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Craft as Art.

By: Tess Buckley

Over the last few months a topic of conversation that continues to arise is how do we distinguish art from craft? How do we value one thing as a work of art and another as a hobby? I wanted to explore this topic further, especially after my interview with maker Alexa Rhynd.

Young Woman Knitting by Berthe Morisot, seen as art.

A Wartime Knitting Circle of Young Women, seen as craft.

This article aims to explore the different places and understandings of craft as art garnered by my own practice and love of craft. I am simply exploring their different places and merits.

William Morris and his wallpaper designs.

In the mid-1800s, wallpaper designer William Morris began to question the differences between art and craft by bringing an artist's aesthetic to a craft object. This distinction has been in question for many years, and here is what I found;

Galerie d’art Lacerte art Contemporain, Quebec - Montreal.

Art is described as an unstructured and open-ended form of work that expresses emotions, feelings, and vision. This form of creation relies on artistic merit and can be seen as painting, photography and more. Fine art is created primarily for aesthetics and can often be found in museums or art galleries.

Glass Bead Textile by T’ai Smith.

Craft denotes a form of work, involving the creation of physical objects, by the use of hands and brain, that is based on learned skills and technique. Examples of craft are textile work, sewing, crochet and more. Craft is seen as an output of something tangible while art is seen as something that expresses emotions. These practical objects are often taught generationally - I learned how to cross stitch with my nanny (my paternal grandmother), to knit with my nana (my maternal grandmother), and to sew with my mom. Something I must point out is that all of these crafts were taught to me by other females: does this have something to do with their positioning in the craft world? My grandma used to have to take sewing lessons at school which was seen as a skill rather than an art form that a housewife must have. Now it is not expected that all women learn to sew. So has it transferred from a must have skill to an art form? Short Answer - craft used to be a functional need, but in today's world its become much more prized and elevated and now can be found in museums and gallery spaces.

Syende-Fiskerpige by Anna Ancher.

Something I will mention is there are many ‘crafters’ or ‘makers’ I follow that do not get the credit or space they deserve to share their works. Why is this? According to Britannica, ‘Artists focus on creating aesthetically pleasing works, while artisans' work focuses on accessorizing and functionality more than aesthetics.’ This distinction is important for defining value, placement and distribution.

Chairs by Ashley Spender.

Personally, I believe art is a result of putting your spin on a form or practice, meaning you are no longer following instructions but making something your own. To clarify, here is an example: perhaps when my grandma stitchs the hole in my pants like her teacher taught her, that is craft, but when she sews fabric together to create a dress or cross quilt, this is art. So where do you draw the line? Where do you think the distinction comes from and is it still upheld in today's art world? What are your thoughts on craft as art? Take a look at this video that has an historical perspective.

Crochet Object - Bicycle, 2010 by Olek.

For more definitions and discussions on this topic:

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