Art and Craft
I studied what they call “Fine Arts” at university. That means drawing, painting, sculpture, that kind of thing. Whether a university is the right place to go to learn such things is a matter for debate but the experience did get me thinking about what makes art “art” and why something else made by human hands isn’t “art”.
In my personal blog, Gone Away, I wrote down some of my thoughts on this and you are welcome to read and argue, if you wish. My point in this post, however, is to consider the division we make between art and craft. Why do we classify one creation as art and another as craft?
If we accept that art’s primary purpose is to communicate something on a level that is not capable of being verbalized, we can begin to see where art and craft diverge. Craft is not necessarily concerned with communication – it is more practical than that. Craft has to do with such things as lifestyle, quality of environment and usage. It creates things that have a specific use and, by being beautiful, makes our interaction with those things more enjoyable.
So the essential difference is one of purpose. It’s the difference between a work of literature and a technical textbook; the first attempts to speak to us of the human condition, the other tries to teach us something useful. You will never be able to collect the eggs from the chickenhouse with a work of art, nor will you be able to drink from it; but with a work of craft, you just might (good grief, the man’s just called pottery a craft and not an art form!).
Which is not to say that either is of greater or less value than the other – they inhabit different worlds and their purposes do not compete. The practical man will appreciate a finely-turned pot or a handmade pair of shoes but will see little point in the slightly unsettling painting upon the wall; the philosopher will happily live with peeling wallpaper while considering the meaning of life.
Craft is about better design and cares about our environment; art wants only to say, “This is how it feels!”