Hello all, I wrote a blog article about this topic and I am interested in your opinions on the subject, just to see different perspectives and for discussion purposes. Let me know your opinion, and feel free to agree or disagree, opinions aren't wrong. Click here to read the article on my site.
My fellow woodworkers,
Is a woodworker an artist? Well I suppose that depends on your definition of an artist, doesn't it?
My definition of an artist? Someone who creates something that is pleasing, thought-provoking, and/or inspiring to the human eye.
Dictionary definition of an artist? "a person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor", "a person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.", "a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill."
A sculptor. Okay so that includes woodcarvers. What about the rest of us? Design. Our designs of pieces are, by definition, art. How about the last definition? "A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill". Well, there is no set line for when you reach the point of "exceptional skill" in woodworking.
Based upon what I have just said, I can conclude that a woodworker is an artist, depending on the audience. In my definition I state that is it something pleasing, thought-provoking, and/or inspiring to the human eye. I do not specify which human eye. I could make a cube on the bandsaw in front of a young child, and s/he could think it is the most fascinating thing in the world. I could then do the exact same thing to a high school kid who took a shop class, and s/he more than likely would be bored and not find it interesting or fascinating at all. To the high school kid, I mean nothing. To the young child, I am a very talented artist. The difference? The high school kid can do the exact same thing, just as easily as me, whereas the young child does not understand how I did that, therefore s/he is fascinated.
How about another situation, same imaginary people. Let's say I create sand-shaded bell flower inlay on an eight sided tapered leg I made just before (this is why it is imaginary...). The young child would more than likely not understand it, and not be fascinated at all, it would simply be to complicated. That would be like showing s/he that I can do calculus. (which I can't). The high school kid who has had some exposure to the tools and the trade/art, would understand more as to the extent of the work, practice, and knowledge that would go into that leg. S/he would be fascinated, more than likely. To the child, I don't mean much this time. To the high school kid, I am a talented artist.
All in all, I think every woodworker is an artist depending on their audience. I could watch a very new, newer than me, woodworker make something and I could be less than impressed. Then I could go to the Museum of Fine Arts and be in awe at the incredible works of art by fellow woodworkers. Fellow artists. They are artists to more people than I would be, because their skill level and talent is much better. The better you are will make more people see your work as "art", and the more you will become described as "an artist".
We are all artists, the reader who has created full size grandfather clocks with goose molding and finials, and the reader who just learned how to edge join two boards yesterday. Let's keep working hard, and become artists to more and more people, and please and inspire more people.
Good luck and have fun, my fellow artists.