Enough Already: Art vs. Craft

I was talking to an artist yesterday who used to carve beautiful fireplaces for clients. She really enjoyed this, but stopped abruptly.

"Why," I asked. "Why would you give it up?"

She said she stopped when one of her patrons (a couple) was going to have a fountain created for their home and she asked if she could submit a proposal. "Oh no," they said. "We’re going to get an artist to do that."

She was caught in the old art vs. craft dilemma. Her patrons had come to see her as a craftsperson and, ignorant of the art of craft, they pigeonholed her in their minds.

Sadly, I think many people share these same thoughts. I, for one, do not believe that art and craft are separate. The best of fine craft takes an artist’s eye to conceive and create it. The best of fine art takes a skilled craftsman to execute. The onus is on artists to educate others about their approach. Unless you establish yourself as both from the beginning, you probably won’t get the consideration you deserve.

Damn those teddy-bear-painting hobbyists who bastardized the word "craft" for the rest of us!

(Artists can read the motivational Do This! newsletter, posted every Monday on ArtBizCoach.com) 

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4 comments to Enough Already: Art vs. Craft

  • Hank Black

    Dam the damn! Are you really ready to send a major portion of humanity to hell for not being impeccable, professional artists? Destroying their souls will probably not help the vision of those few customers who would unfairly lump you in with the incompetents. If you are a talented artist or designer, but only recognized as an artisan, respectfully speak up (after being taken aback at first) if you are prepared to submit a quality, competetive design proposal. Does the label ‘artist’ hold special significance, or do you want a crack at the design? If you have a great coherent vision go ahead and draw it up. Maybe even let the customer see it, without demanding or expecting anything from them. Now you have a relevant design in your portfolio. It couild be helpful later if not immediately. Few people are so prejudiced by semantic labels that they will not give you, and more to the point, their project a chance to have the best design available. Being the executor of the design (craftsman) is a distinct advantage any salesman could readily highlight. We constantly define and redefine the meaning of the word artist, for ourselves and those we meet. It is possible, though not likely, that the customers are such blockheads that they deserve only your scorn. Maybe they need a “name artist.” Maybe they sense your style is not their cup of tea. Maybe they are bored , and want to engage and deal with a person from another world of experience. So what? That may not be worth attempting to overcome; there are are more fish in the sea. If you are willing to submit designs at little or no cost you will quickly establish a reputation commensurate with your abilities. Good Luck! Have a Damn Good time.

  • I agree with the spirit of the first post…I work as hard as I possibly can, with depth & soul & thought…Part of becoming a professional was learning who I was, and what I was made of…When my work is good, I know it and my gallery knows and my collectors know…If someone disparages me or my work, I know that they are wrong…I do not believe that art is subjective, which is the excuse that I am given to allow for an insult…Good art is good art, and will stand the test of time…subjectivity or taste, like choosing dinner, is say, between fish or chicken…neither is ‘bad’ food, just different…Monet or Van Gogh?, both good artists… When I am drained, emotionally, from too many shallow comments, I withdraw from art for a couple of months, breathe, travel, walk, recover…then I order new art supplies and go to my studio…produce for several months in solitary, then am ready to venture out again… If you understand the artist cycle you can weather the gritty parts without quitting forever…some people call it burnout- recovery from burnout can take a year for some… To the artist who originally posted, please consider one day working again…doing what you love is a life worth living…Sari Grove

  • Hank Black

    The closing comment of the original blog, “Damn those teddy-bear-painting hobbyists who bastardized the word “craft” for the rest of us!” Is what prompted me to respond. I have been a professional artist for decades, and I now see no need to crush those less developed or talented, or in a field semantically related to mine. Quitting one’s profession because of the customer’s comment in the anecdote does not merit the support of mean -spirited commiseration. Dam the damn! By the way, where do you draw the line that includes “the rest of us”? I assume that club includes those who label themselves talented and devoted Artists, especially those who spend a great deal of energy creating a marketable image. Quality, as well as crap, can be found everywhere (especially pricey museums); just as fair, as well as selfish, people are found in every country.

  • Hi Hank, I now understand your play on words…I was agreeing with the ‘ don’t be a quitter’ spirit, which we were both getting at…How we got there is moot…