Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art or Craft?

In the art and craft world there is a conundrum as to what we call ourselves. To some the tag of crafts-person is a complete insult, opting for artist instead. For others, crafts-person is perfectly fine. Which pronoun best describes what you are and what you do? OR are the words Art and Craft really a verb and interchangeable?

Doctors and Lawyers practice, so is their profession considered a craft?  Wood workers in any capacity are typically called craftsmen but are they indeed artists who see beauty in the different aspects of the material?  Why would we label a person an artist or a crafts-person based on the materials they use? I have a 5' hand carved from wood, two dimensional Angel in my living room. The raw material used is one solid piece of wood (tree). The carver used a chain saw and finished by hand. As I daily look at this piece ~ to me it is art and the creator a very talented artisan.

I have a friend who sews beautifully; clothing, home decor, and anything fabric. She owns nearly every type of machine available for sewing fabric yet she chooses to call herself and her surroundings, "crafting." I maintain she is an artist as it takes tremendous imagination to make her fabric creations ~ AND ~ I could never conjure the works she produces.  Am I an "art" snob by virtue of my inability to label her a crafts-person? Yes she buys her materials in craft stores and fabric shops but what is she ~ verb, adverb, noun or pronoun?

There was a time when I had a large studio with dozens of "art" projects typically working in tandem. For that reason I labeled myself as an artist largely due to the shear volume of material in use. The fact is, I could have been a crafts-person just as easily.  My raw materials came from art suppliers, antique dealers, auctions and dumpsters if I was so lucky. But I have to wonder, did I come off as a complete snob to the craft crowd or am I indeed an artist?

I never formally studied art, I was simply surrounded by familial talented people. Some of that talent rubbed off on me. My grandfather was a custom cabinet maker by trade, but created beautiful one of a kind objects from wood. Both he and my grandmother were inducted in the Bowling Hall of Fame so he had easy access to the old wooden bowling pins. I remember the beautiful creations he made from old bowling pins. Art or Craft?

I have cousins, uncles and other family members who create "art" in a variety of soft and hard materials, beautiful in their finality. So I consider them art. But is it really art or craft? I am completely stumped by the difference in the two labels if there is indeed a difference.

From my perspective and after considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that there is no difference in the two. I make mosaic tiles from antique china and I will call it a craft resulting in art! After all, a locomotive engineer isn't considered an artist!

Check out my work and you be the judge: My Etsy Store and My ArtFire Store


  1. I tend to think on this issue myself and have mostly settled on "artisan". I make masks, mostly in the Venetian tradition and have had some mixed reactions. Most people, and other artists, are very positive, but I've had a few galleries and other venues tell me they won't even *look* at my work since "masks are always craft". *shrug* The line gets even more blurry with me since I dabble in a bunch of other different media, some of which fall clearly in the "craft" section and others in the "art". In the end, I craft items using my hands with, hopefully, some artistic flair so I'm fine with any of the three labels.

  2. It makes me crazy when non-artisans try to make the distinction between art and craft! Art IS a craft and one that is practiced with each new project. Like you I dabble with many different mediums and I consider myself a crafting artist ~ enough said...and the galleries are just snobby enough to miss out on a great commission stream. Thanks for the comment!


Tell me what's on your mind!