saddleman15

Do you consider yourself an artist?

Recommended Posts

Hey guys, thanks for the welcome messages.  I've got a question for you all: how many of you consider yourself to be "artists"?

 

Now, I know you can say that anyone who works with leather is an artist since it's an artistic craft.  But by artist I mean do you think you have genuine inherent artistic ability?  The reason I ask this is because when I first started working with leather recently I thought it was mostly all about technical skill.  I quickly realized that's not the case - especially if you want to get into the details and not just make something functional.  I'm really intimated by tasks that require artistic talent!  Any thoughts?  Tooling has me scared  hahah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't separate "artistic" from functional.  I ONLY make functional items -- if it doesn't DO something, its useless (perhaps them "sensitive' guys want it?).  But I think I have some skill at making functional items include artistics (which is a word I just now coined.. like artsy cosmetics).  

I have made leather "pictures" - -I recreated Stohlman's "pictorial carving" front cover just cuz i can (12x18 leather), and I did a 18:x24" (if I remember right) of a steam ship going up the river to be hung on a wall (all those guide wires SUCKED) because that lady was pretty determined to find out how big a check she would have to write.

Honestly, the internet is changing the designs I use.  It makes me a bit lazy knowing that I likely can google up 5 images quickly for anything I want to tool, and when I do something unique and new, I often don't post it because I know others will google and get me!

TOOLING really is a bit mechanical - and not difficult. I always say I can teach a MONKEY to tool leather, long as he aint TOO drunk.   Painting/coloring leather is almost as simple once you learn some basic ideas, and how the dye / paint of your choice reacts to the leather.  BRAIDING leather -- now THERE'S an ART ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should say I am.  As near as I can tell it pays better and artistic license can be used to cover a lot of mistakes. :lol:

Truthfully the best artists IMO are also excellent crafts people.  They have the technical skill to back up their art.

Realistically I'm more on the crafts person side of things. I put function first.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

G'Day,

Not sure how to answer that. I call myself a leatherworker , but I  guess I could be considered as an artist. I put pictures onto leather, rather than canvas , I use brushes dyes & paints  to enhance the images  , and although all my projects &  customer orders have function, like belts bags, stubby holders  etc. instead of a picture hanging on a wall, they take their art with them ?  :dunno:   

HS 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not me.  People who create art are artists.  I recreate art on leather.  More of a craftsman, really.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An artist is creative and comes up with new and innovative original pieces.  I can make something look artistic as all get out, but in my heart I know I am a craftswoman.  Some people on this site can take leathercraft to soaring heights, they are artists.  That is one of the reasons this forum is so wonderful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't claim to be a lot of things I likely am just because it'll do an injustice to the folks that really are those things. I make stuff out of leather.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it helpful to look at definitions.  So I went to Merriam Webster and found the following:

Definition of artist for English Language Learners

  • : a person who creates art : a person who is skilled at drawing, painting, etc.

  • : a skilled performer

  • : a person who is very good at something

 

So first, is leatherwork in the same league as drawing and painting?  Personally, I would say yes, definitely!

The second definition, a skilled performer doesn't really fit, but then again, I would argue that folks like Nigel Armitage on youtube qualify as a skilled performer.   Watching Nigel and other popular youtubers is like watching an artist at work.  At least to me.

And thirdly, a person who is very good at something can apply to leatherworkers for sure.

Now do I consider myself an artist?  Although I believe I am good at certain aspects of leatherwork, I would not consider myself an artist.  I am a little past beginner and solidly into intermediate ground.  Lots of repetitions for me to make before I would even begin to claim artistry.  My strength is in knowing what I like, being able to recognize things that can stand improvement and continuing to slug it out and improve despite myself sometimes.

The other day I was looking at a post and saw someone's work and it just awed me.  Made me feel a range emotions.  That is truly art.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am no artist, that is for sure.

And, @immiketoo is a dang liar. I've seen his stuff. He is definitely an artist.;)

Edited by bikermutt07

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am certainly not an artist, but I see many folks on this forum who I definitely would call artists!  I consider myself an apprentice leather craftsman, because I have a lot to learn and my skills definitely need improvement!

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, a question that I spent years in graduate school discussing! ;-)  Let me throw my 10 cents into the ring..


The word "craft" really has the same root as the word "art" (from "artifice," or something created.) Over time the notion of "craft" has been relegated to 2nd or 3rd place to the notion of "art," which has come to mean fine art.
People have basically three overlapping cultures: folk culture, popular culture, and elite culture. Here is how they are different: 
Folk culture is traditional over time and space, passed down usually in an oral context in small, face to face group situations.  Learning how to play the guitar from listening to Uncle George's playing in the kitchen is likely folk culture. 
Popular culture is mediated, meaning that it's passed down via mass media. Listening to a recording of George Harrison, and watching him play on TV, as  you try to replicate what you hear and see,  is pop culture. 
Elite culture is taught in formal instruction, and considered the "best." Studying guitar in school under a teacher's instruction, learning guitar tab, and playing in "art" concerts is elite culture. 

A traditional song, like a Blues piece, or a fiddle tune, can originate in a live setting or folk culture. But then it gets recorded by Bob Dylan, and played on the radio to millions of people outside of the original live culture, and now it's popular culture. You can then learn the song from listening to the record, and then somebody else may learn it from you and it could be folk or elite, depending on the situation. Art is slippery!

The only actual difference is the amount of money people will pay for a "fine art" object, which is basically an object that is useless for anything other than some expression of an idea. Paintings and sculpture are considered fine art. There is also "art music."
Then there is popular art, usually mass produced (like movies, or art prints or posters).

So... what about leatherwork? When does it become art or artistic? 

Well, artistic means that there is another layer of meaning in the aesthetic qualities. Think of a saddle -- that can be a finely made saddle, but was the creator adding on non-functional aspects to express delight, or culture, or some other idea? A craftsman can say that's a well made saddle -- good stitching, good design, and so on. But it's not really "artistic" yet. 
If the saddle maker decides to add some decoration, by tooling (non-functional, really) or use dyes to change the color, then it becomes artistic -- there is something beyond the thing, another layer of meaning. Why add tooling or color except to delight the eye, or the touch?
What if somebody made a fine-art saddle? Well, it would lose its saddle-ness. It would be a piece of art, resembling in shape but not likely to actually work well as a saddle. But it would certainly command a hefty price! And who would take a million dollar saddle out to work on the ranch?

TL, DR:
Yes, leather workers can be artists-- it's just that what they are doing is rarely fine art (there is some out there, but not much).
For many of us, the pleasure is not just the concept or the aesthetic choices, but function is important. 
And above all, the tastes and demands of the audience -- are they making pieces for people who want fine art? Then it's fine art. Are they making pieces for people who want a holster that works well but also looks good? Then it's still art. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice post @DJole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a braider...i consider myself an artist.  to me if you work in a factory making leathergoods same thing over and over you are just a leatherworker but if you make one piece at a time and strive to improve with every project you do, maybe looking to create something original you are an artist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, bikermutt07 said:

I am no artist, that is for sure.

And, @immiketoo is a dang liar. I've seen his stuff. He is definitely an artist.;)

I consider myself more of a copy machine.  Or a 3D printer of sorts.  Ask me to draw the art I put on leather and you'd be pretty disappointed.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, immiketoo said:

I consider myself more of a copy machine.  Or a 3D printer of sorts.  Ask me to draw the art I put on leather and you'd be pretty disappointed.

 

I'm right there with you! I like to think of my stuff as "slightly boosted up functional".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, immiketoo said:

I consider myself more of a copy machine.  Or a 3D printer of sorts.  Ask me to draw the art I put on leather and you'd be pretty disappointed.

 

Well it certainly looks fantastic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, bikermutt07 said:

Well it certainly looks fantastic.

Thanks, chief!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, roo4u said:

I am a braider...i consider myself an artist.  to me if you work in a factory making leathergoods same thing over and over you are just a leatherworker but if you make one piece at a time and strive to improve with every project you do, maybe looking to create something original you are an artist.

I agree with this. My goal in leather working is not to find the most efficient way of churning out dozens of copies of the same item, but to learn how to produce something that is both functional and beautiful. But trying to find that line where craft leaves off and art begins is pretty well impossible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a fun discussion. In many ways I think ‘artist’ may be more about mindset than output. I consider myself to be both an artist and a craftsman. I’m still fairly new to leather but this is who I am, and these are the mindsets I can apply to whatever I’m working on. In leatherworking as in other pursuits I draw on both of those skill sets to varying degrees project by project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a former fine arts professor and department head. IMHO, there are two aspects of being an artist. First is mastering the craft of the media you are working in. This could be leather, water color, photography, paint, music, dance. Once mastered, a small percentage of the participants (my guess is 5%) then have the ability to create art using the craft they have mastered. The other 95% produce well crafted items that generally sell at a fraction of those items that are acknowledged as art. Sometimes the process of recognizing a true artists is impaired due to the cultural norms at the time the work is being evaluated. Most great artists have rarely been recognized during their lifetimes, and many who have been are discarded as our cultural aesthetic moves on.

As for me, I am definitely NOT an artist with leather. I am only interested in producing affordable products with a market and sufficient profit to justify my time. I consider myself a craft person, or artisan but not an artist. On the other hand, I do consider myself an artist in the realm of music and photography. Although I have supported my self well teaching and doing architectural photography, it was a means to an end. The same with music. I have the option not to either perform nor record anything I don't feel is "artistic". In addition, I will only photograph architecture that is worthy of my efforts, and have turned down many commissions.

I have seen many artists displaying their work on this site, work that I am sure, they could never charge enough to pay for their time, but that generally is not top priority for most artists. 

Just my two cents.

Bob

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right... I am jumping on the Mike is/is not an artist bandwagon. 
I have some little credibility in the leather world... some... he is an artist, a wonderful one, I am bigger than he is so that rule stands.

I am now going to take umbrage on being referred to as a 'performer' I am a maker, a little tongue in cheek but this comes up in conversation quite frequently with students.
I would define (within the realms of leatherwork) an artist as someone who creates something of artistic value and as so eloquently mentioned, evokes emotion by the viewer.
In the medium of leather, people like Michael Dale, Peter Main, Britt Nantz, Al Stohlman and many more too numerous to mention are: artists. 
As for I, the performer, I do not create anything of artistic value, my work is functional, strong, yet aesthetically pleasing. It looks nice, but you would not hang any of my items on a wall or put them on display, by that rational, I am not an artist, an artisan perhaps.

There is a quote, "art is art if someone calls it art" by that measure, anything can be called art, and often has, a cow in vat of formaldehyde was seen as art, that, I do not get, to me, art is the application of talent and skill to create something wondrous. 
Mike, that ticks that box and you have no foundation to argue the point.

To now take ownership of this tirade and answer the original question, I am not an artist, I am not a performer, I am a maker, I make stuff, I am proud to be a maker. if someone wants to call my items art, that is their right to do so and I will defend their right to do so, but I think they are wrong.
Art is a subjective subject, quality is not, just because something is bespoke, well made using traditional skills, does the job and is aesthetically pleasing does not alone make it art. If you then adorn that item using your talent and skill you add artistic value.

Just my subjective opinion.


Still not a performer :-)

 

Nige
 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Dangerous Beans said:

Right... I am jumping on the Mike is/is not an artist bandwagon. 
I have some little credibility in the leather world... some... he is an artist, a wonderful one, I am bigger than he is so that rule stands.

I am now going to take umbrage on being referred to as a 'performer' I am a maker, a little tongue in cheek but this comes up in conversation quite frequently with students.
I would define (within the realms of leatherwork) an artist as someone who creates something of artistic value and as so eloquently mentioned, evokes emotion by the viewer.
In the medium of leather, people like Michael Dale, Peter Main, Britt Nantz, Al Stohlman and many more too numerous to mention are: artists. 
As for I, the performer, I do not create anything of artistic value, my work is functional, strong, yet aesthetically pleasing. It looks nice, but you would not hang any of my items on a wall or put them on display, by that rational, I am not an artist, an artisan perhaps.

There is a quote, "art is art if someone calls it art" by that measure, anything can be called art, and often has, a cow in vat of formaldehyde was seen as art, that, I do not get, to me, art is the application of talent and skill to create something wondrous. 
Mike, that ticks that box and you have no foundation to argue the point.

To now take ownership of this tirade and answer the original question, I am not an artist, I am not a performer, I am a maker, I make stuff, I am proud to be a maker. if someone wants to call my items art, that is their right to do so and I will defend their right to do so, but I think they are wrong.
Art is a subjective subject, quality is not, just because something is bespoke, well made using traditional skills, does the job and is aesthetically pleasing does not alone make it art. If you then adorn that item using your talent and skill you add artistic value.

Just my subjective opinion.


Still not a performer :-)

 

Nige
 

 

Well said! BTW I lectured in Photography  at Trent Poly in the 70s.

Bob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a real fun discussion and I enjoyed reading the comments so far. This is something I also often thought about. My history in leatherwork is really short so far but I consider myself a crafter, since my approach and my goal is to master the techniques and create beautiful made, functional items. From that perspective people like Nigel are "master crafter", they create perfect made, aesthetically but functional items. For a leatherworker, such items can be viewed as art since we know how much experience and effort is necessary to produce so clean and well made things. But the non-leatherworker will always see it as the functional item.

When I look at work such as Mike does I always see that as art since it's adding decorative value to functional items at a very high skill level. Also, there's some sort of "own style" involved when making such items, which in my opinion is a property of art. 

The transition between craftsmanship and art is smooth for sure and I think we all cross the border from time to time while living mostly on one side.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think an analog is found in musical instruments. There was a perl engraver in the early 20th century named Consalvi who engrave pearl to be inlaid in banjos produced in New York and Boston:

 

Image result for consalvi engraving

Many of these banjos are still being played today.

Image result for consalvi engraving

In addition to these high end musical instruments, some were produced for exhibition at major international expositions and were made as pure art. If you visit the Boston Museum of Fine Art, there is a whole gallery of similar instruments that were built and decorated far beyond their actual requirements as a musical instrument. This next image is from their exhibit:

Related image

I recreated the Consalvi "Gryphon" for t-shirts and also had a stamp made for decorating banjo straps. It took me a month to retrace and recreate the design in Photoshop, and I followed every cut made by Consalvi. It was not unlike carving leather. I see some of the saddles produced by leather artists as being more of a show case for their work, than a functional item. As for the exhibition banjos, I doubt any were ever played on stage and went straight into collections.

Bob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/17/2018 at 2:51 PM, Dangerous Beans said:

Right... I am jumping on the Mike is/is not an artist bandwagon. 
I have some little credibility in the leather world... some... he is an artist, a wonderful one, I am bigger than he is so that rule stands.

I am now going to take umbrage on being referred to as a 'performer' I am a maker, a little tongue in cheek but this comes up in conversation quite frequently with students.
I would define (within the realms of leatherwork) an artist as someone who creates something of artistic value and as so eloquently mentioned, evokes emotion by the viewer.
In the medium of leather, people like Michael Dale, Peter Main, Britt Nantz, Al Stohlman and many more too numerous to mention are: artists. 
As for I, the performer, I do not create anything of artistic value, my work is functional, strong, yet aesthetically pleasing. It looks nice, but you would not hang any of my items on a wall or put them on display, by that rational, I am not an artist, an artisan perhaps.

There is a quote, "art is art if someone calls it art" by that measure, anything can be called art, and often has, a cow in vat of formaldehyde was seen as art, that, I do not get, to me, art is the application of talent and skill to create something wondrous. 
Mike, that ticks that box and you have no foundation to argue the point.

To now take ownership of this tirade and answer the original question, I am not an artist, I am not a performer, I am a maker, I make stuff, I am proud to be a maker. if someone wants to call my items art, that is their right to do so and I will defend their right to do so, but I think they are wrong.
Art is a subjective subject, quality is not, just because something is bespoke, well made using traditional skills, does the job and is aesthetically pleasing does not alone make it art. If you then adorn that item using your talent and skill you add artistic value.

Just my subjective opinion.


Still not a performer :-)

 

Nige
 

 

Nige, I'm not at all comfortable with my name being bandied about with the likes of those you have listed.  In fact, I am decidedly UN-comfortable.  However, I am comfortable with the application of the word art being applied to a functional item regarding the imagery I put on things.  Calling a piece of work art is ultimately up to the viewer, but I stand on my statement that I am not the artist.  I apply other people's art to leather in a skilled way.  BIG difference.

And your work is at such a high level that it could also be considered art.  Making plain things is much more difficult than making them fancy.  Nowhere to hide, as it were :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now