All Replies on Craftsmen vs. Artists

  • Advertise with us
View KoryK's profile

Craftsmen vs. Artists

by KoryK
posted 10-23-2011 07:16 PM

40 replies so far

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2735 days

#1 posted 10-23-2011 07:40 PM

I believe an artist makes unique pieces to please themselves, their personal taste and preferences guide their work. It’s hard to be inspired following the wishes of another. Many others may also like, love, desire the finished piece, but it’s inspiration comes from within.

I believe a true craftsman can make a piece to meet the expectations of another, perhaps to duplicate a piece or change it to the whim of the customer. They can be quite content to make a piece that will please another persons taste. A true craftsman can make the same item again and again and take pleasure in the process and end result.

I believe most of us, the hobbyist, are somewhere in the middle.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3972 days

#2 posted 10-23-2011 08:42 PM

I think the craftsman label gets used by people who want to create but are afraid to ultimately and singularly be responsible for the scope of what they create. The artist label gets used by people who don’t want to be ultimately and singularly responsible for the fit and finish of what they create. Then there’s the artisan, who accepts both challenges.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 3221 days

#3 posted 10-23-2011 08:56 PM

Artist → Right Brain’er
Craftsmen → Left Brain’er

A Right Brain’er I’m not.

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4185 days

#4 posted 10-23-2011 09:03 PM

Interesting point, Miles. You may have something there.

Generally, I consider the difference between craftsman and artist to be the element of creativity. An artist may be able to dream up a unique and beautiful design, but he may not be a good enough craftsman to build it right. A good craftsman, on the other hand, should be capable of duplicating the most intricate design, but not necessarily capable of thinking it up on his own.

I never really thought about the definition of an artisan, but it makes sense that there should be a term for someone who is both a craftsman and an artist.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3005 days

#5 posted 10-24-2011 04:01 AM

To be a true artist you must be able conceive and create. The measure of a true artist is their incite and developed skill that results in works that touch the emotions of those who view it. We most often think of artistic things as beautiful or pleasing, but many other emotions may be invoked within one through a piece of art. The real question is. Can you create art without being a good craftsman? I believe not.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View Roger's profile


20923 posts in 2770 days

#6 posted 10-24-2011 02:39 PM

what Oluf said

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2437 days

#7 posted 10-24-2011 02:51 PM

The definition that I heard goes like this;
Work with your hands—————————————————you are a mechanic.
Work with your hands and your head————————you are a craftsman.
Work with your hands your head and your heart—-you are an artist.
It’s pretty much what has been said.

-- "certified sawdust maker"

View jerkylips's profile


397 posts in 2537 days

#8 posted 10-24-2011 03:36 PM

I’m going to have to go with cr1 on this one -

artists make stuff you look at-
craftsman make stuff you use-

That said…..(with all due respect)....who cares? Too much emphasis on labels. There are no absolutes –
“craftsman” can make works of “art” and vice versa…

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3041 days

#9 posted 10-24-2011 05:32 PM

I seldom work from plans. I like to do my own design and I like to make things that are different and creative. When I am visualizing what I want to do and thinking through the design I am being an artist. When I build the object that I have visualized I am being a craftsman.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2949 days

#10 posted 10-25-2011 08:37 AM

I like tom427’s definition.koryk, your intarsia work is very artistic,maybe you should stretch your abilities and do the bench.there’s alot to learn yet.that will make you a woodbutcher and an artist.

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3452 days

#11 posted 10-25-2011 02:19 PM

I never think in terms like artist or craftsman. I always use the term woodworker (as opposed to carpenter) to define what I am. I build decks and built-ins for a living, and my results are always very well crafted, but never art. I design almost every one of those projects, but they aren’t very creative…just very well built, so I guess that craftsman would be the term for what I do to make a living. Nothing wrong with that, as it’s payed my bills for 30 years.
In my spare time, I am always in the shop, making fun projects with my scrollsaw, lathe, and other tools…puzzles, cutting boards, boxes…whatever tickles my fancy on any given day. Some people look at my projects, and call me an artist. I always say the same thing…”The artists are the ones that designed/drew the things that I make. I’m really good with my hands/tools, and at producing the artist’s ideas. Sometimes, I do create a project, or modify a design to make it mine…so I guess that makes me an artisan, which could be a hybrid of the 2.

-- Steve--

View CodyJames's profile


78 posts in 2372 days

#12 posted 10-25-2011 02:43 PM

Oddly enough, I was just comparing myself to some of the projects I see here on Lumberjocks, and I was saying to myself, “Wow a lot of these people are really technical, I am not so sure I am on the right forum.” I like to “wing” things, I don’t go by a set of directions, and I think that’s what seperates the craftsman from the artists.

If you look around on the forums here, you will find “blueprints” for woodworking projects, these folks are the craftsmen.

Now that’s not saying that a craftsman can’t be artistic, or vice versa, in fact, quite the opposite, when you can meld the two together, you’ve become BALANCED in your woodworking skills and will far exceed any expectations you set out for yourself.

I like what shopdog said, although I didn’t read it until after I typed all this out.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2743 days

#13 posted 10-25-2011 02:48 PM

My note – There are many definitions that work on all counts that I have seen. Most of these are customer facing. If you are talking to an architect or builder – you are a craftsman, if you are speaking with an interior decorator – you are an artist.

It all depends upon the job and the money involved – if you are making kitchen cabinets – craftsman, if you are designing and making a statement- artist works for me. Most importantly – professional is best (they get paid).

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10365 posts in 3395 days

#14 posted 10-25-2011 03:54 PM

At least to me, there isn’t a difference that makes a difference.
We’ve all seen useful items that are so beautiful that one might call them art.
Often a craftsman’s technique is art.
Some “artists’” techniques are craft.
Maybe it’s akin to pornography. We can’t define it, but we know it when we see it.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View tr33surg3on's profile


21 posts in 2391 days

#15 posted 10-25-2011 09:20 PM

Even Pye avoided the term “craftsmanship” but his “Nature and Art of Workmanship” is a book to read if you are thinking on this topic.

-- Tim -- Tools to make tools to's tools all the way down.

View RooseveltKoepke's profile


21 posts in 1043 days

#16 posted 06-18-2015 10:48 AM

I think in the way of vine

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1181 days

#17 posted 06-18-2015 02:21 PM

I think that the lines are blurry. I consider myself a technician, executing the cut, wielding the tool, I’m simply a do-er. But in my head there is a dance going on, a conversation with the wood, do you want to be this thin or are you too frail, do you like being planed this way or is that against the grain. So I’m a craftsman, learning to do what the wood wants. Making this all look like it was planned, and thinking about ratios, scale, contrast, and negative space, that’s an artist’s job. In some cases I’m a technician, in others a craftsman, and still other times an artist. You simply cannot make anything out of wood without reaching into all three. The questions you are truly asking (if I can be so bold) is which of these three is dominant in your work? Which is a great question, but a little bit different than your first post…

In my case I am a far better craftsman than artist, but I am definitely both.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View PhillipRCW's profile


462 posts in 1231 days

#18 posted 06-18-2015 03:56 PM

I’m pulling out my inner hippy, but I really don’t like labels. I do woodworking like cooking. I learn a technique, I follow recipes/plans, and then I make them my own or incorporate small bits into my own ideas. I was self taught on both, and then really started watching a lot of videos for both once they became more popular. I have picked up time tested techniques, but I also do things that make other people question why. It is my method.

I think almost anyone can sit down and follow directions on how to cut a mortise and tenon, or dovetails, or make a box joint. Half will want it to be perfect, the other half want to move onto something more interesting. With so many more people getting into mixed media and so many skill levels, I like the term maker.

I may make a table top with metal legs and a raspberry pi wired underneath to control lights or even romantic music coming out. Hell, I’m working on a batman shelf that has a moving bat signal. A lot more involved there than being an artist, woodworker, craftsman, or artisan.

-- Phillip- Measure twice, cut onc.... Hey look, it's rustic.

View mahdee's profile


3873 posts in 1734 days

#19 posted 06-18-2015 06:02 PM

I dream up images of things to build in my head as I travel. It may take me a month or two to totally have a complete image with most of the details worked out. Then a lot of time is spent in research before execution actually begins. I suppose I am a whatchamacallit??


View Aj2's profile


1360 posts in 1764 days

#20 posted 06-18-2015 10:38 PM

Roosevelt dug up an old thread, my opinion has not changed.A craftsman doesn’t sign his work because he makes things in large quanties that serve the needs of the people.They are made without thought of himself.They are not expensive anyone can afford his work.If his wares survive a long time time they take on a beauty only use and time can create.
There is a big fad right now with the rustic distressed looking furniture.False beauty.That cannot compete with a 200year old farm table!
The artist craftsman pieces are sometimes expensive and he puts alot of egotism in his work thinking about his image or reputation.When he does sells something the owner my not even use his wares,because they are too perfect .Or maybe his signature is on it and that make it very valuable this happened to sam Maloof.
Of course this is just my opinion,the highest from of craftsmanship is folk art. And very rare today.
What’s left of the arts and crafts is being rotted by the selfie and social media.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.:)

-- Aj

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1452 days

#21 posted 06-18-2015 10:50 PM

I’m having trouble not posting something offensive to some, yet funny to myself. And prob a few others. So this is the least I could manage.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2040 days

#22 posted 06-19-2015 02:20 AM

LOL fridge. I think BOTH terms are over rated. Some have touched on several good points. I like the one about an artist not being able to execute so he excuses himself by claiming being an artist. the other is one who can only go where everyone else has gone and exercises good technique to make a piece believing that others can do no better. Both use the title as an excuse to charge for way to much time and fetch a high price. Both complain about someone who can match their quality and surpass their skill by providing a product for a cheaper price not only because they are better at the craft but also can determine where a fault may lie in the producing of an item. So in fact they are BOTH artist AND craftsman! Thats a PRODUCER LOL!

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1358 days

#23 posted 06-19-2015 11:40 AM

It seems to me that attempting to “label” somebody one way or another would always, at its core, involve trying to explain one’s own failure to do something they admire, or convince themselves or others that their own particular skill is worthy of some sort of separatism. To quote Orwell “All of the animals are equal, but some of the animals are more equal than others.”

To me, it should be more like this:
1) no two people are exactly alike
2) some people like to play with wood

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2743 days

#24 posted 06-19-2015 11:50 AM

I love to make stuff, fix stuff – its all good. I love to make something a finished product from rough or raw materials. I do not like to copy other peoples’ designs or from pictures of an existing something – unless it is so functional that it fits what I want and need (want to make a Morris Chair someday). That is not to say that what I make isn’t very similar to someone else’s design, I am using router bits that are commercially made and available, I do use a #55 and make moldings, etc…

I don’t consider myself an artist or really a craftsman but if I had to choose, I would be more on the side of a craftsman. This is probably because I work with wood and/or metal, most artists that I have seen or read about are very focused with the exception of people like Michelangelo – he did sculpting and painting, and a little counterfeiting but then again, he was trying to make a living. The guy was a genius and the real question of that day was who played who – the Cardinal or Bishop (can’t remember which he was) or the painter? I think they played each other to get what they wanted.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 1303 days

#25 posted 06-19-2015 03:09 PM

Artists are smelly hippies with thai dyed shirts and flip flops. Craftsmen have beer bellies, painter butts and pack of Marlboros.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1447 days

#26 posted 06-19-2015 04:37 PM

I think the “art” part of ww’ing involves the creative process, both at its inception as well as throughout a project. The ability to change things on the fly, or even incorporate a mistake are all part of this. It involves originality, imagination, creativity and an inner sense for design – what’s appealing to the eye. Its what makes the greats like Maloof and Stickley and others who stand out from the rest of us. They are artisans because they are known for their design as well as craftsmanship.

It also requires mechanical skills, such as in carving or sculpting wood.

I think of “craftsmanship” as a part of ww’ing that involves structural design, and takes into account the materials involved: the physical characteristics of the wood being used, as well as the aesthetics of grain matching, etc.

The other part of craftsmanship is the exacting work that is evident in the way a piece is built, things like tight joints and even gaps etc.

Take, for example a simple dovetail joint. The artist part of the craftsman develops a layout and size of pins pleasing to the eye for that piece. The craftsman part of the artist cuts exact, well-fitting DT’s.

Essentially, I don’t think you can separate the two because in order to be an artist you have to be a craftsman. In order to be a good craftsman, you have to develop some artistic talents.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Aj2's profile


1360 posts in 1764 days

#27 posted 06-19-2015 06:18 PM

So true rwe 2156, The artist craftsman is what I consider myself and 99% of woodworker in the USA.
The hurdles we face is our own sense of individualistic beauty.Esp when we put the way sometime will look before its function. That’s breaks the law of craftsmanship. Some including myself spend too much time obsessed with perfection.So my wares become expensive.Not everyone can afford to buy one of my tables.
The good news is I’m getting faster,and it’s none of my business what others think about my work.
Sam maloofs rocking chair was hands down way ahead of its time.Its also sad that his work shop is just a museum for tourist, now that he’s gone.The rich folks don’t want his furniture without his signature.What a shame.

-- Aj

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

28946 posts in 2304 days

#28 posted 06-19-2015 07:52 PM

I don’t label myself as either. I am a woodworker who tries to build unique and functional pieces for my customers. Labels are for future historians to decide.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View PhillipRCW's profile


462 posts in 1231 days

#29 posted 06-19-2015 08:25 PM

Well said Monte.

Also, I think I’m the only person on this site that doesn’t like maloof or maloof style items. Mainly that rocking chair everyone builds. I love the joints and how the wood flows into other pieces. I’m just not a fan of his stuff though. I would still call him an artist, just not one I like.

-- Phillip- Measure twice, cut onc.... Hey look, it's rustic.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1189 days

#30 posted 06-20-2015 03:13 AM

I don’t think I could be an artist without being a craftsman 1st. All children are artists, in general their application is basic, they don’t have enough experience/perspective in life to go beyond stick figures.

A craftsman is a person that has spent time and effort with tools, materials and concepts relating to structure/form, hopefully they got training, “OJT” to avoid mistakes and waste.

A craftsman that attempts to go beyond the norm of his trade, structure and form is also an artist.

In my opinion and object, no matter how attractive, with no function will eventually become invisible. An attractive object with a function is useful and will remain attractive indefinitely.

-- I meant to do that!

View Ocelot's profile


1960 posts in 2605 days

#31 posted 06-20-2015 03:25 AM

....(with all due respect)....who cares? Too much emphasis on labels. There are no absolutes –
“craftsman” can make works of “art” and vice versa…

- jerkylips


View ric53's profile


194 posts in 1486 days

#32 posted 06-20-2015 12:10 PM

Monte is right on. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m a woodworker plain and simple. I take a piece of wood and and create something out of it. It’s that simple. To many labels in society today. If we dwell on this question to long we will lose sight of what we really love to do, which is to work with wood.

-- Ric, Mazomanie

View bonesbr549's profile


1531 posts in 3033 days

#33 posted 06-20-2015 12:42 PM

Interesting topic. I like to consider myself a craftsman and that’s plenty good for me. My clients have used the artist word for my pieces and it makes me smile. As long as check clears I don’t care

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View MrRon's profile


4718 posts in 3210 days

#34 posted 06-20-2015 04:32 PM

I would say; you can set a price on something created by a craftsman, but an artist’s work would be much more difficult to set a price on.

View Aj2's profile


1360 posts in 1764 days

#35 posted 06-20-2015 08:05 PM

Craftsman or Handmade or custom made used to have value, it’s been diluted so much I don’t bother saying anything I make is handmade. I guess if it’s not obvious so be it. So next woodworker will be meaning less. Do you guys remember the Hooker funiture factory.My bed room furniture was made there it’s not fancy or complicted.But it was made by craftsman that took pride in there work.Highly functional.

-- Aj

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1391 days

#36 posted 06-21-2015 04:02 AM

The definition that I heard goes like this;
Work with your hands—————————————————you are a mechanic.
Work with your hands and your head————————you are a craftsman.
Work with your hands your head and your heart—-you are an artist.
It s pretty much what has been said.

- tom427cid

I agree 90%

I love my work but some of these guys that carve as if it were oil on canvas or they were working in clay is just something that is a gift IMO and make them the true artists.

-- Brad, Texas,

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1452 days

#37 posted 06-21-2015 04:14 AM

I think the topic should be craftspeople V’S artists

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1386 days

#38 posted 06-22-2015 02:23 AM

There has been a few good points made here, some that don’t make a lot of sense. I reckon I look at this both ways. I’m self taught in all aspects of my woodworking, & enjoy every second of it!! I spend several hours a week on the scroll saw, lathe, & creating whatever comes to mind. I don’t use anybody’s plans per say, but my scroll patterns are bought. I couldn’t draw a stick man w/a box of pencils & a pad of paper! Some don’t even consider scrolling woodworking, & that’s ok too. Here’s a subject I consider that takes artistry, somewhat of a mechanical mind, craftsmanship, some perfectionism, & patience. And yes, it has A LOT to do with eye appeal. But, the scroller & the pattern work together to bring the pattern to life in the chosen wood. As out of the norm as this may sound to most of ya, it’s the truth. I spend several hours studying a pattern before it ever gets put to wood, & pilot holes drilled. Once a blade is put to the pattern, its as much fun to visualize the finished product, as it is watching it come to life a piece at a time. I don’t know about you, but the titles should be left to the hotshots that want them. I consider me both.

-- Sawdust703

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1452 days

#39 posted 06-22-2015 02:47 AM

Artists are smelly hippies with thai dyed shirts and flip flops. Craftsmen have beer bellies, painter butts and pack of Marlboros.

- ElChe

Hey! I represent that last remark.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View AZWoody's profile


1325 posts in 1190 days

#40 posted 06-22-2015 04:10 AM

Maybe it was Kierkegaard, or maybe it was Dick Van Patten, who said “If you label me, you negate me”

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics