What’s the difference between an artist and an artisan?
You might say one makes things for expression and the other for use. But in reality, the line is blurry. It’s a distinction without a difference for the people who are actually making things.
Art and craftsmanship have always been in conversation. Creating for expression was made possible by creating for necessity. Ancient Mesopotamians discover glassmaking. Syrians blow it into household goods. Eventually, you get Dale Chihuly.
But plenty of artists and artisans flow back and forth across whatever imaginary line human beings need to draw between categories.
If you visit artist Francis Pavy at his studio in Lafayette’s Freetown neighborhood, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a workshop. Best known as a painter, Francis has shown his work internationally but he’s also a wonder with a C&C router, carving blocks to make his iconic paintings with motifs of Louisiana mythology, pop culture and 20th century design.
Francis grew up in Lafayette and began his career in glass making, moving into painting in the 1980s. Recently, he and his wife Cathi, a designer, launched an imprint for creating fabrics. Each textile features hand-designed patterns with orders filled on demand. Their line now includes eight different designs, meticulously crafted in a digital processing method Francis created to accommodate his style in fabric.
Since long before there was an Acadiana, this region has been blessed with a vibrant maker culture. The Atakapa-Ishak Tribe that populated Southwestern Louisiana and East Texas were known for their trading posts where travelers and craftsman could trade their goods.
That’s the tradition Erica Fox and her partner Kimberly Abadie-Moore tapped into when they launched Attakapas Collective, a cooperative that serves as a retailer and platform for local artisans, especially indigenous people and women of color.
Erica and Kimberly saw opportunity in the time people have spent creating during the pandemic and put the collective together as an outlet. The shop opened in Downtown Lafayette in 2021, just around the corner from Pavy Studio actually, and now represents 34 artisans who produce local goods like tapestries, jewelry, metalworking and more.
Erica is a songwriter and a Lafayette native. She spent 14 years in L.A. as a commercial artist signed to No Limit Records before moving back to Lafayette.
Pandemic conditions compelled us to record this episode of Out to Lunch Acadiana by Zoom. Next week we hope to be back at our regular lunch spot, Tula Tacos on Jefferson Street in Downtown Lafayette.
Photos by Astor Morgan. And there’s more recent lunch table conversation about Acadiana art (and karate!) here.