madhappycrafter

quilting, mosaicing, painting, and other adventures in making

If Art Requires Craft, Then Why Isn’t Craft Considered Art?

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That’s a question that has been in my mind for many years. I think art and craft are both “Art.” Art making requires Craft, developing one’s skills; just as “crafting” does. Art is Making; plain and simple – whether you make a movie, a cake, a basket, a painting, a dance, or a garden. The one requirement for art that I think has been forgotten in our schools and in our culture is the “process” part of it – the joy of making for making. We teach our kids to be product-oriented. This is a grave injustice and disservice to our kids and to Life. Necessity deems often that we “make do,” and from that comes creativity. Why else would we have the great phrase, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention?” We can still use our Artistry and enjoy this process of Making, to create, say, a finely crafted sweater or a soft blanket. We can make a bowl that is beautiful because human hands touched and shaped it. It can be fine or humble; no matter. It will feel good to touch it. Art involves and engages the senses. Art is sensate. Where did things get convoluted? What makes a mosaic any less “art” than a painting? Why are so-called “crafts” not taken seriously as, say, “wall art” or “fine art?” Here are some definitions from Dictionary.com, the first dictionary I came to when typing in the words “fine art.”  I removed all definitions not pertaining to our subject of Art – specifically, Visual Art, and Craft. I highlighted things in each definition that seem arbitrary, and italicized my questions and responses to those things.

fine art

[fahyn] 

noun

a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture.  (considered by whom, and by whose criteria? does this mean not designed for function or use? Why can’t both function and aesthetics apply? SO… this leaves out all functional work, now relegated to a “lower,” or “ordinary” category of value and termed “craft?” But when I look at the definition of “craft” it doesn’t mention ordinariness or lesser value or meaning.)

craft

[kraft, krahft] Show IPA

noun, plural crafts or for 5, 8, craft.

1. an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill: the craft of a mason. (Art requires manual skill – even computer art!)
2. skill; dexterity: The silversmith worked with great craft. (Skill and dexterity are also required in visual art and physical arts such as dance, acrobatics, magic tricks)
3. n/a
4. the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild.
5. a ship or other vessel. (which requires Craft and Artistry to make it.)
——————————————————

Because of some arbitrary ideas by a few people, apparently widely accepted by the many, we have the myth that certain types of art are “better, higher, finer” than others. Even the dictionary alludes to this. We add in our own definers and qualifiers  – imaginative/abstract vs representative/realistic, “painterly”, free, loose, VS “tight,” precise, accurate,  ETC. All of these are descriptors and value judgments on different ways of expressing, but none is “better” than any other. It’s a matter of how one works, which is as individual as our genetic blueprint, and of one’s personal taste, which, sadly, is often swayed by outside (and internalized) opinions on what constitutes “Art.” It’s time to deconstruct the myth that Art and Craft are separate, that one is “better” than the other. What makes a quilt less art than a sculpture? What makes a functional quilt less valuable than an ‘art quilt?” I love the idea of art and artistry infusing everyday useful handmade items. Why shouldn’t it? Why doesn’t it, far more than we allow it to? Why do we hold ourselves to others’ standards, or to the petty Art Police tyrant ruling our own thoughts ? (that question speaks to me because of my own perfectionism and harsh inner critic issues.) Somewhere along the line, someone decided (in the so-called “civilized” cultures) to make this arbitrary distinction between “Real” Art and “mere craft”), and we all got lost and have paid the price. In other places in the world, Life is Art. These cultures make no distinction between life and art. Art is for all the people, not some rarefied thing that depends on gallery representation. Yes, there are masters in all walks of life. But that doesn’t take away the rightful experience of enjoyment of our Craft from the rest of us. The idea that some creativity is “better” than others – is hogwash! All creativity is valid, and IMO, necessary. Animals play ~ we are animals, too. We need play. It’s essential to our beings. We each express ourselves in different ways – some shyly, some boldly, some with finesse, some with wild abandon, some sloppily, some tidily and with great care and attention to detail. How did any one way get deemed lesser or greater than another? It’s all as necessary and individual as we are. It’s time to treat ourselves with compassion and respect for what we have to bring to the collective. What do you think? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions on this.

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2 thoughts on “If Art Requires Craft, Then Why Isn’t Craft Considered Art?

  1. I am going to read through your posts on a rainy day. They all seem thoughtful and well worth spending time with. And that orca composition? I tried to find it in your blog archive. I really like it a lot.

  2. @garylindorff; How kind of you to read this! Don’t bother with the rest of this blog. I’m a wannabe artist who never does art! This post was probably the most well-thought of the bunch. The rest isn’t that interesting, and as you can see, I don’t post much. (so it wouldn’t take long to read all of the posts, many of which are short.) I keep this blog, hoping to post more and share more art and poetry, but somehow, I never get around to it.

    I am so happy to have found your poetry via op-ed, and now your blog; I really like how you explain the why of writing the poems you do, or where they came from. I like your poet’s notes as much as your poetry.

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