Artisan production and its authentic meaning. 

Nowadays the terms “artisan” and “artisanal” are increasingly heard, yet very often these terms are used improperly and illegally. As authentic certified artisans, our aim is to increase awareness of the correct meaning of the term, in order to help others recognize its true and correct use, as well as its real value. 

The etymology of "artisan" is derived from the word "art", which in turn derives from the Latin (ars, artis) which indicated a material or spiritual ability. As many linguists point out, also of interest is the association with the Greek term, with a central meaning identified as Art, but above all, the Art of knowing: knowing how to do, knowing how to apply, and knowing how to create. In the ancient origin of the term, there is a deep attention to the concrete, to design, and to the creation of something tangible. It is precisely in the distinction between the creation of something and the creation of something concrete, that the difference in meaning of the terms "Artisan" and "Artist" is played out. The artisan, or craftsman, represents one who creates and produces with his hands, usually a product with a practical function, while the artist, on the other hand, is free in his creations from any purpose

Artisan production and its authentic meaning.

Florence in the 1500s and the artisan

The juxtaposition of the terms "Artisan" and "Artist" is perfectly set in the Florence of the 1500s within the framework of the Italian Renaissance, where conditions were set for an era in which the creation of beauty enchanted the world. The Florence of that time came alive thanks to the incredible artists who, through painting and sculpture, created works of art that still manage to thrill and impress so many today. It is no small feat that these masterpieces still transmit beauty and, in doing so, manage to move people to experience emotion. This same Florence also saw the birth of the first artisan workshops, where carpenters, weavers and apothecaries animated the times. The most powerful industry was certainly that of wool, which included artisans who dealt with the purchase of the raw materials, its processing and finally, its selling. 

Freedom: an essential component for the artisan’s authentic creation

A prerequisite for the artisan’s creation is, and remains, freedom. This influences how he interacts in the creation with the stimulus, the inspiration he receives from the outside world. In fact, what is expected of the artisan, or craftsman, is the interpretation of the request for the production of a good with a practical function, through the creation of a product that expresses his personal interpretation. The authentic artisan therefore realizes the non-reproducibility of his creation- whether it is a single object, made by hand by him or her, or at most by a small group of helpers in the workshop. We expect creativity and attention from the artisan, a respect for tradition and a forward-looking experimentation with every possible detail of innovation. The artisan’s work is one of those rare creations, which cannot be substituted by a machine, so, at its soul remains a thoroughly human component. 

Artisans as the soul of the Italian economy 

Italian artisanal companies, in the post-war economy, have been ambassadors of Italian genius, showcasing brilliance and creativity in the creation of both beautiful and highly original products. These creations, animated with a soul, manage to gratify the customer who is looking for much more than a product. The artisans who animate these businesses very often learned the trade from their fathers. With this deep understanding of their trade, they often manage to continue to create something truly special and unique in the continuous search for excellence, which itself lies in a delicate, alchemical balance between Passion and Intelligence. This very special category of businesses still exemplifies the Italian entrepreneurial soul that binds the family to the company and where employees are an integral part of the latter. Artisan-entrepreneurs share the path of growth and often, of life, with their collaborators.  The artisan’s work embraces the human dimensions, rather than reject it.  

Artisans today 

One of the more devastating effects of globalization has been the widespread depersonalization of places, cultures, characters, and even habits. It is increasingly common to travel a great distance to find the same sceneries: the same stores, restaurants, fashions and brands. One need only look to airports for a most striking example of the kind of far-reaching monotony that travelers have come to find, and even expect. Rather than making new discoveries, one finds the same of everything replicated everywhere. It is not surprising that it is increasingly rare and difficult to find economic activities that still transmit the authentic local culture and the true local artisans, who hold the increasingly challenging task of transmitting local traditions and offering products that cannot be reproduced elsewhere. In recent years there has been a widespread emphasis and use of the terms “artisan” and “artisanal” by industries, in order to create a greater appeal for their industrial creations from weary consumers. These consumers very often end up buying an industrial product, under the wrong impression that they were acquiring an artisanal creation. 

How can this be avoided? What is important to know is that Artisan businesses must be recorded in a special section of the register of the Chamber of Commerce, as required by Law 8 August 1985, n. 443 (the framework law for crafts); see image below.

It is also important to remember that “handmade” and “artisanal” might be used interchangeably but they actually hold differing meanings. Hand-made, or hand-crafted, can be used to refer to any manual activity, even within an industrial assembly line. A truly hand-crafted, artisanal product must meet the clear guidelines and requirements that the law provides, and guarantee its authenticity with the relative annotation in the public register of the Chamber of Commerce. 

To read more on this topic:

Regione Toscana - Impresa Artigiana

The master's touch: essential elements of artisanal excellence.

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