Artists and artisans are both going towards
During my last trip to Vancouver, I had the chance to visit an Art Gallery. I love to admire the local art, everywhere I go, as I think it is one of the most incisive ways to have an immediate look at locals’ background and vision. Art masterpieces, I have been taught, are like a window: they let us look into the artist’s mind, and at the same time, they let us look at the world through the artist’s point of view.
One of the moments I love the most, after visiting an art gallery or a historical site, is to sit down and take a coffee, letting the emotions flow freely.
So, I was enjoying my coffee, while I was chatting with my husband about which masterpiece I had most appreciated (it was a wooden totem pole, by an indigenous artist, by the way) when he said something that surprised me: he was speaking about an artisan, in our home town, who is a very good woodworker.
I stopped sipping my coffee, and I asked if I had missed something in his talk: was he speaking about another artist?
At that moment I realized that the two words, artist and artisan, have the same root.
…Yes, I could have realized it earlier, but at that moment, I had just seen an artist’s masterpiece, and I was struck by the idea that artisans too need high expertise to produce their objects.
So, I went to my etymology dictionary and looked for the root and these two words.
“Ar” is the root of both words, and it is the origin of ancient verbs meaning “to go towards”, “to move forward”. What found surprisingly fitting, in this origin, is that the idea of going is associated with the idea of moving. And as we know, an artist’s masterpiece can also move us, in a pure emotional way.
The difference between an artist and an artisan is certainly huge. An artist creates something that is made to last, which needs a high skill, which has a meaning (at least in the artist’s mind), and is a unique product. An artisan’s work is made to be used, but it needs ability and it brings a moment of joy to anyone who is using it.
Artisans may be tailors, and they produce sometimes real masterpieces; just let’s think of some famous couturier, or simply the multitude of artisans sewing, for example, theatre costumes or bride’s gowns. Or, they might be chefs producing tasteful, and equally amazingly looking dishes. They are all artisans: their products are not made to last for centuries, nor are made to be contemplated.
If we think of all the artisans that we have met in our life, their job has certainly eased our life, much more than any artist might have done. For sure, who has built the house we live in, the furniture inside, the dress we wear, and the delicious meals we eat… all these are objects that we use, and consume, often without thinking to the many people who have contributed to their creation.
I am sure, every one of us has at least one precious skill, to contribute to the creation of an everyday-life object. Among the readers, there are certainly: some good cooks, some carpenters, some other writers… or someone who has any other ability that can be necessary to the production of an object, or the solution to a problem (plumbers are artisans too, and a very useful kind)
So, if we think that they are all “going towards” with their skill, they are moving us to enjoy the use of their products, we can think that everyone has the root of an artist inside.
Maybe we are not all Da Vinci, but all of us have a special ability inside, and that makes every one of us a potential artist.