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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]

I've had the chance to watch this series on HGTV called "Crafters from Coast-to-Coast", and now I'm trying to figure where the line is between "art" and "craft."

Years ago, I had a friend who was an artist. I didn't like what she did particularly, but it was powerful and strong and clearly "art" - there was meaning behind her shapes and colors, even if it didn't speak to me, and if she used her own techniques, it was only after she'd learned the more traditional ones.

So. One woman makes minature round scrapbooks (and can I just say how much I hate using the word "scrapbook" as a verb? Because I know languages evolve and all, but this usage hurts.)and it's cute with stickers and buttons and such, and that's craft. Another makes stained glass boxes with elaborate lids and they're beautiful and just what you'd expect to see in a high-end gift shop, and where is that? Especially when that same woman takes scraps of stained glass and the occasional clear round button and makes a suncatcher that's pure light and color - and is that art?

What about the woman who makes dolls that feel more like soft sculpture, or the other one who makes glass beads for hairsticks? Glass beads with human faces? Or - this is the one that got me thinking.

She was from Ohio, and she was bouncy and perky in her little pink sweater, and she made a cheeseboard. But the cheeseboard was made in a modern and beautiful house decorated with her own paintings, and she used dramatic colors and swirls of soldering wire to make something that was, yes, kitschy, but kitschy on purpose. And in my eyes, it looked like art. Just like, when she took a shoe shaped papier mache base and made a vase out of it - it was kitsch, but there was something else about it.

I don't know. On the same show, they had a Navajo woman making a traditional rug - carding, spinning and dyeing the wool, and then taking two months to make the small rug. And how does that fit with hairstick beads and kitschy cheeseboards?

I'm not making fun of the crafters - they're being creative and enjoying themselves and creating things of use or beauty or fun. And I'm just wondering where the line is.


I struggle with that, too. I mean, some knitters call themselves "artist", but I don't see what I do as art. It's very odd, negotiating "art" and "craft".

I think the word might be "artisan" -- the union of the two.

I think of craft as being made with function in mind, where are is made with expression in mind. Since most things have both (to be looked at is a function, and who doesn't want the ordinary objects of their life to be pleasing?) it's a question of which is primary, and what do we call things where there isn't a clear winner? And what about when the creator and the user have different ideas? If you craft a quilt for my bed, does it become art when I hang it on my wall instead?

I've never been sure if those labels are even all that useful--to me, art seems to be in the eye of the beholder. If you think it's art, why shouldn't it be? Are the Art Police going to flash their Art Badges and tell you otherwise?

I would argue that a nicely-decorated, carefully-made box is a lot more like my idea of art than a crucifix in a jar of urine, or an empty room with the lights flickering. But perhaps I'm just a philistine.

I see nothing wrong with calling myself a crafter. (For those who do not know, I am a writer, a beaded jewelry maker, a yarn spinner, and a knitter working on being certified as a Master Hand Knitter). I would say that part of the difference lies in whether the item is intended to be functional and used (craft), or be decorative and not serve any other purpose (art).

OTOH, I do acknowledge that what is art is different for everyone.

I believe that art can be functional, and craft can have art. The line I tend to draw for my own purposes is: if the item is a unique work meant with some deeper intention, if the creator of the work is trying to "accomplish" something pertaining to technique or "meaning" or evoking an emotional response, then it's art.

"Craft" tends to be something that is intended to be recreated. The person who creates any number of glass boxes from the same mold is a crafter or "artisan", even if the color and pattern of each is different, if the intention is no more than to create lovely boxes.

Of course, in modern art, mass production and lack of deeper meaning can be a statement in and of itself -- just think of Andy Warhol, who often didn't even do the actual work of creation, only the design. On the other hand, he was never one of my favorite "artists". ;)

The line is very fuzzy for me, but I tend to think of it as crafters are intent on the act of producing, while artistes (with pretentious accents) are intent on the final result. Artists/artisans are somewhere in the middle.

So, do you knit for the purpose of producing a sweater that will make everyone go 'oooooh, ahhhhh' or do you knit because you love to knit, love to play with pattern, and hey, you end up with a neat sweater at the end? Artist or crafter?

I don't knit. I write.

I write because I enjoy the mechanics of it (both the actual mechanics of typing or handwriting and the choosing of the right words to say what I want to say, as well as the interplay of character, action and plot in my mind) and because I want people to ooh and ahh over my final product.

(It's also why I cook - that and dinner is a necessary meal of the day.)

I used knitting as an example for the global 'you'. And as we both note, the border is very fuzy.

But my mother, for example, is very definitely a crafter. She does knit, and while she likes finishing projects and giving them to people, she also abandons pieces when she loses interest. She basically loves to *knit*, and the end result is incidental. My sister is similar in that she loves to stamp, and takes every oportunity (events, etc) to do so. People liking the end result is nice, but it's really the act of producing it that has her all excited.

William Morris was part of the "Arts & Crafts Movement" --that is, the two just were packed in together, and also writing was, too... now people are reinventing things with terms like "Interstitial Arts."