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Craftsperson Job Description, Career as a Craftsperson, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Craftspeople in every part of the nation make and sell a variety of handmade items such as ceramic pots, silver jewelry, and printed scarves. Handmade objects and articles of clothing are becoming increasingly popular among consumers and are sold at many venues, from small shops to huge craft fairs.

A large number of craftspeople produce ceramic objects that are made of clay, decorated with glazes, and fired in a hot oven, or kiln. Sometimes the artists buy greenware, a kind of clay object that has already been molded. Crafters then finish the rough edges of the greenware, decorate it, and fire it. Many different objects can be made with ceramics, from jugs and jewelry to artistic sculpture.

Weavers form another group of craftspeople. They weave yarn on hand looms and on other hand-operated equipment to make finished clothes, blankets, rugs, or unfinished pieces of cloth. Weavers often spin their own yarns and dye them as well. Other craftspeople knit, crochet, hook rugs or wall hangings, or dye fabric for clothing and for decorating. Some make block- or screen-printed cloth. Block prints are made by carving designs into wood, spreading the wood with ink, and stamping the fabric with the inked block. Screen printers create a design with various materials on a silk screen. Then, using a technique similar to a stenciling process, they use the screen to print the design.

Craftspeople also work with metal. They use gold, silver, copper, bronze, and steel to make jewelry, dishes, or sculpture. Sometimes glass enamels are used to decorate such products.

Some crafters specialize in leather, producing one-of-a-kind clothing, handbags, and jewelry. These crafters make designs in leather using stamping tools, which have sharp, patterned edges. Other crafts such as stained-glass work, embroidery, and quilting became increasingly popular in the early 2000s.

A potter throws a vase on a wheel as part of the process of producing a ceramic object. (© Jon Feingersh/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

Professional craftspeople are highly skilled and usually have some formal training. They may have taken courses in high school or through adult education programs. They may also have attended craft workshops for one week or more to receive intensive training. A smaller percentage of craftspeople acquire their skills at a college or a university.

Once potential crafters have learned the basics of their chosen craft, they must gain skill through practice. Most successful craftspeople have spent years perfecting their craft.

Taking classes in business or computers is helpful for those interested in owning their own shops or creating Web sites to sell their wares.

Getting the Job

Many people begin by selling their wares on the street or at flea markets. Others create their own Web sites to sell their art on the Internet. Small shops will often sell items on consignment, meaning that the shop agrees to display a crafter's work in return for a certain percentage of each sale.

Individuals interested in owning their own craft shops should first work with an experienced craftsperson. This arrangement allows the new crafter to learn both the technical and the design skills of a craft, as well as how to run a small business.

Some highly skilled craftspeople sell their wares at craft fairs, many of which are run on a competitive basis. Crafters are usually required to submit pictures of their products to the fair's organizers. If the organizers accept the wares, a display space will be assigned to the crafter.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Craftspeople advance in several ways. As they become more skilled and develop a reputation for quality work, they can sell their wares for higher prices. They may open their own shops. Some crafters advance by combining formal arts and crafts. For example, an artist/craftsperson might make knitted sculptures and exhibit them in a gallery or art museum.

Skilled craftspeople sometimes become teachers at schools, craft fairs, or summer camps. They may also speak about and demonstrate their craft to community groups. Occasionally, people who create textile designs can sell their ideas to clothing or wallpaper manufacturers, or they may even become designers for such firms.

It is anticipated that consumers will remain interested in handcrafted objects through the year 2014. While skilled craftspeople and their goods are always in demand, competition is keen. Teaching jobs for crafters will be hard to find because of the many qualified candidates in the field.

Working Conditions

Most people learn crafts as hobbies and become interested in working professionally only after years of practice. They enjoy their craft because it is creative and satisfying. Craftspeople often work with machinery such as pottery wheels and soldering irons. At times the work can be dirty and messy, but few dedicated artists seem to mind.

Craftspeople often have unusual schedules and may work nights and weekends. In addition to the time spent creating their wares, they must put in additional hours to sell them. Crafters who own their own shops must manage a business as well as make their crafts. Those who teach generally work fewer than forty hours a week; they often have three-month vacations and long holidays during which they do their own work.

Where to Go for More Information

New York Foundation for the Arts
155 Avenue of the Americas, 14th Fl.
New York, NY 10013-1507
(212) 366-6900

American Craft Council
72 Spring St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10012-4019
(212) 274-0630

Earnings and Benefits

There are no reliable methods of determining exact earnings for craftspeople. The amount these artists earn is dependent on a number of factors and can fluctuate with the economic climate and marketplace. Because earnings are so erratic, many people in this field teach on the side or have other jobs to supplement their incomes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those craftspeople that are salaried reportedly earned a median income of $23,520 in 2004. Self-employed craftspeople do not receive any benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts