So, this is going back in the reading a bit but it’s something I’ve been hung up on for a while.

As some of you might know, last semester (and continuing into this semester) I’ve been on a research group about crafters who participated in the e-commerse site, Etsy. I worked under Shaowen with Samantha and Kathleen to see how females viewed the crafting process and craft as a whole. We took a grounded approach to our research and did a close reading of approximately 300 featured sellers.

One of the emerging themes we saw was clear divide on how female crafters viewed themselves. When asked how they first became an artist we saw three different types of seller responses:

  1. I am an artist and I always have been one.
  2. I became an artist through practice and training.
  3. I am not an artist. I am a crafter, maker, seller, prototyper, creator, but I am NOT an artist.

When we were discussing Collingwood’s distinction between what is “Art” and what is “Craft” I kept coming back to these results we found in our study and considered “Here are guidelines for Art vs Craft, but what are the guidelines for calling oneself an Artist compared to a Crafter?”

After some thought (and a whirlwind of a meeting with our favorite Collingwood-ian, Erik) I have an example to help explain and highlight the differences. I’m going to explain an ongoing conversation I’ve had with Samantha and her husband, Damion to illustrate this distinction:


Can you program? Are you a programmer?


Damion is a Java web application developer. Sam has been an AI for one of the undergrad programming courses and considers her programming skills to sit between novice and proficient. I took two required programing courses as an undergrad.

If need be, someone can force me to write a perl script. It might take me a while, but I can hack and fake my way through programming something that works. If someone asked me, “Katie, can you program?” I might respond with “Yes, but not well.” If someone were to ask me, “Katie, are you a programmer?” I would say “No” – even if I were sitting down at my computer working on a piece of code. Clearly I am programming, but I don’t consider myself a programmer. Sam claims that she falls into this same category. Damion, on the other hand, says “Yes, I am a programmer” (Okay, actually he might get defensive and say he is a developer, not a programmer…but that’s the same argument just one title-level up!)


David Beckham: "I'm a soccer player" or "I play soccer"


The same goes for soccer. I can look across to Woodlawn field and see a group that is playing soccer. They all understand soccer, and although they might not be the next David Beckham, they are playing. If I were to walk up to one and ask “are you a soccer player?” They might say no, even if they are clearly in the middle of a game. If I were to say “Do you play soccer?” They might be more likely to say “Yes.”

I find this a very interesting dynamic and I think applies the to question of “artist or crafter” in the sense that with increased practice, confidence, and expertise, you are more likely to assign yourself to the more “prestigious” title.

Any thoughts?