art·i·san (n.): Making art practical

October, 2016

Few things foster a sense of community more than stepping into a local market or craft fair. People from every corner of the city, coming together to explore row after eclectic row of handmade wares: creative candles, out-of-the-box soaps, rustic furniture and décor, original pottery, inspired clothing, jewellery and knits, and all kinds of things in between. But have you ever wondered about the people behind the booths? Here we define artisan—what it means to be one and where these makers fit in today’s world.

Who Is an Artisan

The dictionary defines an artisan as “a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson” and “someone who makes high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.” In short, an artisan is someone who skilfully creates functional items that also have an artistic flair.

The Original Artisans

The term artisan can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Back then, the term was used pretty loosely. Almost anyone who made things to sell or provided a service was called an artisan. This meant all sorts of occupations fell into the artisan category—everyone from shoemakers, weavers and tailors to blacksmiths, masons and glass blowers were artisans.

Artist, Artisan or Craftsperson— What’s the Difference?

Today, who an artisan is (or is not) isn’t quite as clear as in medieval times. In fact, the line between artists, artisans and craftspeople is a bit blurry, to say the least.

Not Quite an Artist

Although artisans use elements of artistry in their creations, they aren’t really the same as artists. Artists place aesthetic value first; they create to express themselves or to incite thought in others. Artists also tend to sell their work as single, original pieces. Artisans, on the other hand, create for function as well as beauty; they also create multiples of the same piece, adding a repetitive nature that isn’t typically present in an artist’s work.

Not Really a Craftsperson

Although the dictionary uses artisan and craftsperson synonymously, there is an argument that the two terms have different meanings. Although artisans are highly skilled at their craft, they place a good deal of emphasis on aesthetic appeal. Craftspeople, however, have strong technical skills, but put less expression in their work than artisans do.

Somewhere in the Middle

You could say an artisan is somewhere in between a craftsperson and an artist. A true artisan blends technical elements with creative elements, creating a product that’s functional yet artistic.

The Modern Artisan

Good news for artisans, handmade is everything these days. More and more consumers are turning away from mass-produced, cookie-cutter products and are moving towards their handcrafted, original counterparts. Ironically, this “handmade revolution” has been driven, in part, by technology.

Today’s technology has made it easier for artisans to create, display and sell their creations. Social networks (like the online knit and crochet community, Ravelry) give artisans a forum to discuss their craft, trade ideas and seek support from like-minded people. Craft-specific, buy-sell sites (like peer-to-peer e-commerce giant, Etsy) give artisans a trusted platform to show and sell their work.

Image-based, social-sharing sites (such as Instagram) and networks (such as Facebook) help artisans connect with their customers. Using these platforms, artisans can give their customers a first-hand look at what goes into creating their products. In turn, customers develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the time, talent and quality that goes into each handmade item.

With easier access to wider audiences, a stronger connection with customers and growing respect for handcrafted items, it’s safe to say today’s artisan is here to stay and thrive.  t8n


Upcoming Craft Markets in St. Albert

Don’t miss the County Craft Fair at St. Albert Place on November 19 and 20; Indie Handmade at The Enjoy Centre from November 24 to 27; and the St. Albert Indoor Christmas Market at St. Albert Place on November 26 and December 3, 10 and 17.


Inspiring Your Inner Artisan

Ready to create? The web is filled with crafty ideas for budding artisans. Websites such as Pinterest, Craftsy, Craft Bits, All Crafts, Not Martha and Totally Tutorials (to name just a few) make it a cinch to learn how to make your own creations.


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