Su Mwamba

Crafts – traditionally – were about using a handmade process to achieve an end result, usually something practical, like a rug or chair or clothing. Not to say that these items couldn’t also be decorative, but the main aim was function. Contemporary crafts are less about practicality and function, and generally something a crafter chooses to do because they enjoy the crafting process itself. It’s a leisure activity rather than a means to an end.
Art, in both traditional and contemporary terms, is generally about aesthetics rather than function. That burning question – “…but is it art?” – usually relies on some deeper layer of meaning being embedded in the piece. Whether the artist consciously or subconsciously has ‘something to say’, it is there within the finished piece.

1 thought on “Su Mwamba

  1. shinichi Post author

    The difference between art and craft

    by Su Mwamba

    TangleCrafts

    http://tanglecrafts.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/the-difference-between-art-and-craft/

    This is something I’ve been thinking about, on and off, lately, as the subject seems to keep cropping up in various contexts. It’s not something that troubles me greatly: we do what we do, and it’s still the same, whatever label anybody later attaches to it. But for the sake of clarity in my own mind, this is the definition I’ve come up with:

    Crafts – traditionally – were about using a handmade process to achieve an end result, usually something practical, like a rug or chair or clothing. Not to say that these items couldn’t also be decorative, but the main aim was function. Contemporary crafts are less about practicality and function, and generally something a crafter chooses to do because they enjoy the crafting process itself. It’s a leisure activity rather than a means to an end. (This is not, of course, to say that contemporary crafts cannot also be practical and functional; it is simply rarer for that to be the sole reason an item has been crafted.)

    Art, in both traditional and contemporary terms, is generally about aesthetics rather than function. That burning question – “…but is it art?” – usually relies on some deeper layer of meaning being embedded in the piece. Whether the artist consciously or subconsciously has ‘something to say’, it is there within the finished piece. A new wave of contemporary artists are using or adapting traditional craft techniques in the process of creating artwork; but in these terms the craft has become art because of the intentions of the creator – to whom crafting is simply another medium, in the same way they might apply paint to canvas.

    So where does this leave crafters? If in terms of art (as defined above) the meaning of the finished piece can be inherent either consciously or subconsciously, therefore a crafter who designs a new piece is just as capable of having imbued this piece with (sub- or conscious) layers of meaning. Because to them the crafting process has a higher level of import, the artistic integrity of the piece is not lessened proportionally. The factor of design is the defining quotient, whether a piece is planned or charted on paper, or grows organically in the handcrafting process. Even once a piece is re-created for multiple sales, the artistic integrity of the piece remains in tact.

    Art and craft can both be executed well or badly or with mediocrity. A design might be successful or sloppy. The skill level of the creator raises the levels of artistry inherent in a piece, but ‘bad art’ is still art, just as ill-performed music is still music. An artist uses craft techniques as a medium, and this is true of any crafter. If you create your own unique designs, you are an artist whose medium happens to be a particular craft.

    The label matters least of everything: craft can be art and art can be craft. So create the pieces you want to create, and call it what you like.

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