Thursday, January 11, 2007

Art Versus Craft

I've spent much of my spare time as an adult doing crafts. I haven't created art but I have created crafts. The distinction is very important to me. When I was taking an art class in college (the only art class I've taken beyond grade school, actually) my instructor made it his mission to point out the difference between the two. This was an art class for teachers so he wanted to make sure that the concept of art was kept separate from the concept of craft. This is because he didn't want children to be doing results oriented crafting instead of creating expressive art. I will never remember his words exactly but I do know that there was some ambiguity and that it sparked a debate.

Art is found in a variety of mediums with a variety of themes. Art can be taught to children -- to use a medium to depict something with a particular theme and particular elements. This enables children to harness their creativity but also to learn a mode of expression. It's no different from teaching children creative writing. Form is very important, themes can be assigned but each child's voice is unique and capturing that voice is the artistic part of writing. It can't be taught, but method can. The same is true of paint, clay, and colored paper.

So the line between art and craft is very fine. It boils down to my point: that art is expression-oriented while craft is results-oriented. If I'm copying someone else's work and adding my own twist, I'd probably consider it craft inspired by art. I suppose that if the added twist changes the work entirely, that work becomes art with an inspiration.

It's just words but it's important for me to recognize that most of the handcrafts I make are not art. Some of it is blatantly copied because I either enjoyed the challenge or avoided the price tag. Much of it is stuff that I wanted for around my home based on ideas I saw. But I thought if I could change the elements it would give me the results I wanted.

I am not artistic. Instead, I am craftastic.

I can use paint but I'm no painter.

I love to pour plaster.

I have taught myself to sew. I'm unfamiliar with some terms but I've been picking more of them up over time. Until recently, I have successfully avoided sewing a zipper since I started teaching myself to sew 8 or 9 years ago. Imagining how a final project will look and then working backward from it requires very accurate estimations in sewing. The geek in me loves this!

I've made beaded jewelry but when my youngest (now 10) was born, I stopped doing much beading because of the worry about her finding beads that I had lost. Sometimes when you stop, it's hard to pick-up where you left off.

I haven't knitted before. My great aunt tried to teach me to crochet when I was young but I never managed to do more than a single row. I'd say I'm pathetic at fiber arts but I've never really tried. I'm enticed by the idea of felted knitted objects and lovely scarves and hats made from various yarns but, so far, I haven't done more than buy second-hand knitting needles and those easy knitting rigs that are gathering dust.

I can paint but I can't paint details. Any painting that is more than faux painting or stencil has been copied from another object. When it comes to painting, I have trouble envisioning the final project and executing it.

Sharpies rule!

There are many projects upon which I've embarked that don't fall into any category. Most of them are things I've made for others. I haven't kept much for myself except for the miserable failures that my husband shifts around between boxes in the basement when he sees the storage area reaching critical mass.

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