Craftsmen vs. Artists

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Forum topic by KoryK posted 10-23-2011 07:16 PM 3356 views 1 time favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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229 posts in 3748 days

10-23-2011 07:16 PM

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I might be wrong, but I think there is a clear difference between craftsmen vs. an artist. Both can be very talented in their own right. Where is the line that separates them? The reason I ask is I consider myself an artist because of the wood working that I enjoy. I create my work by seat of pants if you want to be honest and I change it constantly throughout the process. If I’m right, I think a craftsman’s process is completely different. I’m in awe of what a craftsman can do because I just can’t do it. Example: I made an intarsia piece that would be put in a flag case. I spent more time trying to make the damn case than the intarsia piece and was ready to pull my hair out by the end. I was not happy with the results either. I find most people do not understand this because recently I showed my work to someone and after seeing it they ask if I can make them a bench for their yard. 1st I could make them a bench. 2nd they would not be happy with it. 3rd I would not enjoy the process and just be frustrated. I think if you make benches you would feel the same if someone asked you do make an intarsia piece. I might be completely off the mark on this and just wondered if anyone felt the same or it’s just me. A lot of you are more articulate than me and maybe you could explain the line between the two forms of woodworking (if I’m right)?

-- If you not making sawdust, your probably wasting your time. Kory

40 replies so far

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 3827 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 5064 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 4313 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


16292 posts in 5277 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 4098 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


21054 posts in 3863 days

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

what Oluf said

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 3529 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


495 posts in 3629 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 4133 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 4042 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


581 posts in 4544 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 3465 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


3408 posts in 3835 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 Palm Bay, FL

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12315 posts in 4487 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 3483 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.

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