Art vs Craft

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
This is the start of a topic I will cover more in later articles on the concept of art and craft in our industry. I recently had to write a bit on art vs craft for a assignment and will post it here. think of this as sort of a definition in my own words on the subject.
Artist or admirers of art frequently hold art work to be of a higher standard of creation than craft. To most people, art and craft are two sides of a coin that cannot be separated and are frequently used in the same breath. .Art and craft are a common pair in the world, and can be applied to disciplines such as music, art, cooking or even gardening. Any activity where a person creates something can have components of art and craft. Even though art and craft are both part of the process of creating, only by only by examining the two side by side can we see craft and art are not two sides of the same coin but instead the same coin made by two people.
A craftsman is one who creates with skill and knowledge. When working with wood most any one can cut a board into a multitude of pieces and then join them together with glue, nails or rope. When looking at the joints created between the pieces of wood, a craftsman would likely have tight joins that had no gaps between the pieces. It takes knowledge of the tools and their use, the materials, and the process to accomplish this task. The craftsman will have spent time learning how to use the tools and hours practicing how to get the most out of them. Additionally his knowledge of materials will go far beyond that of the common man. Staying with the wood worker as an example he will be able to tell you the hardness of a wood, how it will take a cut or even predict its behavior when stained or painted. A craftsman is expected to show a high level of technical perfection. A high level of craft is easily seen and can be appreciated by anyone who views it.
Artists, especially in today’s art world, are not expected necessarily to show a level of technical perfection. Their knowledge of their tools and materials can be held to a lesser standard and be superseded by the impact or message their work imparts. Art often requires interpretation to be understood. Additionally, it is frequently said that art requires an emotional response to deserve the term art. Instead of knowledge as in craft, art is based in interpretation and personal understanding. Unlike craft the fruits of art are not always easily seen, or can be interpreted differently by each viewer.
Art and Craft come from the same source, the call to create. Artist frequently cite a pressing feeling or urge to create their works of art. Art for them is a release or a way of dealing the world around them or communicating ideas. For an artist the act of creating is fulfilled in the created result and the message it communicates. The Craftsman too may feel compelled, but it is perfection that is what fills their need. Their relief is found in the journey and the process of the creation and the satisfaction of their work and skills. Even though both have different goals when creating they are both creating and working actively their end product.
Craft and art sometimes combine to create a greater whole. In some cases art is dependent upon craft to succeed. The sculptor Michelangelo created very iconic pieces of art. His work is renowned for its technical perfection and the beauty of the subjects portrayed. He was able to create flawless surfaces using primitive tools by today’s standards. A craftsman who spends a lot of time with stone and with the proper training can achieve the same technical perfection. The figures portrayed in marble appear to have skin is so smooth you expect them to feel real if you dared to reach out to touch them. This level of stone craftsmanship can also be found in the marble floors of a church of the same time period. Their perfection and expense were planned to awe the visitors but have little emotional impact other than that. If the floor was rough and uneven the illusion of the church being grand would have been lost. In Michelangelo case, had his sculptures a rough or haphazard surface it too would spoil the illusion he was trying to achieve, that of a living person. If one looks closer at the figures lifelike appearance it becomes evident the figures are not exact representations of humans but are instead stylized creations. Each sculpture is finely tuned in proportion and pose to affect the viewer and appeal to their sense of beauty. To achieve this, an artistic interpretation is required. He had to filter the beauty of the human form and pick and choose only those elements to include in his work that would evoke a deep and involuntary response. This is the work of an artist and is distinctly different from craftsmanship in that it is something that cannot easily be taught and is frequently not perfected by simple practice. His art is the sum of two parts; his craft and his artisan sensibility, both working together to create a greater whole. The question to be asked is; without the craftsmanship would the artistry of his work hold the same impact? , Without craft his work would not seem as lifelike and the overall impact of his art would be diminished. As for the floor of the church is there any doubt they are beautiful, but do they hold an emotional impact other than their perfection and opulence. In their case their beauty is devoid of art and stand solely on the merit of craftsmanship. Art and craft are complimentary and when paired with great skill the combination will be greater than the sum of its parts.
Art and craft are both components in creating and both have their place in the world. For every discipline of creating there will be craftsmen who push the limits of the materials, tools and knowledge to their limits. There will also be artist will strive for deeper meaning and grater connection with their creations. Both will through the act of creating bring value to the world, creating coins for everyone else. Each coin will be a sum of its creator and their experiences the difference will be the purpose of the coin and why it was created.


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