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What is an Artisan?

For a while I struggled with the decision to call myself an Artisan or not.  What is Artisan even supposed to mean?  Does it even still mean that?  Definitions on the internet vary, and based on Fast-Food menus, one might think the definition of Artisan is "fancy sandwhich".


I've seen some pipe makers who explicitly distance themselves from the term, as if it might secretly mean "pretentious", "overly decadent" or "hipster".  Among all the words we see in the independent pipe community, though, "Artisan" seems to be among the very most common.  Certainly these Artisan makers don't mean the same thing that a drive-through menu means when the term is used, but what exactly do they mean?  Out of all the makers who call themselves and artisan I've never seen one define it.

It was in a recent discussion about this very subject, that my friend Christopher Chopin (@flatticus around the pipe community) put it so perfectly - "There are no linguistic shortcuts to proper categories".  Artisan is just a word, and definitions change across time and culture, and therefore I decided if I was going to use the word, I would at least need to conclude what it means for my purposes.  So to this end I looked further to the community of pipe makers and collectors for guidance, and found that the general consensus in the pipe world to be: "artisan"="independent, non-factory pipes".  

It doesn't mean that I think I'm a rock-star or that my artistry is superior to anyone else.  It just means that I'm one guy making all my pipes with two hands from raw materials.  At times I may enlist the help of an assistant or apprentice, but none of the parts on any Muth Pipe come from a factory, nor will they ever.

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