Craft artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. They create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, or other objects that are usually designed to be functional, but sometimes the original works of art have only aesthetic value rather than a functional one.
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Craft artists make a wide variety of objects, mostly by hand, to sell in their own studios, online, in stores, or at arts-and-crafts shows. Most specialize in one or more types of art. Some display their work in galleries and museums.
Craft artists typically do the following:
Craft artists work with many different materials, including ceramics, glass, textiles, wood, metal, and paper, to create unique pieces of art, such as pottery, quilts, stained glass, furniture, jewelry, and clothing. Many also use fine-art techniques—for example, painting, sketching, and printing—to add finishing touches to their products. Some craft artists display their work in museums, commercial or non-profit art galleries, corporate collections, and private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned (requested by a client), but most is sold by the artists themselves. Some craft artists spend a great deal of time and effort selling their artwork to potential customers or clients and building a reputation. However, only the most successful artists are able to support themselves solely through the sale of their works.
Formal schooling is not required for craft artists. However, many take classes or earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts, which can improve their skills and job prospects. It is difficult to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education in the fine arts. Most craft artists have at least a high school diploma. High school classes, such as those in art, shop, or home economics, can teach prospective artists some of the basic skills they will need, such as drawing, woodworking, or sewing. Many artists pursue postsecondary education, and take classes or earn degrees that can improve their skills and job prospects. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary training, which can lead to a certificate in an art-related specialty or to an associate’s, bachelor's, or master’s degree in fine arts. Education gives artists an opportunity to develop a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities. Portfolios are essential because art directors, clients, and others look at an artist’s portfolio when deciding whether to hire the individual or buy his or her work.
Craft improve their skills through practice and repetition. They can train in several ways other than, or in addition to, attending formal schooling. Some craft artists learn on the job from more experienced artists. Others attend non-credit classes or workshops or take private lessons, which may be offered in artists’ studios or at community colleges, art centers, galleries, museums, or other art-related institutions.
Craft artists create artwork and other objects that are visually appealing. This usually requires significant skill in one or more art forms. They must have active imaginations to develop new and original ideas for their work. Those who sell their work themselves must be good at dealing with customers and potential buyers. Most artists work with their hands and must be good at manipulating tools and materials to create their art.
Most craft artists are self-employed, while others are employed in various private sector industries and by government. Many work in private studios in their homes. Some share studio space, where they also may exhibit their work.
Studios are usually well-lighted and ventilated. However, artists may be exposed to fumes from glue, paint, ink, and other materials. They may also have to deal with dust or other residue from filings, splattered paint, or spilled cleaners and other fluids. Part-time and variable work schedules are common for artists of all kinds. Many also hold another job in addition to their work as a craft artist. During busy periods, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. Self-employed artists can set their own hours.
The median hourly wage of craft and fine artists was $20.90 in May 2010. (The median hourly wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $9.10, and the top 10% earned more than $44.04. Many find it difficult to rely solely on income earned from selling their works of art.