Artist or Artisan, Which are You?

What kind of soapmaker or chandler do you consider yourself?


Are you an artist, creating and offering soaps and/or candles that are intricate and beautiful pieces of art that customers are more likely to admire on a shelf than to use?  Or, are you a pragmatic artisan, offering to-be-used, but plainer soaps or votives and tealights?


At first, I made melt and pour soap and loved coming up with new ideas for making beautiful soaps.  People purchased them as gifts or to display in their bathrooms, for the most part.  Later, I learned CP soapmaking but still wanted to make artistic soaps.  In talking with a fellow soapmaker, however, she offered her observation that plainer soaps sold better.  The purchaser was more likely to use them and come back for more, not to mention the fact that they took less time to make so there was more profit to be made.  Since I was having trouble mastering the swirl, I quickly decided the plainer but more profitable, artisan route was for me.  I did miss the fancy m&p soaps and decided to make them in a few seasonal soaps if I got around to it, and I’m still working on my swirls and other techniques that challenge my creative side, but that is no longer my focus.  Part of me wants to do more, but the business side tells me to concentrate on my main product.


I am not a chandler, but have seen others’ work, and the artistic vs. artisan influence is certainly at work there.  I admire the candles that look like sumptuous desserts, for instance, but are unlikely to be burned, and I also admire a nicely made candle in a tin or a votive that burns well and makes the room smell pleasant.


One is not intrinsically superior to the other; it’s more of a preference, a market, and what one finds fulfilling, but just in case it’s not clear, here is how I separate artistic from artisan:


Artistic:  not the basic bar or candle; features colors, swirls, shapes, and other visual appeal designed to delight the eyes.

 Artisan:  more of the basic geometric bar or candle.  Although visually appealing, not designed for artistic market.  Designed for everyday use, instead.  Focus is on the performance of the product.


Of course, both are artisans.  Neither one is intrinsically superior to the other; it’s a preference, a market, or what one finds personally  fulfilling.


So, here’s my question:  what do you do?  Do you strongly prefer artistic soap and/or candle making or are you an artisan?  Perhaps you’ve combined the two?


  Until next time, happy suds and wax!


Beth Byrne


10 Responses to “Artist or Artisan, Which are You?”
  1. Susie says:

    Good article, makes me think because when someone says “oh you are so artistic” I think to myself “it’s just a bar of soap”! So now I know…I am an artisan!
    Thank you..I enjoy reading your articles.
    I am going to share this one to my Goat Lady Soap Co. page.

  2. Great article, Beth! I would have to say I am an artisan but the artistic does come out from time to time! Lol.

  3. Jennie says:

    Yes, there is definitely a difference. Good thoughts. I am definitely an artisan…with a desire to be more artistic. I love the function and beauty of a good old fashioned bar of soap. Admittedly though, I am jealous of the variety of intricate shapes and fancy colorful soaps I see out there.

  4. Ruth says:

    That’s an interesting distinction. I’ve never thought of it quite like that before. I call myself an artisan soapmaker because I take pride in the quality of handmade small batches. But I am definitely an artist when it comes to soap design. The swirls and layers and colors are what inspires me!

  5. Rose says:

    I will definitely agree with you Beth. I first started making artistic soaps when I realized making artisan soaps were more practical and increased my client base. I do from time to time make artistic soaps on occasion when I have the time. I consider myself to be a little bit of both artistic and artisan but more towards the artisan side :D

  6. Dawn Jones says:

    I consider myself artistic making art-soaps, but artisan soaps are also fine. Making art soap takes a lot of time and dedication. I started off as artisan and I progressed to artistic.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Fabulous article and an argument settled for me. I like to play at special designs every now and then but the majority of my soap are simple bars… I guess I’m good :)

  8. We are definitely Artisan right now. Some of the Artistic soaps look so good I’d probably try to eat it!

  9. Janice says:

    Wow, I didn’t know there was a difference. But, yes, I understand now, thanks for the article. Well I’m definltely an artist, but only want to use wholesome, botanticals…I really love what I do!

Leave Your Comments Below