what an interesting debate this would become when I started the thread! It’s clearly an area we all think about and often feel lost in. Exactly where do we fit in? We all have a need to place ourselves among our peers yet in our particular crafts the distinctions between artist, artisan and craftsman are far from clear. All of what follows is of course only my opinion and I am no expert.
I would describe an Artisan as someone who works within a mechanical craft (ie using hands and tools) to produce three dimensional objects from raw materials which are or have the potential to be USEFUL. Therefore I include weavers, potters, clock makers etc but exclude painters and sculptors since they produce “Art for Art’s Sake”.
Those who work in stone are a useful group since they provide an easy example of the difference – sculptors are Fine Artists because their work, while three dimensional, is rarely utilitarian. It has no function other than to “be”. Stonemasons however, are, once skillful enough, Artisans. Their work is primarily functional and yet will often be beautiful.
There we have another defining point – the work of an Artisan is primarily useful and incidentally beautiful.
Helen – you have hit the nail on the head talking about your felt landscapes – I would definitely describe those as art and your felted mittens as the work of an Artisan. So you are both – depending on what you are doing.
So what is the difference between an Artisan and a Craftsman? Both need a long period of practical training and time to gain experience in their crafts. For many there will even be exams to pass such as City and Guilds. After their “apprenticeship” either formal or informal, when they have acquired the full compliment of skills and considerable experience, what is the difference? I think it is that vague term “artistic ability”. A good craftsman will produce a workmanlike object fit for its purpose. It may be fine work or it may be rough and ready. An Artisan will produce fine workbut also imbue that object with his personality by using his craft skills to exploit all the artistic potential of his design brief. So, the craftsman is a Maker, the Artisan is a Designer/Maker in modern terminology although I don’t the modern definitions – ugly and not very helpful in my opinion.
I think the next point of interest is of course, how and when all these distinctions arose. They are largely a 19th century creation arising from the huge cultural changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution – but that’s another topic for another posting perhaps!
A picture of my Bowmonts – we put the rams in with the ewes on Sunday. Nothing to do with Art or Craft but just a pretty sight!