Artisans are the crafters and merchants of the galaxy, making everything from clothing to weapons, from droids to fireworks. At their lowest skill levels, artisans can make a few handy gadgets, but master artisans can build a city, outfit an army, or create a commercial empire.
The novice artisan starts with the basic tools and skills to create and customize a wide variety of small items. You'll learn how to seek and harvest valuable resources - such as chemicals, minerals, and flora - from the world. You'll also get a variety of schematics for the creation of the most basic tools, clothing, foods, and weapons. It certainly isn't enough for to call yourself a master craftsman, but it is a start.
Engineering is the discipline of technical construction. As you learn this discipline, you'll increase your skills in basic construction of technological equipment and machines, as well as your ability to experimentally adjust and tweak those machines to improve their function. As you progress, you'll gain the schematics to construct increasingly complex weapons, armor, tools, and even buildings. An artisan who masters the engineering discipline can advance into one of the technical specialty professions--droid engineer, architect, armorsmith, or weaponsmith.
The domestic arts disciplines teach the skills of cooking and tailoring. As skill is gained, the ability to create food and clothing is increased, as is the ability to improve existing designs through experimentation. As you rise in the skills of the domestic arts discipline, you'll gain the ability to use a greater variety of colors in your clothing designs. Furthermore, schematics will continue to be made available for more intricate dishes and items of clothing. Those artisans who achieve mastery in the discipline of domestic arts can move on to one of the professions specializing in domestic products--chef or tailor.
The business discipline deals with the art and science of running a successful and profitable business. Businessmen will be able to charge for entry into their businesses, advertise their public auctions, and create machines to work in their shops, selling goods to their customers. As the artisan's skills increase, he can use increasingly effective types of vendors. An artisan who masters business will be able to move on and become a merchant.
The discipline of surveying is absolutely vital for any successful artisan. Products are not made from thin air--they require raw materials, and surveying is how those materials are acquired. Early on, you'll use a surveying tool to retrieve small amounts of raw materials, and later on, you'll be able to make or buy automated harvesters for the same purpose. In either case, the surveying skill is also used to find out where these raw materials are located. As you improve your surveying skills, you can use the surveying tool to look further out and extract raw materials more efficiently.
Surveying doesn't lead to any advanced professions, but should not be overlooked. Without the surveying skill, an artisan would have to buy all of his raw materials--most likely from competitors, who would likely keep the best and rarest materials for themselves.
The fact that artisans spend so much time out in the wild, looking for resources and extracting them, makes safe travel absolutely vital. No other profession is as skilled at safe travel as the scout, who can hide from potential enemies, and escape more easily once discovered. Furthermore, many artisans, both basic and advanced, require bone or hide to make their wares, and only scouts can acquire these raw materials. If an artisan is not a scout, he will have to buy these things from one eventually.
Before you decide to follow artisan to become a weaponsmith, tailor, or any of the other advanced crafting professions, a bit of a warning is in order. Artisan is the most complex of professions, and requires the most dedication and effort to be fully effective. You can become a powerful marksman on an hour a week, or an agile dancer on one day a week, but to truly be an effective advanced artisan, you need to be available much more often, to maintain your inventory, advertise your products or shop, and to tend your fields of harvesters.
Given that, artisan can be very satisfying, especially if you create a brand name that is well known, and have people ask for you by name or travel from across the galaxy just to get one of your weapons. Just be aware of the amount of work it takes to move to the top of the chain!
On the other hand, if you just want some basic crafting skills to make a few simple items, don't be afraid to go for it. You can craft enough to gain and master the basic skills in your downtime, say while healing in a medical center or while sampling resources.
When you learn how to survey, you will begin to find especially strong concentrations of certain resources. When you find one that you want to come back to later, type /waypoint into the chat box to create a waypoint at your current coordinates. Once you do so, you can go into your datapad and use the radial menu on the waypoint to rename it to something meaningful, like "Meteoric Aluminum, 85%."
Be forewarned, each resource exists in limited amounts in a particular place, and can be mined out. You won't mine it out by sampling, but if there are a half dozen resource collectors in one spot, all extracting a certain low-grade ore, that spot can run out fairly quickly. Don't worry, new spots will show up to replace them, but they will likely be in different places, and your old waypoints will become useless.