The Difference Between Arts & Crafts
It is not a new question, what is the difference between arts and crafts? Debate on the subject has taken place for decades. But today’s modern craft movements have bought the question firmly into the spotlight. There has recently been an explosion of interest in craft around the world, including the new fad of graffiti knitting and the rise of Make Do and Mend craze. So, what is the difference between a craft maker and an artist? Perhaps the purpose of the action gives the answer, if the maker intends simply to express rather than use.
Many craft makers cite the real difference between the two is what material was being worked on. Ceramics, textiles and glass all seem to fall into the craft category, no matter what the intention and purpose of the maker was. Perhaps the answer is how the maker came to learn their own particular skill, if it was through an apprenticeship being taught by hand from a master, it is a craft? Something that has no clear purpose or use may be described as art? But throw in to this mix something like decorative crafts and the debate rages on.
Arts & Crafts
One very well-known London art gallery recently released their thoughts on the debate, comparing art to craft is like a comparison between engineering and philosophy. It seems that depending on what side of the argument you are on the explanation differs. The Tate spokesman further went on to elaborate, Art is a form of communication about an emotion or an idea, whereas craft is a physical action concerning various materials. But taking this argument to its logical conclusion it would mean that the making of a sculpture would be craft, but it can also communicate an idea, so this would be art?
The Director of the Arts Council in the UK commented on this debate, the paradox is that within the art world what is rare is valuable and now we have few folks with wonderful skills making traditional work and thousands of folks making conceptual work. The tide is turning… Could this statement define art and craft? Is it all about status? Is it that art is perceived as a higher status than craft? And in two hundred years or so will the whole equation turn on its head, and craft be rare and conceptional art the norm.
Leonardo da Vinci certainly did not bother with distinctions, he did not call himself either a craftsman or an artist. In his day a painter was considered an artisan, you took an apprenticeship and learned your craft as a painter. In other words, art and craft were one in the same thing! At this time, it was accepted by society to be a good artist you had to learn how to mix paint and apply it, and this took years of practice.
Perhaps this also highlights that contemporary art is not art at all, no learning of the craft has been undertaken and no period of time has elapsed understanding the craft. The argument will no doubt rage on, and it is doubtful if there will ever be a clear and decisive answer.