Artist vs. Craftsperson: The Saga Continues

Once again I’ve returned to the artist vs. craftsperson debate.  I try to avoid it, but forces continue to draw me in.  There was a huge conversation on a LinkedIn group, an article in metalsmith, Tamra Gentry asking mysterious questions about which I consider myself, and discussions within my chapter of the PA Guild of Craftsmen.

I told Tamra that I consider myself an artist.  But then I decided on craftsperson.  Then artist again.  Back & forth, over & over.  I feel stuck in the middle.

On one hand – process technique, and craftsmanship are a huge part of my work.  I love working with my hands (and tools!) and am constantly striving for flawless execution.

On the other hand – I went to art school.  I draw and take photographs (another debated art form).  I am inspired to create new designs that are of my own creation.  My work is very sculptural.  My finished work is just as important as my process.  My work is not traditional.

Most of the time I don’t worry about what I am.  However, during recent meetings of my Guild chapter, we’ve discussed jury requirements.  I read them and understand the wording.  Others didn’t get what “individual voice” and other statements meant.  One person began railing against “art school” jargon (not the first anti- art school rant) and other voiced concerns that traditional craftsmen were being left behind.  Here I felt that I was too “arty.”

I also watched Work of Art on Bravo (somewhat disappointing I have to say).  Seeing that I don’t know who most of the guests from the art world are, how so much emphasis is being placed on concept and its conveyance to the viewer, and opinions of the judges and participants makes me feel completely out of touch with the art world.

In my mind, I am an artist and a craftsperson.  Outside forces push me to one extreme then the other.  It’s like I’m in limbo or purgatory.  So the question is still unresolved.  Maybe if I felt more strongly about being one or the other, my work would reflect that.  Right now I’m comfortable being who I am, whatever that is!  Let’s call it simply – Wendy.

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8 thoughts on “Artist vs. Craftsperson: The Saga Continues

  1. W – Yes amazing how often this comes up as though it really matters – my wife Fiona says maybe we should be calling ourselves craftists – both artists and craftpeople – not one or the other. She says we work in the craft-arts sector. B


  2. W -some times I feel like a crafter and sometimes an artist. I think it depends on what I am working on. If I am experimenting, trying new techniques and combining old techniques I feel like an artist. If I am just repeating what I already know – then I am a crafter.
    Does that make sense?


  3. I like the term craftist! No matter what folder we get filed in the most important thing is that we keep making our art. Art is the song of the soul!


  4. We are who we are and our works speak for themselves – you are right to be happy to call yourself (simply) Wendy. Thank you for such a gentle thump on the head to the jargon police.


  5. I am convinced they are two different things. My brother-in-law can build anything as long as I design it for him. He’s a super skilled craftsman. The woman who built my cement countertop says she HATES designing them but loves a client who tells her what they want. Both are clearly NOT artists. When people say that you are what you say you are, it is because YOU decide. You decide what you WANT to be or become. Anybody can do the glass I do. Not everybody wants to. I LOVE to create. Because of that love, I have the patience it takes to develope the skill it takes to make stuff. The art part of it is just the voice that is only mine. It takes craftsmanship to copy my work. It takes ME as an artist to make the original. The word I use to encompass both is artisan. And, yeah- call me whatever you like. They are all good words. Wurd! Nice to meet you First Friday!


  6. I love your answer and I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. It clearly evokes an emotion response with many. I consider myself to be both an artist and a craftsperson…oh ya, Kathleen too. Great job Wendy! 🙂


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