How do you see yourself? It’s a question I’ve struggled with for a long time, and I’ve heard others voice similar comments. To me, “artist” always meant someone who could draw or paint pictures that were used strictly as decoration. Everyone else was a craftsman of one sort or another and the end result of their labors, be it a basket, a dress, a glass goblet or a chair, was normally intended to have some kind of use.
This is not to say that a craftsman and his or her product is inferior in any way. All my life I’ve been vitally interested in our country’s history and in particular, the artistic processes and skills our forebears possessed. I greatly admire people like Paul Revere who did such elegant silversmithing or the Shaker basketmakers with their fine eye for balance and texture or the Pennsylvania long rifle makers who embellished the brasswork with such delicate engravings.
All of them must have taken great pride in their workmanship. Were they artists? Of course they were. But they also were craftspeople–people making something that had a specific purpose, and I doubt that most of them considered themselves to be “artists.”
In some ways this mental division costs us something, or at least I think it costs me. It makes it harder to take risks, to do something just because you WANT to or take time to explore a new concept or a new artistic venture. If we believe we are creating a product that is supposed to have a practical purpose, then it’s more likely that we’re going to be interested in selling it, right? So then we have to consider all the other ramifications of marketing.
- Is there a market for it?
- Does it take more time to do than we get back in price?
- Where can we sell it?
Do you find that you are conflicted by your view of the purpose of your own work? Does selling your work validate it? Or is it validated just by the process of creation? How have you resolved it to your satisfaction?