Mar 19, 2011

Is it art or a craft?

It seems that there are always people discussing what is art and what is craft. Although art and craft are two terms that are often interchangeable in their use, you can without doubt draw a line of difference between art and craft.

So, what is the difference?

Craftwork is skilled work; it involves the application of a technique. With a craft, one can create duplicate craft forms, which is not possible with art. There is no emotion involved in creating a craft object. It engages the application of the human intelligence, techniques, and skill. A craft produces things, which are useful for a variety of human purposes. A craftsman knows what he wants to make before he actually makes it. He uses his skill to produce the thing that he wanted to produce. In the process, he is likely to use a trick or two to get the desired results. No matter how pretty the object is, in reality it is still produced for a purpose.

When an artist creates a beautiful painting, his emotions come into play. He puts his heart and soul into his creation. His creation has no other function than to be looked at and appreciated. Art serves aesthetic purpose whereas craft serves human purpose. A piece of art like painting or sculpture requires what is called "creativity." Artists do not use tricks to get results. Everything comes naturally to them. They do not use patterns or instructions and what they create are only original ideas.

An artist starts with a vision of what they want to paint, and then they take whatever steps it takes to fulfill that vision. A crafter takes another persons idea, maybe out of a book, pattern packet, or class and recreates the artist’s original idea. The person who created the art that is being mass-produced out of a craft book is an artist, but the person who buys the book and follows the instructions is a crafter.

Crafters usually can recreate anything they have instructions for but most of the time it stops there. That is not to say that a crafter cannot progress into the arts field. Many crafters have started out this way and eventually ended up creating original art.

As a teacher for over 30 years, I never gave my student’s instruction sheets or line drawings. They came to class to learn the basics of painting. Each student chose a subject they wanted to paint. I had a large file of reference photos for them to choose from.

They learned how to paint from a photo; eventually they had the skill to paint from their own photos interrupting what they saw and painting it with their own creative expression. No two paintings ever looked alike in my classes. Everyone created from their heart with the basic skills they had learned. They were all artists.

Decorative art is a craft because of the way in which it is taught - systematically, skill building and technique-oriented. No matter how well something is painted or how beautiful it is, it is still considered a craft. The person painting the project did not come up with the original idea and most of the time there is not much personal feeling involved, they are just copying what is before them. The creative “expression” is absent. They are “working” at duplicating the original.

However, if the decorative painter learns the basics of fine art, learns color theory and  attempts freehand drawing, and even designs a simple project on their own they may move into the area of fine arts rather than crafts.

Traditional art forms are painting, sculpting, and drawing.

Traditional craft forms are sewing, decorative art, pottery, scrapbooks, paper Mache’ and Stenciling, knitting.
Sharon Teal-Coray

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