Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition.
What they do
Craft artists create objects, such as pottery, glassware, and textiles, that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create pieces of art more for aesthetics than for function.
Craft and fine artists typically do the following:
- Use techniques such as knitting, weaving, glassblowing, painting, drawing, and sculpting
- Develop creative ideas or new methods for making art
- Create sketches, templates, or models to guide their work
- Select which materials to use on the basis of color, texture, strength, and other criteria
- Shape, join, or cut materials for a final product
- Use visual techniques, such as composition, color, space, and perspective, to produce desired artistic effects
- Develop portfolios highlighting their artistic styles and abilities to show to gallery owners and others interested in their work
- Display their work at auctions, craft fairs, galleries, museums, and online marketplaces
- Complete grant proposals and applications to obtain financial support for projects
Artists create objects that are beautiful, thought provoking, and sometimes shocking. They often strive to communicate ideas or feelings through their art.
Craft artists work with many different materials, including ceramics, glass, textiles, wood, metal, and paper. They use these materials to create unique pieces of art, such as pottery, quilts, stained glass, furniture, jewelry, and clothing. Many craft artists also use fine-art techniques—for example, painting, sketching, and printing—to add finishing touches to their products.
Fine artists typically display their work in museums, in commercial or nonprofit art galleries, at craft fairs, in corporate collections, on the Internet, and in private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned (requested by a client), but most is sold by the artist or through private art galleries or dealers. The artist, gallery, and dealer together decide in advance how much of the proceeds from the sale each will keep.
Many artists work in fine- or commercial-art studios located in office buildings, warehouses, or lofts. Others work in private studios in their homes. Some artists share studio space, where they also may exhibit their work.
Studios are usually well lit and ventilated. However, artists may be exposed to fumes from glue, paint, ink, and other materials. They may also have to deal with dust or other residue from filings, splattered paint, or spilled cleaning and other fluids. Artists often wear protective gear, such as breathing masks and goggles, in order to remain safe from exposure to harmful materials. Ceramic and glass artists must use caution in working with materials that may break into sharp pieces and in using equipment that can get very hot, such as kilns.
How to become a Craft and/or Fine Artist
Craft and fine artists improve their skills through practice and repetition. A bachelor’s degree is the common for these artists.
Most fine artists pursue postsecondary education to improve their skills and job prospects. A formal educational credential is typically not needed to be a craft artist. However, it is difficult to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education. For example, high school art classes can teach prospective craft artists the basic drawing skills they need.
A number of colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subjects related to fine arts. In addition to studio art and art history, postsecondary programs may include core subjects, such as English, marketing, social science, and natural science. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary education programs, which can lead to a certificate in an art-related specialty or to an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in fine arts.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredits more than 360 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools award a degree in art.
Medical illustrators must have artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of human or animal anatomy, living organisms, and surgical and medical procedures. They usually need a bachelor’s degree that combines art and premedical courses. Medical illustrators may choose to get a master’s degree in medical illustration. Four accredited schools offer this degree in the United States.
Education gives artists an opportunity to develop their portfolio, which is a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities. Portfolios are essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them when deciding whether to hire an artist or to buy the artist’s work. In addition to compiling a physical portfolio, many artists choose to create a portfolio online.
Those who want to teach fine arts at public elementary or secondary schools usually must have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, career and technical education teachers, and postsecondary teachers.
The median annual wage for craft and fine artists was $48,760 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,000.
Overall employment of craft and fine artists is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.
Employment growth for artists depends largely on the overall state of the economy and whether people are willing to spend money on art, because people usually buy art when they can afford to do so. During good economic times, people and businesses are interested in buying more artwork; during economic downturns, they generally buy less. However, there is always some demand for art by private collectors and museums.
Similar Job Titles
Artist, Ceramic Artist, Designer, Fiber Artist, Fine Craft Artist, Furniture Maker, Glass Artist, Glass Blower, Goldsmith, Hand-Weaver, Automotive Artist, Blacksmith, Fine Artist, Ice Carver, Ice Sculptor, Illustrator, Muralist, Painter, Portrait Artist, Sculptor, Commercial Artist, Concrete Sculptor, Hand Potter, Quilter
Cooks-Private Household, Jeweler, Precious Metal Worker, Potter-Manufacturing, Musical Instrument Repairer and Tuner, Sewer-Hand
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Indian Arts and Crafts Association
- Society of North American Goldsmiths
- Surface Design Association
- The Furniture Society
- American Craft Council
- Glass Art Society
- National Association of Independent Artists
- National Cartoonists Society
- National Sculpture Society
- National Watercolor Society
- Oil Painters of America
- Print Council of America
- Sculptors Guild
Magazines and Publications
Craft art takes many forms from handmade furniture and jewelry to clothing and stained glass. Craft artists create these, and other handmade objects and digital products, to be functional works of art. Craft artists work with many different materials to create their pieces, and may also use fine-art techniques for example, painting, sketching, and printing to add finishing touches to their products. Some craft artists earn a living from selling their work such as potters who make bowls and plates to sell in shops… or tattoo artists, who may produce drawings of their designs on commission from customers. Other craft artists use their skills to develop patterns or models to guide the production of an item. Most craft artists spend a lot of time promoting their artwork to potential customers and building a reputation… many have another job to support themselves financially. Craft artists may also sell their work at craft shows, or via their own website or online merchandising websites, to reach a wider audience of potential customers. A degree is typically not needed for craft artists instead they develop their skills through practice, increasing the complexity of the projects they create. Some attend classes offered by colleges, art centers, museums, or other artists.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org