What Does ‘Artisan’ Really Mean? Show You Care for the True Artisans at Christmas

November 04, 2016

With the word ‘artisan’ in use more than ever, at Traidcraft, we wanted to find out just how much the word has lost its true meaning. So, we conducted a survey of the British public to ask: “What is an artisan?”

The answers we received were charming, odd and often very funny, but nearly a third (27%) of people admitted that they didn’t know what it meant at all.

artisan stat

From doughnuts to denim, and even drinking water, there have never been so many products available that claim to be ‘artisan’. Walk into any trendy coffee shop, bar or restaurant and you won’t need to look very far to find the word mentioned on a menu, bottle, box, or bag.

So common is the word now that you can be forgiven for not really knowing what it means – especially as it’s often used to describe an aesthetic, rather than the careful process of crafting something special, and the highly skilled person who is behind it.

We think it’s time to put meaning back into the word artisan, and celebrate the true artisans of the world to Show You Care this Christmas.

From actors to artefacts – the amusing definitions of ‘artisan’

With small bakeries across the country filling their shelves with artisan bread, it was no surprise to us that several people believed that artisan was merely a type of bread, or a baker! But the more entertaining answers certainly didn’t end there.

Some believed that an artisan was an actor, whereas others defined it as “an air freshener”, “a well”, “something French”, and even “a relic from the past” – which is in fact an ‘artefact’!

air freshener

Not only that, but others told us that they believed an artisan was “someone who doesn’t like Christmas” or “doesn’t like parties”, and even a person who “can switch off social media and not be bothered by it altogether”. But while some of these responses certainly gave us a chuckle, it shows just how misused the term artisan has been. So what really defines a true artisan?

Celebrate the true artisans of the world with Traidcraft

At Traidcraft, we work with real grassroots artisan producers in developing regions across the world. We are proud to sell beautiful recycled and handmade goods, ethically sourced from these highly skilled artisans that have invested many years into developing their crafts and have been paid fairly for their work.  

Far more than just an aesthetic, a true artisan puts endless love and care into their work at every step of the way, creating authentic, wonderful and one-of-a-kind handicrafts that, for many of our artisans, are more than just beautiful products. To the artisan workers at Noah’s Ark in Moradabad, India, creating and selling goods such as their delightful Recycled Key Bowls and colourful Tree of Life Recycled Tyre Plant Pots for a fair price is a means of working their way out of poverty, for themselves, their families, and their communities.

That is why we were delighted to see that most people did really understand what an artisan is, and what makes them truly special.

One person offered the following description:

“An artisan is a crafts person who takes pride in their work, and who has perfected a technique that mostly requires handcrafting and attention to each individual product. It’s the antithesis of mass factory production.”

We simply couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Those who knew what an artisan was also described them as having ”devotion”, “expertise”, and making things “with love and precision” - which is so true for artisan producers like Bongi, a passionate sculptor of our Swazi Mini Christmas Candles that enable him, and his colleagues, to support their families and look forward to a brighter future. Just like Bongi, artisans make things not just with their hands, but with their hearts.

Show You Care – discover wonderful creations by true artisans at Traidcraft

Christmas is a time to Show You Care, and by choosing unique fair trade handmade Christmas gifts from Traidcraft that have been lovingly crafted by talented artisans from around the world, you won’t just be putting a smile on the face of your lucky recipient.

Buying fair trade Christmas gifts makes a difference to the lives of their producers, helping them to afford food, education, healthcare, and to contribute to their communities. To them, being an artisan is not just a word – it is their path to a better life.

In our Top 10 Recycled Christmas Gift Ideas you can find just a selection of our favourite products that have been crafted from recycled materials by our artisan producers, so you won’t just be supporting them, but the environment too. You’re sure to find plenty of Christmas gift inspiration in our list, and even more in our full collection of ethical and fair trade Christmas gifts that are so much more than just stocking fillers.

We have thoughtful Christmas gifts for her that will delight the special ladies in your life as well as a collection of inspiring Christmas gifts for him, all of which have been fairly sourced from artisan producers throughout the developing world.

If you’re looking for something truly unique, why not take a look at our handmade or recycled Christmas gifts which have been expertly re-purposed from a range of different materials. The epitome of ‘artisan’!

What does the word ‘artisan’ mean to you? Tweet us @traidcraft now to let us know!