Is it Craftsman or Craftsperson? Or something else?
Argh, this is a tricky one that I come across often when I’m asked to describe my title or role as a maker. I wouldn’t describe myself as Craftsman but can see why many men and women would. It certainly rolls off the tongue more easily than Craftsperson and the skill named Craftspersonship seems like a very odd mouthful!
Most people like to keep things linguistically simple so I can see why many have largely opted for the catch-all Craftsman. In recent years, Craftsman and Craftsperson have often been used interchangeably to simply refer to someone skilled in a particular craft. However, things are changing, especially around gendered dialogue and terminology and it’s worth noting the difference between the two terms.
The term Craftsman was first used around the late 14th century and is historically a gendered term, typically referring to a male worker skilled in a particular trade or craft. For centuries, highly skilled crafts such as jewellery making, gold leaf, and marble carving were dominated by men who were very well paid for their skills and highly valued in society. Over the last 150 years, women have taken more of a role in craft and the term Craftswoman came about in 1886 although hasn’t become a popular descriptive in modern language. The term Craftsperson coined in 1904 is a slightly more recent and gender-neutral alternative.
There are a few reasons why you might choose to use the term Craftsperson instead of Craftsman. First, it is a more inclusive term that acknowledges the contributions of both men and women to the craft world. Second, it is a more accurate reflection of the reality of the craft world, which women increasingly populate. Third, it is simply a more modern and progressive term.
Maybe we should consider different terms altogether. Whilst I’m not keen to ditch the word ‘craft’ in the job title, I’m also becoming a fan of the term ‘Designer-Maker’ or ‘Craftworker’, which seems to encompass a more gender-neutral position whilst still conveying a sense of creativity and manual artistry.
What is the gender-neutral version of craftsmanship?
I’m not sure there is a gender-neutral noun to describe the skills of someone who crafts. How about just Artistry or Creative Expertise? As I said, Craftspersonship is not verbally working for me!
Ultimately, the decision of whether to use the term Craftsman or Craftsperson, or Designer-Maker etc is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best choice depends on your preferences and beliefs.