Golden Spirals

Gold and green paisley batik image made from polymer clay with the holographic effect technique.
Golden Spirals featuring Holographic Effect Technique

What is the difference between an artist and a creative person? Of course, we all know that artists are creative. But why do only some people call themselves artists?

Since I started this website I’ve visited many blogs to see what people are up to. Aside from the incredible beauty and talent I’ve seen, I’ve noticed something. Some people call themselves artists. And others call themselves creative people. And there does seem to be a difference.

Artists seem to be confident in their role, often having been an artist for many years. They tend to have mastered a specific medium or have migrated from one to the next, working until they have used the medium for its full possibilities. They seem to make room for their art by having a dedicated space. They seem to feel more empowered in their choice to create.

Creatives tend to be much less confident. They tend to dabble a bit in one medium and then the next. There seems to be an undercurrent of self-doubt, almost apologizing for their talent or lack thereof. I see a lot of sadness that they don’t have a dedicated workspace. Gee, that sounds harsh. I don’t mean it that way. I am firmly in the creative camp, so I’m perhaps speaking of something that resonates highly with me.

Why aren’t the creative types more confident in their talent? Why are the artists more “serious”? The more I look around the less I think it has to do with talent. Or with sales. Or even with the status of hobby vs business. I think it has to do with attitude. And I’m curious what leads to that attitude?

Your thoughts? Am I missing the boat here? Have you noticed this as well? What are your experiences?

22 thoughts on “Golden Spirals”

  1. I have always considered myself a creative person, but never an Artist   From a very young age of 5 ,my grandmother ( in my eyes was an Artist) encouraged and challenged my inner  muse.  After reading your blog It got me thinking about the  definition of the words……Artist  and  Creative. 

    So with the help of “Siri” 

    The definition of  ARTIST  ” a person whose CREATIVE work showers sensitivity and imagination” 

    The definition of  CREATIVE ” having the ability or power to create,

    So this lead  me on a quest to find a definition for CREATIVE   ARTIST .  Here is what I stumbled on .
    ” Art serves as a powerful motivator, more for the artist than the critic and reviewer—and probably more for the artist than the fan. An artist is something of an obsessed fanatic forever on a quest to create the most compelling and moving piece of art. An artist grows through his art; each new piece extends the limit of who he is and who he will always be. Artists seek longevity and even immortality through their art! With each new piece of art finished, an artist has refined the definition of who he is—for now anyone who sees or hears his results will know something of the creator and his vision and hopes and fears
    Being creative is, in itself, a valuable talent and trait. Creativity is a gift of humanity that is only minimally known outside our species. It is the very reason of our success in all areas of life—even beyond art. Creativity is the trait of humans that allows us to take what we have and make something new and novel. Business, child-rearing, science and technology all rely on varying levels and kinds of creativity for success. Art is just another form of creativity—sort of an unleashed and unpredictable oracle built into our genes.

    I believe that the main value of art is in its process rather than results—that the act of creating new things expands us and teaches us new ways to reach goals. Being creative is the true value of being artistic.

    (The full essay can be found here: 

    So now thanks to you and Shawn Olson’s essay, I now call myself a ……..


    1. What an amazing comment. Thank you Lori. You really made me think about this. I’ve never had the burning desire that I MUST create “a moving and compelling piece of art”. For me it’s more than I want to experience beauty. My kind of beauty. And I very much enjoy creating the beauty. My husband, on the other hand, said he identifies with this compulsive aspect of the artist in this definition. He was also quick to point out that Olson’s essay describes creativity in a way that’s indistinguishable from building. Do we build or do we create? Interesting. I do have trouble with the term “artist” because it implies that you’re good and I don’t really…when we get down to it…think of myself as good. Isn’t it interesting how there is such an emotional load with this term? Everyone has a gut feeling about it, one way or another.

  2. Love the golden spirals!! You are, indeed, an artist. At least, in my book what you do is art.

    Even prompting this discussion is an art! 😉

    I’m not sure if there really is a difference between being an artist and being creative, other than being different lenses through which to look at the same thing. And I believe everyone has it in them to be an artist … they just need to take the time to find their expression. Many don’t though, which is a shame. If all people were to take the time to make something that expresses them, not just go through life consuming, I think this world would be a much better place.

    Oh, and I love dressing up!

    1. I couldn’t agree more that everyone has it in them to be an artist. We’re all born to do this, I think. Born to create. And also agreed about the world being a better place if more people created than just consumed. Well observed.

  3. The age old question! This really has engaged some thoughtful discussion. I think you are onto something. I try on the artist label sometimes, but it always feels like I’m playing dress up. The only time I feel like it starts to fit it when I’m doing sculptures. We been taught that if you create practical things, they aren’t “art.”

    1. Oh that’s it! Playing dress up. Years ago when I tried to become a “Polymer Clay Artist”, my daughter’s preschool bus driver asked me what I did for a living. I sputtered and mumbled and said I was sort of an artist. He straightened up and looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t you apologize for that. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. Call yourself an artist and be proud!” He was right. But I felt like I was playing dress up and, of course, didn’t go anywhere with that. I know I don’t have to have a label to be a good artist and to create and be creative in my life. Label does not equal talent. I know that. But it’s still an interesting discussion!

  4. This is a question that I spent a lot of time considering when i did my Masters in Art Ed as I majored in creativity theory and while I had said that I was an artists for many years, after all the research I found that I felt more comfortable calling myself Creative… not because I lacked confidence but because I felt it better described the extent to which creative decisions make themselves felt in my day, whether it be when I am painting, writing, cooking, arranging some flowers, trying to sort out how to fit 50 gazillion things into 10 mins spare… you get the idea… I think that I am a Creative with a capital C … and love that it is much broader than just artist…
    nice post … love that you are stimulating me to reaffirm some things… and thanks for sharing that freakin awesome work…xx

    1. Ah, you bring up yet another side to all of this! That being an Artist (capital A) can be limiting because you become a specialist in one medium (generalizing here). But a Creative is creative in all aspects of life. Interesting. I certainly fit into that category with ease. Creatives are willing to experiment, try something new, substitute in a recipe, fix a broken lamp, coming up with time management. Yes! I’ve noticed that some people are very uncomfortable with that sort of loose freedom. They will buy kits rather than material. They’ll take something to be repaired rather than taking it apart to figure it out. They’ll even want specifics on exactly how much (to the tablespoon) applesauce to use to replace butter in a recipe. I wonder if intuition is a part of this? The old Myers-Briggs personality thing? People who are strongly SJ need rules and people who are NP consider the rules to be guidelines. Thank you for the comment, wonderful food for thought!

  5. Wellllllllllllll. I am not sure what I am.

    I have a friend that is very skilled at doing creative projects but she can not do a project totally from her own mind. She needs a pattern or picture to follow or copy from some one elses’ item. When she does this the items she creates are well made lovely items. Rarely does she add a little of herself into them. We did craft shows together for years and she sold many beautiful things. Not being critical of her at all. I consider her a creative person not an artist.

    I have done many crafts/arts. From happy hands at home type things. Macrame in the olden days. Cross stitch, embroidery , crochet, weaving, bead work, quilting and finally mosaics. Much of my change in interest is from my body failing me. I can no longer crochet because it hurts my hands too much. Same for cross stitch and quilting. I am not totally giving up on being able to to these things again but I have to be very careful, Beadwork is hard until I get my eyes done, cataracts. Even mosaics can be painful for me to do.

    Now my take on art verses being creative is my brain is always on overtime with visions on what I can do with glass. I have so many projects lined up I would like to do I will never finish in my life time. I do not need patterns to work from. Most of my work is free form stuff maybe kind of abstract. So I sit down to work with usually a color or colors in mind and a general idea of a direction I am heading. Maybe a ruff sketch of the size I want the project to be. The next thing I know my hands are working away and almost feeling like they have a mind not connected to me. It is really fun to see what comes of it. Some times I find myself scraping it all off and starting over and I am never afraid to do that. Some times I might not be thrilled until the next section is done and then it starts to pull together. Whatever the ” it ” may be. I call that art.

    I do have a studio in our house now. It is just a bedroom and my husband said make it big enough to contain your stuff and still I have a torso mannequin lounging on the kitchen counter for the last month or so. LOL I have room to work on her in the studio but she is going so slowly I have been enjoying visiting with my husband and watching TV while working on her. I am in the middle of another project which is spread out in my studio. I jumped ahead to work on the mannequin because she was calling to me. If I turned her down or any project down that calls to me that strongly some times I can not get started on them when I decide it is time. When my creative measle wants to play it is best not to deny it.

    I must add I do not try to sell my work. It is all for me. I sold my work at shows for so many years I got tired of it and my art suffered creating just to sell. No more. So I am the only one I have to please. So to me that might take away the ability to call myself an artist.

    1. Your assessment of your friend is an interesting addition to this topic that I hadn’t thought of. We all know people who love to create, who are enamored with the technical aspects of it, but aren’t all that original. The polymer clay world tends to be very technique driven. My father (who does metalworking) notes that many of the people he’s learned blacksmithing techniques from are like this. They focus on the creating, the technicalities…but when it comes to form, they just do what everyone else does. No originality. I’m certainly that way with knitting. I’m technically adept enough to “wing it” when things get messed up, but I don’t create anything from scratch. It’s just too much work and not in my interest area. But I can follow a mean pattern!

      From your words I get that you see the line between artist and creative more having to do with creating original content and ideas, right? So I would say that you’re more of an artist than a creative because you have so many ideas brimming over. I hope to someday be free enough to let the ideas flow like that. I suffer from “white canvas disease” a lot of the time. Afraid to do anything lest I screw it up. Oh I gotta get over that one.

      Your mannequin is wonderful. She seems to have a personality all of her own. And Chris, you’re someone who has given yourself permission to live with your art, you fully embrace it. Heck, you surround yourself with it! I hope to get that much confidence someday. I’m getting there….

  6. It may have something to do with personality and self-confidence. The “artists” may be those who are more self-confident and the “creatives” may have a lower level of that. I would not think that creative space would be a criteria in categorization. Maybe those with more self-confidence make a greater effort to set up a studio. Art or craft Income earning may also play a role – money does make it easier to set up a studio. My photography studio consists of cameras and lens in several tupperware cases under the bed and lighting equipment in a corner of the closet – oh, well – someday – maybe. Most days I don’t feel artistic or creative but I never fail to appreciate either type in others.

    1. What I meant about creative space isn’t so much that it’s required to be an artist. I was more speaking of the phenomenon of so many people working off the kitchen table because they don’t feel worthy enough or they don’t feel their work is important enough to dedicate permanent space to it (even when a spare room is available). I have always, always (since age 20 or so, had a sewing table, even if I didn’t have an extra room for it. Because sewing was important (I’m really good at it) and I never felt apologetic about it for even ten seconds. I can (and have) made a living doing it. But my craft stuff? My clay? My art? Nope, that’s always been in boxes until this fall. I think photography is different because it doesn’t require the same level of space. You do your work out, mostly. But if we had to develop our own film? Would you? If your cameras needed space and you had to have studio lighting, would you? How important is it? See where I’m going with that?

  7. Not sure that I have an answer- I do call myself an Artist but most of the time I clarify it by saying I am a costume designer. My thoughts go back to the book The Artist Way where people have been shamed growing up as artist, that artist don’t have stable lives with good work and good relationships so maybe that makes it easier to say your a creative? Interesting topic of thought.

    1. I have that book and never was able to follow through with it. Sounds like I need to dig it out and read the actual content. Yes, we were all shamed about art careers. Which is silly because there are lots of ways to make a living in art, as you know being a costume designer! I wonder if the freedom to call oneself an artist relates to having the ability to have a career? I mean, if you’re “good enough” to sell it (even if you don’t) then you can call yourself an artist? Perceptions are such a funny thing.

  8. That’s a great question Ginger! I think you are on to something when it comes to a confident attitude. Work space has nothing to do with one’s ability to make art and neither does a ton of supplies and the latest, greatest tools. It is attitude that comes from confidence and confidence comes with doing, making, creating, experimenting, learning and growing, finding your own style. I’ve always gone with the creative, crafty label and been hesitant to call myself “artist”. As I begin to find my style I am more comfortable and confident that someday I will call myself Artist.

    1. If you peruse Pinterest looking for studio ideas you’ll see endless pages of perfect storybook spaces with everything perfectly arranged and every single color of marker or paint or type of stamp. I always wonder if those people actually create anything or if they’re just into collecting stuff. So no, the studio space has nothing to do with one’s ability. It does, however, speak something of the place (literal and figurative) that art has in a person’s life. Do they make room for it?

      I think you’re onto something about finding your own style, though. I think having your own “voice” in your work is part of that artist vs. creative divide. I wonder, though, does finding your voice create confidence? Or does having confidence enable you to find your voice? Interesting idea there.

  9. I don’t really know the answer but for me anyway, I have to be making things or I get nutty. I have to stop myself on the weekends some times and pay attention to other things and people. Friends are always asking me if I get lonely in my studio all day but that never enters into my reality. It is all about the making. The doing. Maybe that is the difference. The ability to not get distracted and stay focused. Now that my kids are grown it is much easier however.

    1. Roberta, do you consider yourself an artist? I would think that you do, considering the ease with which you create. You seem to have made peace with the obsessive aspects that creativity can bring us and whereas many of us (me included) experience blockage and frustration, you see to be able to let go and dedicate yourself. Maybe, as you say, it’s easier when the kids are grown. I will say that having a family is my major mental (and creativity) drain.

Share your experience and thoughts:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top

Secret Subscriber Stuff!

There's more by Email.

More tips, more information, more interesting stuff that will help your polymer journey. No fluff. Plus, it’s free.



Check your email


Confirm your email


Get secret stuff

The website uses (electronic and non-edible) cookies to allow items to stay in your shopping cart, to eliminate banners you've already closed, to allow the social media share buttons to work, to allow you to log in and access your account, and anonymously to analyze traffic. Only anonymous data is shared with other services. You consent to these cookies if you continue to use this website. Thanks!