Craftsworkers and artisans concentrate on hands-on, creative activities, and they aim to preserve traditional forms of producing everyday objects. Learn more about working in this field, including the occupational outlook and salary. Find out more about relevant degree programs and job options.
The essence of these visual arts is to produce objects valued for their unique beauty as well as their usefulness in everyday life. Projects include beverage glasses, unique metal jewelry, quilts and clothing, one-of-a-kind fabrics, ceramic dishware or custom furniture. Artisans typically specialize in a particular craft, but whatever medium you choose, developing your skills will require an eye for color, textures and patterns, manual dexterity and the ability to conceptualize your final piece as a three-dimensional object.
In addition to honing your craft, you would benefit from developing many other abilities. Interpersonal skills would contribute to your collaborations with clients on custom commissioned art pieces. Sales and marketing skills could help you obtain grants, place your work in stores and galleries or sell your wares at arts and craft fairs. Being an artisan requires self-confidence, since you produce work with no assurance of how it will be received.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities specifically for craft artists are expected to grow by only 3% during the 2012-2022 decade, and competition for positions should be keen (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported an average yearly salary of $36,600 for craft artists, including metalworkers, weavers, potters, and needlecrafters, in May 2013.
Most artisans have additional jobs, such as art teacher or professor, to supplement their art income. While employment for educators varies with geographic area and teaching level, the mean income at the elementary, middle-school and high school levels ranged between $56,320 and $58,260 in May 2013. During the same period, a college art professor earned $72,630 on average, and employment growth at this level is projected at 19% from 2012-2022. Self-enrichment teachers, who provide informal instruction, can expect a job growth rate of 14% between 2012 and 2022. Earnings averaged at $40,680 for these teachers in 2013.
Although you can develop your skills as a craftworker or artisan through apprenticeships, workshops and informal classes, degree programs are offered for Associate in Art, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts. There are also certificate programs.
Degree programs in crafts, folk art and artisanry provide students with theoretical and hands-on instruction in traditional styles of glass and metalwork, fibers and textiles, pottery, woodworking and other crafts. To prepare for a college program, you could take studio art classes in high school or at a local recreation or community center. Once in college, you'd learn techniques for a variety of crafts and have ample opportunity to develop skills in your craft specialty in a studio setting. In addition to coursework in general studies and studio technique, a college education would provide you with professional skills, including the preparation and production of artist statements, portfolios, exhibitions, grant proposals and promotional materials. Expect to complete your degree program with an exhibition of your work.
While you do not need to have a college degree to become an artisan, formal art education would provide you with employment opportunities that can support your art career. If you are good at explaining craft techniques, you could teach. For elementary, middle and high school, you would need a bachelor's degree and additional study or training for teacher certification in your state. With coursework in art history and a master's degree, you may become a college professor. If you enjoy designing the presentation of arts and crafts, consider employment as curator of an art museum.