Respect–A rant about the tiered classification of artists by artists.

– Respect- Aretha Franklin. Song written by Otis Redding Album: I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You [1967]


Find out what it means to me” Aretha Franklin

~Sigh…respect. Or in this case the lack of respect. Why do artists sometimes feel superior over another artist simply because of the media or the type of art of another artist? I’ve had THREE separate conversations this week with other artists where this topic has come up.

One artist is a graphic designer by day and a singer/songwriter by night. She is often asked if she compromises her singing for her 9-5 day job. And her answer is no. Why can’t she do both?

Another friend is at an art show. I would classify her as a jewellery designer. But within the jewellery making community there are tiers of respect given and received based on the type of metal you work in, the type of tools you use…and so on. She was upset over a conversation she’d had with another jewellery designer.  The other jewellery designer felt that my friend’s work is “artsy” and not “real jewellery design” and therefore should not be in the same category of the same show as their work.

index22Are we going round and round the same old conversation of “Artist Vs. Crafts person” or “Designer Vs. Artist”? ~Yawn. I remember these conversations from “back in the day” when I was a potter. I have just realized…I was called a “potter” even though I hardly ever made any actual pots! I wasn’t ever upset about this title—I worked in clay. Those who made tea-pots were potters, those who made thrown clay sinks…potters. Those who hand-built slabs of clay—potters. But I remember when this need to define came up in my circle. I think it was the late ‘90’s at the “One of a Kind Show”. Some potters had their shorts in a bunch that the show had “allowed” those who paint on bisque ceramics into the show. Egad…they poured liquid clay into molds—purchased molds. And then painted glazes on them. How would the public know that “OUR” pottery was “real” pottery? Painted bisque-ware was a lower class pottery.math_vs_design

This conversation came up at a meeting of potters—a guild of more than 100 members. As the discussion broke off into more definitions of what made a potter—those who threw pots on a wheel vs those who built with slabs…. There were those who felt kick wheels were “more authentic” way to throw. I kid you not.

I lost interest in the discussion…maybe because I was a potter with an electric wheel AND who build with slabs AND who enjoyed making mixed media pieces…. I didn’t fit into any category. I left the meeting and was in the kitchen of the meeting hall, which was in a fire station.  (I know…the irony of the location of our guild meetings has made me chuckle for years!) In the kitchen was a fireman who had listened in on our meeting and remarked that he felt no one was truly a “real potter” until they dug their own clay from the ground and stoked actual flames to fire our wares (rather than using an electric kiln). Oy—I imagined what it would be like if the ranking of a potter was also dependent on whether their work was fired in an electric kiln, gas kiln or wood fired.lisa-solomon

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do artists need to feel that what they are doing or working in is superior to another? A few years ago a metalsmith compared metal clay to cake decorating. You can only imagine the details of the discussions that took place afterwards!

I should ask my singer/songwriter friend if musicians do this sort of comparisons. Do actors? Are “real” actors those who have been in a Shakespeare play, in England—using English accents and common words from the 1600’s? I’m sure anything NOT Shakespeare and NOT performed in Shakespeare’s home town is for lesser actors.

I know that my take on the topic of the tiered classification of artists by artists…will not suddenly change the situation.  But maybe pointing out how ridiculous it is to judge other artists…will help point out that the arbitrary need to classify and separate artists is nothing more than a self reflection.

540704_577388125607677_846842341_nJeannette Froese LeBlanc is the editor at and a jewellery artist. She is definitely “A glass 1/2 full kind of person”! She has learned to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination, which is something her kids taught her.  Look down, look around, enjoy where you are.


9 Responses to “Respect–A rant about the tiered classification of artists by artists.”

  1. ddotti calhoun

    I like to wear simple jewelry. As a metal clay artist, I tend to create pieces that I would wear – simple, raw pieces. That’s just who I am, but I find myself not posting my creations because they’re not made up of a bunch of pieces or carved intricately. I finally realized it was because “real” artists might find my pieces too elementary, yet look at Jackson Pollock. People thought he was a genius for throwing paint on a canvas, which any 5 year old can do.
    I am, first and foremost, a musician. Musicians have to be the absolute worst when it comes to feeling superior. The classically trained musicians vs. the self taught musicians. The broadway vocalist vs. the bar band vocalist. I’ll admit, I’ve done it too. My daughter loved to watch Glee, and I would constantly tell her that those vocalists lacked “soul” in their singing. I don’t like songs which use auto tune – to me, it means the vocalist can’t sing. See? I just did it there.
    At the end of the day, art, in all of it’s various forms, is in the eye of the beholder. That’s why the dogs playing poker, and velvet Elvis portraits live on…

  2. I think artists have been doing this to each other since the beginning of time. It is a way for insecure artists to bolster their own egos. It’s a way for those who have become stagnant in their work to try desperately to hang on to their little corner of the market while exciting new work is being created under their noses. So it’s born out of insecurity & fear. Ignore it. Do what you are passionate about and all will be well. 🙂

  3. Every time one of these conversations begin I listen even though I don’t really want to. Kinda like overhearing people talking about you and not being able to walk away. To my shame these conversations, for a very short time anyway, allow a tiny bit of self doubt creep into my head. Big sigh…

  4. Very well said. I am tired of being looked down on because at this time Metal Clay is my medium. It makes me no less of a metalsmith. The skills are still there if I work in silver or gold or metal clay or polymer. I think artists who have done things the same way for hundreds of years are getting knocked off their pedestals and they don’t like it. The world of creating art is for everyone and with the internet we are all sharing and praising each other to keep striving forward. We all can create beauty around us and we should stop being so snotty and snobby to each other. Frankly…Most people who call their work art make me scratch my head.

  5. The website I included is a page with a whole bunch of my original songs. I was just discussing this subject yesterday with MY THERAPIST…because I felt a little “less than”…. I asked, “At 58 years old, when I have to list my occupation, WHAT DO I WRITE? Songwriter/singer? Journalist, Broadcaster, Writer, Jewellery Designer, Painter…???? Her response, “ARTIST”. You are all of these and it a great thing that you have made it this far in life to do all these things.” So you know what? I think all our individual varied talents help out the other ones in different ways. Our multi-personas create ven diagrams… Being an artist takes a TREMENDOUS amount of work, talent, patience and emotional stamina. Create SOMETHING out of NOTHING. Go ahead, I tell them! xox

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>