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Before there were machines to make blankets, there were weavers. Before there was plastic, all jewelry was made by hand, from metal, rock and wood. Before there was nylon, polyester and rayon, there were leather workers. Artisans have been creating functional art for thousands of years, all over the world.

The term artisan is a catchall phrase, encompassing potters, carvers, ceramists, glass blowers, jewelry artists, silversmiths, leather workers, stained glass artists, weavers and instrument makers, to name a few. Though we now have machines to make most of what we need, artisans refuse to let go of traditional practices, which helps keep the history of the world's various cultures alive today. Artisans are often trained by mentors, other artisans who have been creating for years and who pass on their skills and knowledge. Some artisans learn their trade from schools, books or by practicing until they get it right.

Because they are so specialized and skilled, many artisans choose to work alone, and create items which they sell in shops or craft stores belonging to other people. It isn't until they become more widely known and respected that they will begin to display and sell their work in galleries, and may then be able to open a shop of their own.

Artisans are important because they help keep cultures' traditions and beliefs alive. Without the care, time, and concern that goes into each artisan's piece we would lose a little bit or our history, one stitch at time.
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  Interests and Skills  
Artisans are creative individuals, and are driven to create art. Successful artisans must be willing to put in long, hard hours. They must have good manual dexterity, steady hands, and should be patient, careful and not afraid of taking risks and trying out new and unknown things. Some business sense is important, especially for those planning to make a career out of their creations.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer or client about piece
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Use various techniques to create ornamental and functional items
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • They typical day for an artisan involves meeting with clients, creating sketches and drawing up plans for the item. More time is spent preparing for the actual design than making it. When artisans actually get down to it, and begin making the objects, the hours can be long, and accurate work is crucial. Artisans may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient tradition from cultures all over the world.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, artisans work part-time, however, the longer they work and the more popular their creations, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in studios, often in their own homes. Artisans usually work alone, or in collaborations with a few artists. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their original work in galleries, jewelry, craft, or gift stores, or artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made-to-order for specific clients.
  • Some artisans find full-time work with table ware manufacturers, jewelry and clothing designers, or household wares design companies. They may work with museums and historical societies, making historically accurate re-creations or restoring antiques and artifacts, and work completing their own creations on the side.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Artisans can become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can branch out into other areas of artistry, or become clothing designers, commercial artists, or open a jewelry store or gallery.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required program to take or path to follow to become an artisan. Often, artisans will study under the guidance of an established artisan, and will find an individual with whom they can work and learn. Some colleges and private schools offer courses in metal work, jewelry arts, glass blowing, carving, and silversmithing, as well. Completing a university degree or college diploma in fine art, design or sculpture, as well as a few courses in business can be beneficial.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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