The Les Paul Artisan was a very fine incarnation of the Les Paul, positioned above the better known models, Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Standard etc; and only below the very, very, expensive The Les Paul (1977-79) and the new active Les Paul Artist model (1979-1980). It was listed in Gibson price lists between 1978 and Summer 1980, yet Les Paul Artisan shipping totals indicate a very small number (actually just 2) leaving the Gibson factory as early as 1976.
The guitar itself had a fairly typical late seventies Les Paul construction: a mahogany body, carved maple top, three-piece maple neck, 22 frets and a 24 3/4" scale. Neck and headstock inlays were of a 'hearts and flowers' design, unique to this model, on an ebony fretboard. Front, back, neck and headstock multi-layered binding. The pickup configuration changed over the years of availability, with three-pickups being standard initially, and two later: typically Gibson Series VII humbuckers, or a mix of Series VII and Super humbuckers. See the Artisan chronology below for specific details. Controls are as with any other Les Paul, two volume and two tone and a three-way pickup selector switch.
Three finish options were listed throughout the period of production: Ebony, Walnut and Tobacco Sunburst - all as shown above.
1976 The first Les Paul Artisan guitars leave Gibson's Kalamazoo plant, perhaps as few as two instruments
1977 The first promotional image of the Artisan was in the UK's 'New Models 1977' catalogue. Only three-pickup models are described, with Series VII bridge and neck pickups and a Super Humbucker in the centre position (from now described as VII-SH-VII). According to published shipping figures, almost 1500 Artisans were shipped in 1977. The guitar is not listed in the January 1977 Gibson US price lists, however.
1978 The US Gibson price list of May 15th 1978 suggests a retail price of $1039 for the VII-SH-VII Artisan. A two-pickup version is not listed, however both versions are mentioned in the 1978 Gibson Quality /Prestige /Innovation catalogue, with the two-pickup VII-VII Artisan illustrated.
1979 Three US price lists from 1979 include the Artisan: in January both two and three-pickup models are listed, at $1039/$1139 respectively. In June and September only the $1039 two-pickup Artisan is mentioned.
1980 January and July lists suggest $1099 as a retail price for the two-pickup Artisan. The final full catalog appearance is on page 20 of the 1980 Gibson catalogue.
1981 The Artisan is not included in 1981 price lists, though small numbers of guitars are still being produced. It is included (as a close out model) in the 1981 Gibson Specials pre-owners folder.
1982 The last Les Paul Artisan guitars leave the Kalamazoo plant in mid 1982. A February 15th Gibson 'Special Sale' price list (dealer price, not retail) offered the Artisan at just $569.