From Academic Kids
An artisan, also called a craftsman, is a skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft. Artisans were the dominant producers of goods before the Industrial Revolution.
According to standard economic theory, the division of labour occurs with internal market development (Adam Smith). However, according to economist John Hicks, merchants and artisans originated as servants to the rulers, which occurred much earlier.
In Europe during the Middle Ages artisans usually organised into guilds. Guilds were associations of master artisans that were granted charters by the local sovereign authority. The guilds controlled all aspects of production and distribution to ensure quality and to prevent competition from outside markets. Along with merchants, artisans occupied the middle tier of the European social hierarchy, below the landowning aristocrats and above the agricultural workers. In contrast, Japan's Edo period artisan class was ranked below the samurai and the agricultural workers, and above the merchants.
To become an artisan in the guilds, a person worked under a master artisan as an unpaid apprentice at a young age. If the apprentice completed the training, the appentice became a paid journeyman. For a journeyman to become a master artisan, he would have to produce a masterpiece that met the standards of the guild.