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Art & Design careers

Designer Craftspeople

What kind of work do designer craftspeople do?

When we are talking about designer craftspeople, we are talking about the professional people who work with ceramics, wood, glass, jewellery, metalwork (e.g. silver smiths) and surface design.

Rather than specialising in either the design or the manufacturing side of things, designer craftspeople are generally involved from design concept through to creation.

In a world where mass-production and a ‘pile-them-high, sell-them-cheap’ attitude often prevails, designer craftspeople offer an alternative. These people are usually highly-skilled in their chosen area, and design and produce either one-off pieces or small batches of their products. They often offer bespoke services to their clients, who are looking for something that isn’t on every high street.

How do designer craftspeople find work?

Usually self-employed, designer craftspeople need to be highly self-motivated. They must be able to promote themselves and sell their work, either through a gallery, a shop or face-to-face with purchasers at craft fairs and events.

The internet and social media are valuable tools for designer craftspeople, both in terms of promotion and selling. These guys can use their own personal website or other existing platforms.

Some well-established designer craftspeople can even afford to let an agent take over the business side of things for them. This then allows them to focus on what they do best: designing and creating.

Initial start-up for designer craftspeople can be difficult. They have no guaranteed income and will often be working from home or a private studio.

Collaboration with other designers/makers from other fields can sometimes be an option. This may give them access to alternative markets, new contacts and fresh opportunities to expand their business.

Is it difficult to pursue a career as a designer craftsperson?

The early stages of your career can be expensive, especially when it comes to buying equipment and materials. Financial rewards are often limited, especially if work takes a long time to produce.

Furthermore, if you are actively selling things yourself, it leaves you less time in the studio to create new pieces. Consequently, many designer craftspeople will have another source of income and fit their real passion around this. Often, though, their other job will utilise their design skills, e.g. working as a design teacher.

Some designer craftspeople will see themselves more as artists than designers, and vice versa. This can influence the markets they target, how and where they sell things, and who they see as their peers and competition.

What qualities does a successful designer craftsperson possess?

Generally, if you pursue a career as a designer craftsperson you need to have a lot of self-belief. You need to be driven by a passion for what you do, rather than being financially motivated. It can be tough going in the beginning, but many people can make a comfortable and satisfying living from tapping into a niche market.

Do you have a natural talent in craftwork and a passion for design, plus the self-motivation to drive yourself ever forward? If so check out the following occupational profiles of designer craftspeople – what’s your craft?

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