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What Is an Artisan? Things You Should Know

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

The easy answer to what is an artisan is a master of many talents

The word artisan comes from the Italian word artigiano, which means a skilled manual worker who creates items that can be either purely decorative or functional or both. Artisans make jewelry and tools, furniture, clothing, and various household items. The craft or art of making something, even food, is an artisan effort.

An artisan differs from an artist in that she creates and produces items that have a sense of utility about them. A carpenter is an artisan, as is someone who weaves and creates textiles, but they are also artists. An artist who makes unique decorative sculptures and figurines is an artisan. Someone who makes grandfather clocks, or intricately inlaid music boxes, is an artisan.

Anyone who produces something that is functional as well as has artistic beauty and merit is an artisan.

Man Using Bench Grinder
The process that an artisan employs is a process of creativity.

Before the Industrial Revolution when machines took over, artisans were the top producers of products. In the past, the top dog in the artisan camp was the master, who owned a business and employed others to do the manual labor. The masters were influential and had a higher social standing than the workers, who were referred to as apprentices and journeymen. They learned the tricks of the trade and sometimes went on to become independent artisans and the owners of their own businesses.

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Artisans are creative and innovative. They think creatively and produced products that not everyone is capable of creating. Artisans are good with their hands. They have manual dexterity.

Potters are one type of artisan. They create dishes, bowls, plates, and cups, all of which were functional but beautiful as well. No two objects are alike. The artisan creates and designs wares that are reflective of him and the colors and styles that he likes. Pottery that is created by an artisan often rises to the level of an art form because it is so distinctive and glorious to view.

Artisans like to manipulate materials and invent things.

The product that they create can be a mechanical device, an artistic masterpiece, or crafts. Everything that you use in your daily life was created by an artisan. Granted, it may be produced by a machine nowadays but in the beginning, someone created the first television or car using their creativity and smarts, and they did it by hand.

A true artisan has an insatiable need to make things. They can look at something and decide that they could produce it better or cheaper or faster, and they figure out a way to do this. Artisans are the kings of re-purposing. They take an ordinary object, such as an empty tin can, and turn it into something beautiful and functional.

Artisans use raw materials and turn them into an object that can be functional or decorative or both. 

When you think about it, artisans are inventors. They are always at work to discover new uses for old things and manipulate, tweak and change items so that they can be used off label, as it is called in the medical industry when a drug is used for something other than its intended purpose. For example, that furnace filter would certainly make a nice earring holder if it was framed, and it did.

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An artisan can turn anything into a canvas: a tree, the ground, a curtain, a wall. Artisans are naturally inquisitive and creative and like to explore. The result is our world is a much prettier, richer, more colorful, and more functional place because of their efforts. We cherish and display and use their products. Sometimes, we wear the shawls they weave and eat from the pottery they produced. We decorate ourselves with the jewelry they have crafted. Without the work of artisans, the world would be a dreary place.

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