I've been using a term frequently in my Etsy tags, within my section on my latest wire wrapped creation and just about anywhere I'm promoting my handcrafted jewelry. That term is "artisan" and today I'd like to explain what it means to me, why it's become such an important part of how I define my work and why I want it associated with my creations.
Artisan means something crafted by hand as opposed to something made in a factory. Artisan pieces are unique since they're not machine made. The creation is done on a smaller scale as opposed to mass production. I also like Wikipedia's definition of a person who's an artisan - "a person engaged in or occupied by the practice of a craft, who may through experience and talent reach the expressive levels of an artist using his hands, mind and heart in his work and what he creates" - especially the use of the hands, mind and heart. Each piece of the jewelry I make has a little bit of my heart in it and I experience a little thrill in my heart even when making the simple and functional pieces like jump rings. Making pieces from scratch also involves a lot of planning and design, thus the part about the mind. I really have to pay attention to the details. The hands part is obvious. I use my hands and tools to shape and forge the pieces.
I didn't start out this way. At first, I was perfectly content creating necklaces with store-bought jump rings, ear wires and other components. However, as time passed, I started feeling discontent with the end result. I felt like I could often do it better and, as my skills improved, I often could! I started developing a sense of what made my jewelry unique and I wanted each part of my jewelry to reflect that. It also means that the end result is closer to my original idea. I don't have to compromise on my original design by having to make adjustments for something I bought. Of course, there are still items I can't make on my own (not yet but I'm learning!), or I choose to save some time by using pre-made items but, overall, my work is incorporating more of my handcrafted parts.
So, why do I want the term "artisan" associated with my work? I believe that in creating as much as I can of the parts lends to a stronger, more durable product. For example, links that are wire wrapped directly into one another are not likely to fall apart even after years of use. Jump rings and ear hooks that I've shaped and hammered relentlessly are more likely to hold their shape. I know what I've done to create each of these components and I feel more confident in their quality than something I bought from a store. Quality is a term I want associated with my jewelry as is beauty. I can make even the functional parts beautiful by adding a special bead or stone or wrapping it with wire so that it truly flows well with the overall piece. Another reason to create by hand is the unique nature of my jewelry. Even items that I make on a regular basis like trees of life, angels or wire hearts are individually unique. No matter how many times I make a design there's something that sets it apart from the ones that came before it. The person who buys it will, therefore, own something very special and original, knowing that it's not something from a big box store that thousands of other people will also be wearing.
Creating components and findings by hand does take time and does result in a higher price than something made with factory-made parts but I do believe it's worth pursuing. I like being able to label my jewelry as being handcrafted and artisan and to know that my creation has my "hands, mind and heart" in it.