I am an artisan. It is true. I make things. Objects of lasting beauty. I studied for years to develop my skill and facility for the craft of working in glass. Many burns, many thousands of dollars in color tests and R&D. The term “artisan” has a proud ring and a history behind it. I would be the first to admit that there is a craft to other non-art or design related fields such as cooking, for example. I would not however agree that this makes someone who cooks bread an artisan. Or someone who mixes drinks. The problem is that people have glommed onto the idea that they can somehow elevate themselves by taking on or co-opting the term “artisan” in a bid towards delicious trendiness. It has worked.
But I don’t like it.
What has elevated one group has served to lessen the value of what we as artisans do day in and day out. We make things….yes….but we aren’t making mixed drinks or bread or things like that. We make furniture of exceptional quality. We make wrought iron that hovers at the station of art like a glorious phantom of etheric sublimation. Tumblers that entirely escape being JUST tumblers but canvasses for a world of wonder visually. Tell me you artisans of bread and martinis; are you doing this with your materials?
So I will be the first to say I am a little grumpy about this whole artisan business. I am grumpy because its like how someone dresses up to go to the opera only to be cat-called by a bunch of ruffians on the street. Imagine that. Now you know how I feel. yes, I know maybe it sounds like I am being elitist, but really I am not. It just seems to me that the clothes do not fit the people and seems a little overdone. And silly. It is like Mrs Smith down the street introducing her son who digs ditches as being an excavation engineer. It isn’t that I am trying to put people in their place, it is that the words used just don’t fit and are deceptive.
The term of Artisan is getting used left and right and is now showing up more than the old use which is what I and my contemporaries have been using for years….centuries, really. You can see what I saw when I was doing a search for Artisan Blogs recently. Here is what I saw (many browsers now allow you to click on the image to see it clearer and larger….give it a try so you can see the screen shot from today a little more clearly) :
Yes, so there you have it. Wine. Bread. Martinis.
See, the thing is, I do believe that we can and should change the language and the associations that we have with words in order to keep things up to date. This is a meaningful pursuit, most certainly. However, what has been done to the artisan in the name of popular cuisine is simply sad for me. For the amount of work I have put into my discipline. The blood and sweat and tears. And before anyone from the cooking shows and cooking blogs raises an eyebrow or clears their throat in objection, I will be more than happy for you to object once you have spent a week in my studio doing what I do. I have already done what you do; I will be making bread in a few days and I have certainly made my own wine and beer. I know the care that these things take, but they are not on par with what I do with glass or clay or stone or molten bronze. Or what others do with stone or wood or silver. Or yarn. Perhaps what you seek is craft. But artisan is a bit over the top, don’t you think?
You may now bow and kiss my ring…