Many people have asked me this question and, in the absence of a Wikipedia entry, here’s my definition.
The term pre-dates desktop publishing when “artwork” or “mechanical art” meant the material (photography, bromide, film, tranparency) or completed, camera-ready pages that could be photographed with a stat camera to make a same-size film that would be used to create a printed product.
Now, an artworker is someone who produces a print-ready product.
Artworkers get a concept from a designer (either in drawing or digital form) and use the appropriate software to create it.
An artworker would understand the basics of printing (cmyk, line screens, spot colours, etc.) as well as design, typesetting, formatting and colour correction. It would be rare to find an artworker with no eye for design.
A “traditional artworker” means someone who – maybe a compositor in the past – has the necessary craft skills to cut, fold and glue paper in order to mock up packaging or other design visuals.
A “creative artworker” is someone who is perhaps half way between a designer and an artworker. They would be required to design print-ready artwork on the fly or be called upon to apply a certain design style across a range of printed material.