Are Hairdressers Artists?
If you are at all serious about hairdressing you probably refer to yourself as an artist and self identify as one. But is artist the best category a hairdresser can put themselves into? After all a good haircut is undoubtedly a work of art, but the notion of grouping hairdressers together with starving musicians, poets, painters, and other artists some how doesn’t quite fit. Traditional artists are not providing a tangible service in exchange for money as a hairdresser is. Whereas poets can create poems entirely for their own enjoyment and pleasure, a hairdresser is creating their art specific to their customers specifications and must please them first and foremost. So rather than identifying themselves as artists, hairdressers should identify as artisans. In order to understand the importance of this distinction, the difference between an artisan and an artist must be looked at in greater detail.
What is an Artist?
Traditionally artists are painter, poets, writers, and musicians. As time progressed the definition of artist grew to encompass new forms of art such as film or dance. But the term artist speaks to more than just a persons vocation. One can be a writer without being an artist. At its root an artist is someone who puts their soul and entire being into their work. Artists are often spoke of as following their muse. This illustrates wonderfully the unbound free nature ascribed to an artist. For an artist money is not a motivator for them to create their work. Looking throughout the history of great artists this is evident. Many great artists lived their whole lives being incredibly poor never gaining fame or success until after they were dead. One such artist was Vincent Van Gogh. He lived his entire life never very rich nor enjoying large amounts of fame and success for his work. It was not until after his early death that his paintings achieved the fame and monetary worth that they have today.
In contrast to an artist an artisan is providing a service which is artistic in nature. An artisan’s work has a set monetary value upon completion. This in no way has to take away from the art of an artisans work, but it does change it to some extent. An artisan does not have the freedom that an artist does to create upon their whims. An artisan must create something that will be aesthetically pleasing to at least one other person (the customer) though it is often a larger crowd. A good place to find this illustrated is within the fashion industry particularly within Haute couture. The ever famous Coco Chanel is great example of a modern artisan. She designed beautifully artistic dresses that commanded high prices because she understood the distinction between artist and artisan. She realized as an artisan she had the ability to make money by producing her art, but the art in and of itself was not worth anything unless others thought it was and ascribed value to it. As an artisan it is imperative to understand the interplay between the creation of your art and presenting it in a way that gives it value.
Benefits for Hairdresser’s as Artisans
Now that you can see the distinction between what makes an artist and what makes an artisan, it is apparent why hairdressers should lose the attitude of being artists and rather focus on being artisans. That is unless you don’t mind not making any money. Focusing on being an artisan rather than an artist will result in happier customers and a mindset geared for creating artistic hairstyles that will generate value as well as satisfy the artistic side that drew you to hair dressing in the first place. After all would you rather be a Van Gogh or a Chanel?
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