Having found my footing as an embroidery artist over this last year or so, the question “What is the difference between art and craft?” has cropped up increasingly more in conversations about my work. I’ve been trying to dissect this and figure out what these terms mean for me.
Of course the Art & Craft debate dates all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, nonetheless I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here. I’ll keep the focus of this post on the outcomes I’ve reached so far rather than sharing my whole thought process else I’ll be here all day.
‘Craft’ for me refers to the act of making. This might be stitching, painting, drawing, sculpting, assembling, sticking, gluing… and so on. In the context of my practice craft is the act of making physical, or visible, a thought or idea.
‘Art’ is perhaps more tricky to pin down because the pejorative use of the word is so widespread that it’s definition has become more fuzzy than a polar bear’s testicle. I tend to think of ‘art’ as visual philosophy and in relation to my own work I see it as referring to the intellectual rigour with which a work is underpinned.
There is a danger that what is perceived as craft because of the materials from which it is made is too often dismissed by those interested in the arts as being ‘only’ or merely’ craft.
By the same token there seems to be a lot of work produced by artists who have given little or no consideration to the way in which their work is crafted and we are often informed that the idea which underpins the work is the focal point rather than the physical embodiment of the idea. I’m not wholly comfortable with this attitude, it seems like a hangover from a bygone era. One wouldn’t produce a book that was inarticulate and badly written because no one would read it and thus your ideas wouldn’t be listened to. Why then should we suffer poorly crafted works of art?
Does a work need to embrace considerations relating to both art and craft before one can set about making a truly great piece of work? I would say so. A good concept should be embodied in a well crafted form to achieve maximum impact.
This understanding that I’ve come to has been very much through consideration of the relationships between these terms in relation to my own practice. Clearly the terms are used much more widely and their definitions may vary from one context to another but I feel like I’ve begun to get a proper grasp of what it is that .
If you’ve any thoughts on this feel free to share them in the comments below or via email.