Art vs Craft: Are You an Artist or a Crafter?

When I first got into making things with my hands, I went about my business of craft and creativity without really giving much thought as to whether what I was doing was considered art or craft.  I was blissfully unaware of the ongoing debate between artists and crafters as to what constitutes art and what constitutes craft.  I just placed both under the heading of creativity and thought we were one big happy family.

But of course when you’re dealing with humans, things get more complicated.  I first became aware of the art vs. craft debate about four years ago while taking an altered book class at Castle in the Air.  One of my fellow classmates and I were talking about different types of craft supplies when she mentioned that there are artists who won’t venture to use some of the craft tools or supplies that’s available out there in their creative process, dismissing the whole world of craft by claiming, “We’re not crafters!”  I was puzzled by her comment because, I mean, who wouldn’t want to make their lives easier?  If there is a tool that makes it easier to create, I’m all for it.  But the way this lady was talking, it sounded like these artists didn’t want their work to be lumped in with crafts.  I guess there is some sort of snobbishness over the dividing line between art and craft, and I just never really paid attention to it.  Art or craft, it’s all about creativity as far as I’m concerned.

Well, I came across this article from a few years ago that discussed this art vs. craft debate: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/tate-debate-when-craft-art.  In it, the author brings up several schools of thought on the topic.  One of them involves intention.  What was the intention of the creator?  If she intended to express something, then that might be deemed art.  So does that mean a card maker is an artist?  After all, you can say that she is expressing her feelings for someone by making the card.  

Others think that it is the primary materials that a creator works with that determines whether something is art or craft.  Then what does that make someone who employs mixed media techniques?  I know mixed media is considered an art form, but it has crossed over into the realm of scrapbooking and paper crafting. 

Then there are those who believe that how you acquired your skills determines whether you are an artist or a crafter.  If you picked up your skills, hand-to-hand, from someone else, then it’s a craft.  If you are “honing an expressive talent,” then you’re an artist.  Aren’t there crafters who hone their expressive talents, too?

Another school of thought involves use – whether the creation serves a clear practical purpose. Something that is useful, like a basket, or wearable, like jewelry, would be considered craft, while something like a painting would be art.  Have you seen some of those fashion shows put on by couture houses, in which the clothing seems to wear the person, rather than the other way around?  Or jewelry pieces that look more like a piece of sculpture around the wearer’s neck?  Is that not crossing the line into art?

Art or craft.  Craft or art.  The line can get very blurry, which is why oftentimes, I find myself using the two terms interchangeably.  I guess we can all sit around and debate what defines art and what defines craft and still not come up with anything definitive that we can all agree upon.  For me personally, I consider what I do more craft than art, but more importantly, I am involved in the creative process, and at the end of the day, that is what’s most important to me.

How do you define art or craft?  Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Serena Y Lee

Serena worked in the biotech industry for 18 years before leaving to pursue her life purpose - to live in freedom with creativity and simplicity. Her love for baking, creativity, and story-telling compelled her to start blogging to share her ideas with a wider audience.

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