Are crafted objects "Art"? When?

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  1. mega1 profile image79
    mega1posted 14 years ago

    I'm wondering if anybody else ponders this.  I have always felt that the distinction between "art" and "craft" is a very picky, very snobby, fine-line distinction wherein one should tread very lightly, very carefully.  But instead, I have seen reference (especially in museum catalogs, books on crafts, books on ancient crafts, etc.) to "craftwork" as if it were lesser than the "fine arts".  As if the craftsworker were somehow not so fine as the "artist".  And when do you call someone an "artist".  It's all subjective, relative to who you're with I suppose.  But am I just being kind of naive, or what?

    1. dahoglund profile image73
      dahoglundposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      There seem to be a number of attitudes, maybe all valid. In literature Mark Twain is generally considered a literary figure. In his own day he was merely a "humorist". This was partly because humor was not considered "literary" and partly because he was commercial and published outside of the main outlets. His books were sold door-to-door. So, to some extent is is a matter of being in the inside group.

      Likewise, I think cartoonist are now called graphic artists, before they were just a craft.

      1. mega1 profile image79
        mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

        It just occurred to me that in my head I was totally ignoring many of the "crafts" there are - for instance, the art/craft of writing and the art/craft of graphic arts.  I should be keeping up better with the current definitions, but I guess they're changing pretty fast.  Most modern artists seem to be on the side of just entirely ignoring public opinion on this matter!  and I'm not sure I really care, really really - but its fun to discuss

  2. profile image0
    Leta Sposted 14 years ago

    Nope.  Although I thought the dichotomy between the idea of 'craft' and 'fine art' was collapsed (at least officially) years least for modern artists.

    Unless you are talking about paint by number kits or grandma's crocheting rainbow colored scarves or something. lol  But from the tenor of your post, I doubt it.

    I think as far as curating, there does need to be (and has always that the terms are still in use) some labeling to categorize stuff.  Don't know if that is so much about snobbery, but just organizing (?)

  3. Dangazzm profile image74
    Dangazzmposted 14 years ago

    First of all good to see you being so active already! on to the original topic...

    I feel as though crafts (through no dictionary type definition) is like following a plan to create something.

    While art is something new and original that no one though of or something like that. But then again this isn't true for a lot of things such as the statue known as the thinker... I mean who hasn't made statues and of people back then? What makes this one so special? I dont know.

    So then again I really don't know what's the difference either but wow you got me thinking... This is going to bug me unless we get someone with a PHD in arts and crafts in here to explain this to us lol

    1. mega1 profile image79
      mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Hey - the last thing we want is someone with a Phd to explain - you know how that goes - the very essence of art for me is what you seem to be doing - going with your own inner flow and who cares what everyone else thinks!  I realized this morning that I don't have enough of that in me when I thought about making a mud ball today - and then worried about what some of the people around me would say about me out in the yard in 100 degree heat rolling mud around in my hands!  I might lose my job and wake up on a psych ward!  Too bad I'm just all talk about revolution in the art world.

  4. livewithrichard profile image72
    livewithrichardposted 14 years ago

    Arts and crafts are two sides of the same coin.  It is called art when it leads the person viewing it to respond with thought or emotion.  Crafts will rarely draw an emotion the same way, but that does not lessen its value.

    I think you call someone an artist when that person is earning a living from their creations.

    1. mega1 profile image79
      mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

      You sound like someone who knows.  I don't agree with you, but what you say sounds sp good, even though it doesn't include the whole spectrum of art vs craft -  I think I am sorry that separate terms were ever invented.  I would like it to be all art - all the time.  Except when its strictly utilitarian craftwork.  And I know so many (too many) artists who will probably never make a living from their creations, but I don't hesitate to call them artists.

  5. Paradise7 profile image69
    Paradise7posted 14 years ago

    My sister recently used some tye-dyed silk as a background for a painting.  She gave the painting to a friend as a retirement gift, and it brought tears to her friend's eyes.  When I saw my sister's painting, I thought the background worked as art, even though the person who crafted it didn't know how it would be ultimately used.  The picture wouldn't have been the same or had the same haunting, emotive quality without that background.

  6. profile image0
    Leta Sposted 14 years ago

    Ceramics is considered 'craft,' in general. However, these utilitarian works do evoke emotion, often, and one can get a Master of Fine Arts in ceramics, making utilitarian vessels.

    Women who work with tapestry and quilting (textiles) also are now considered 'artists,' not craftspeople. There has been a great breakdown between these two distinct, 'snobby' areas in the modern and postmodern eras.

    Anybody claiming there is much of a difference and a large dichotomy between the two are considered 'unhip,' lol.

    1. mega1 profile image79
      mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Right - so now I realize this question was way too complicated.  But as a discussion! Whew!  I have no real answer, you know

  7. profile image0
    ralwusposted 14 years ago

    Just wait and possibly CrisA will show up. He has a degree in art, not PHD but he knows art. I don't know a dam thing about it. Maybe  I'll put a flea in his ear.

  8. Fiction Teller profile image59
    Fiction Tellerposted 14 years ago

    I love this topic!  Naturally, I have very opinionated opinions on I wrote a Hub on the question.  But it boils down to the fact that I think crafts are the new art, and that what we call art is fading out, having become something that's no longer a real part of your average person's life.

  9. Dyokel profile image60
    Dyokelposted 14 years ago

    What a great discussion!   I don't have a degree in art though I have published quite a bit about art and have worked with artists, museums and galleries to mount exhibitions, handle sales, created licensing agreements for artists and worked with art fairs including Art Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach.  I have educated myself about art, artists, museums, galleries.  So, I have a few thoughts on the matter.  As a wise man once said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and I believe art is much the same.

    I disagree with Richard about an artist being one who earns a living from their art.  Many living and dead artists have work in museums but never sold a work of art in their lifetime (Van Gogh is a good example) or among the living there are those who haven't to date sold their art but it has been exhibited.  If the work is good enough for a museum or gallery then I consider it art.  There are also many artists who earn money but not what one would define as "a living" from their art.

    The big question is if one is an artist if what they create is not intended as art but rather utilitarian? 

    The Quilters of Gee's Bend are a great example.  For more than 5 generations these women have quilted - until the late 80s their quilts were for personal use for warmth.  These quilts had an amazing life cycle from clothes to quilts to personal hygiene articles to being burnt in the yard to repel mosquitoes.  Many experts state that during times of slavery the quilts were used as a method of communicating that which slaves where not permitted to say aloud.  And now, the quilts are considered art by critics, museums, collectors and art lovers.  The Gee's Bend quilters have come to view their work as art and each has developed a personal aesthetic.  However, there are some who have never sold a quilt or have died before a sale took place yet they have been documented by experts and exhibited. 

    This brings up the question of so-called Outsider Art or Folk Art or African American art - all designations that I don't like as I don't believe in pigeon holing.  Art is art - it is not called "White man's art."  Contemporary, Modern, Renaissance and other designations based on time frames are great.  Textile art, sculpture, painting, multi-media are great segmentations.  Movements are also great designations - Dada, Surrealism, Vernacular, etc.  There was a time when writers who weren't white men where always categorized by race and/or sex and sexuality.  This has changed to a great degree in recent years.

    As writers we are artists too.  Instead of brush strokes we have key strokes but the goals are the same.  Artists of all stripes create because they need to.  Artists also create because they have something they want to share with the world outside.  If one sees themselves as an artist it doesn't take another person to tell them so to make this real.  Making a living from one's art is an ultimate goal but not always attainable particularly in today's market.  The purchase of art is considered a luxury not a necessity.  However, I always know when I want to acquire a piece because I cannot leave the gallery or studio without taking it with me - it is a visceral response and then I know that I need this work of art in my life.

    The art world is constantly in flux and new genres and artists evolve every day.  It is important to remember that what a critic has to say is their opinion, hopefully a considered one, but not the be all and end all.

    1. mega1 profile image79
      mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

      "Artists of all stripes create because they need to."  You do know what you're talking about.  We have come a long way I guess, since the days of Gauguin and Van Gogh.  The crafts question is never going to be resolved.  But may I point you toone I believe is the pen-ultimate in crafts  the
      "leather shaman" j.l. chuites - do you know of him?  His work answers it in a way my speculations never could.

  10. mega1 profile image79
    mega1posted 14 years ago

    I didn't post the reply to Dyokel properly - those were her words "Artists of all stripes create because they need to"

  11. mega1 profile image79
    mega1posted 14 years ago

    Also there are thousands of sites where one can view some spectacular art as craft, craft as art - another one I want to share is  (I can certify that I have no vested interest in either site I have shared with you here - these people don't know I exist)  But I am thinking that looking at some craftspeople's art is not only germaine to the discussion, but will inspire and sooth your eyes.

  12. mega1 profile image79
    mega1posted 14 years ago

    Looking at that again I realize I do know one of the art/crafters - Tom D'onofrio - but I really didn't start all this to promote him or anybody else - so really didn't intend to break any rules here

  13. KevCC profile image72
    KevCCposted 14 years ago

    It's a tricky one for sure. some people might consider me to be a craft worker in stained glass, some might call me a stained glass artist. I guess it's always going to mostly a personal point of view. Just to complicate matters there seems to have developed a trend here in the UK to refer to what used to be called "trades" as crafts. And though I studied at art college I'm afraid I'm never going to support the view that Tracy Emins unmade bed is art, conceptual or otherwise.

    1. mega1 profile image79
      mega1posted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Right on.  It only matters what you want to call yourself.

  14. yasmintoo profile image59
    yasmintooposted 14 years ago

    I've worked in hand processed surface textile design for over forty years. Taking pride in the craftspersonship required to create beautiful and meaningful works. I've exhibited in museums, juried shows, and on the street in the beginning of my career.

    The distinctions for me are not between "art" and "craft" , but between the skill, thought, expression and ability to touch other human beings with your creations. Of course, the biggest distinctions are in the market place. Work labeled art commands a higher price. Great craft somehow moves out of that designation and becomes art. Production craft is no more or less valued than production art. Most of us have to do both production and fine art or craft to earn a living.

    What I'm really concerned about is the effect of DIY on the crafts market. Bricks and mortar marketing still presents many opportunities for selling fine crafts. But boy the internet seems to be a movement for DIYers working under the banner of handmade. Really a tough market for fine crafts.

    In the end analysis all of the labels are about money, class and politics.

  15. Tadeusz598 profile image77
    Tadeusz598posted 14 years ago

    In my inderstanding "craft" usually means the outcome of the owrking process is known by the maker and by whomever is commissioning the piece.

    In Art, the end result of the process is usually unknown- Art is therefore a speculative, experimental process, while craft is the pursuit of known ends, and fundamentally conservative.

    Ergo, it is fair to ask if, say, a landscape painter whose work is predictable (usuing series of set formluae) is a craftsmen and not really an artist; likewise whether someone experimenting freely with wollen sweaters (perhaps altering the designs and adding messages) should be described as an artist.

    I agree with you that there is a lot of snobbery in the distinction between art and craft: I think it is based on the idea that that works of mind are superior to works of the hand, so that a poetry, (which involves no manual labour) is somehow inherantly superior to  needlepoint (which needs manual skill).

  16. Cris A profile image59
    Cris Aposted 14 years ago

    Indeed there is a fine line, but still a line.

    By the definition, craft is the skill to make by hand functional and/or decorative objects while art sits purely on a more personal level as it is a means of expression. And we all know that the beauty and/or function that art might ultimately create are purely incidental. cool


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