Craft Artists’ Income
In this first in a series of data snap shots from CERF+’s national research about the status of craft artists in the U.S., we focus on income. The data that we collected in this study came from over 3,500 craft artists in every state in the U.S. who responded to our survey in 2013, which was distributed by CERF+ and the 46 organizations who helped distribute it to their artist members
It is sobering to learn that less than a third of all professional craft artists gross over $25,000 a year from their craft businesses and only about a fourth of full-time craft artists net over $25,000 a year from that work. However, this data does not capture the non-quantifiable quality of life issues about artists’ lives. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many artists are able to create enviable lifestyles by applying their artistic talents to their built environments; combining business and leisure travel; living close to the earth; and employing a variety of strategies to supplement their business income. Some craft artists depend on other employment to support artistic activity that is experimental or otherwise not viable in the marketplace.
Gross Craft Business Income for All Craft Artists
This chart shows gross business income (gross receipts) for all survey respondents without regard to hours worked per week.
Hours per Week Worked at Craft
Fifty-four percent (54%) of craft artists surveyed work full-time at their craft (For the purposes of this study 30+ hours per week is considered to be full-time).
Percentage of Family Income of Full-Time (30+ hours per week) Craft Artists Provided by Craft-related Income
Only a third of full-time craft artists provide the majority of their family income through their craft-related income, and one fourth provide over 80%. It is clear that most artists piece together a living from multiple sources, including craft business income, spouse/partner income, employment in arts and non-arts related jobs, retirement funds, and other sources.
Gross Business Income of Full-Time Craft Artists by Career Stage
Not surprisingly, mid-career artists are in higher gross business income (gross receipts) ranges than their emerging colleagues. Late career artists tend to be in somewhat lower gross business income categories than mid-career artists. This may be due to decreased capacity to produce, greater reliance on retirement income, investments, or other causes. The differences are more pronounced when viewing net business income. It appears that longevity in the craft field is not a guarantee of financial rewards – at least not from craft business income.
What are your thoughts?
CERF+ is very interested in your response to this data. Please comment in the space provided below and/or address these specific questions:
- Does this income data resonate with your own experience?
- How do you define success?
- What does it take to build a sustainable career as an artist?
- What are your thoughts about these results and do you have any advice for CERF+?
For more in-depth information on this and other topics covered in the study, download the full report: Sustaining Careers: A Study of U.S. Craft Artists.