Reflections on a Vocational Happenstance
"I understood the craft of photography when done by an artist is art." - Ruth Berhard
The process of choosing one word over another -selecting the most right word, using the most accurate word -that process is important to me.
So when I knit, am I a crafter, an artisan, or an artist?
Probably this is a question for which the answer is less important than the asking. Not the same as "Is that object on the counter a pitcher, a carafe, or a decanter?"
A 'crafter', by current definition anyway, seems to be a person who knits as a hobby, enjoying crafty pursuits in general. Until 2012, I fit clearly into this category, having tried just about every popular craft over the years. Needlepoint, cross-stitch, macrame, origami, decoupage, cake decorating, crocheting, rug braiding, batik, scapbooking, tatting, scherenschnitte, collage- you name it, I have probably tried it. For whatever reason, I am crafty by nature. I enjoy learning new processes and making things with my hands.
I will always dabble in other crafts, but when I began concentrating on becoming a very good knitter, and then later when I decided that my knitting was good enough to sell, I moved out of the crafter category and began working with a purpose. Four years later, then, knitting almost every day, am I an artisan or an artist?
You'll laugh, but what made me first think about this was setting up my Jules Wrenne Facebook page. I had to choose between "local business or place" and "artist, band, or local figure". I felt uncomfortable choosing "artist", but since I do not have a brick-and-mortar location and can work from anywhere, artist seemed a better fit. I still feel a bit self-conscious about that choice, as if someone will look at my page and be thinking "Who does she think she is, calling herself an Artist?"
Generally, I consider myself an artisan. I typically work with patterns designed by others, either wholly or by recombining elements from patterns I have used in the past. I have not invented new techniques or stitch patterns, and I use tools in the way they were intended. My commitment to quality and range of experience makes me something more than a crafter, but I would not say that I am an artist.
Except, that is, when it comes to hats.
Many times I sit down with needle and yarn and no plan in other than making some sort of a hat. Those hats are always one-of-a-kind, using up odds and ends. I have no idea where I'm going and never write down what I've done. I love reaching into a basket of many colored small balls of leftover yarns and starting out with no direction. The yarns feel like paints on a palette waiting for me to mix and match.
Those hats, made as they are from pure personal expression, might be art. More creation than craftsmanship. They are the things most truly mine, my trademarks.