Crafter or Artist
The craft vs craft debate continues. And the answer is it depends. If I am pushing out cookie cutter pottery or paintings then it’s a craft. However, if I am creating individual emotional works then its art.
This is a debate that has been going on for a long time and has some interesting arguments. Keep reading about what I discovered. I think you will find it very interesting.
The argument about ceramic art or craft
Let’s talk about ceramic art. What is ceramic art exactly? First, ceramics takes on many shapes and forms such as tableware, tiles, pottery, sculptures and figurines. All these forms are what’s called part of the visual arts. And some ceramic art is considered fine art.
Ceramic tableware is used for serving food, setting tables and dining. This category of ceramics includes serving dishes and other practical and useful items and well as decorative pieces. For example, containers for holding liquid and or severing liquid. These are bowls cup and dishes. These items vary depending on the culture and occasions. For example, a special occasion may require the use of higher quality ceramic tableware. Other forms of ceramic tableware are not actually used but are placed on the table for decoration.
Figurines are small statuettes that usually represent human forms. They may be realistic or totally fictional depending on the artist. Many very early figurines where made in Greece. There were terracotta figurines. More modern figurines are made of ceramics. Ceramics require higher heat and therefore are harder to master.
Tile is a hard-wearing flat surface mainly used to cover floors, walls, and roofs. Tiles can also be used to make wall murals and complex mosaics. Tiles are primarily made of ceramic and are glazed for better wear. Roof tile is fired but is usually not glazed.
And finally there is terracotta. There are terracotta tiles and terracotta figurines. These are not made on a potter’s wheel. For more on ceramics, earthenware and stoneware see my research titled is ceramic really considered pottery and why.
What is Art and What is Craft?
To gain a better understanding of Art vs Craft let’s define what we are talking about. What is the definition of each?
The definition of art, is the expression of a creative skill and or imagination mostly taking a visual form that is admired primarily, notice I said primarily, for its beauty and or emotional quality.
Most people think of art as an expression, creativity, emotions and feelings. When people thing of art they think of paintings, drawings, photography and sculptures. It cannot be reproduced.
The definition of a craft, is considered an activity of skill in creating objects or things by hand. It’s also considered an occupation requiring a skill.
When most people think of craft they think of an activity. They envision a highly skilled person making an object or working on a task. They think of a person who has learned their skills by practice. The creations serve a purpose and has utility but can be decorative or both.
In my mind one is not better than the other. A craftsman for example is not to be belittled just because he or she is a craftsman and not an artist. But I am guessing some people do think differently.
Differences between Art and Craft
To most people asking them if it’s and art or a craft they would not see the difference and consider both to be basically the same and be forms of creativity. But the main difference is art is considered to be a form of emotion and creativity. It is something that is created by the artist and contains emotion. It’s usually unique and not mass produced. On the other hand craft items represents more of a work. The person is working to produce a specific result. Most items crafted are then used or can be quantified. Generally speaking. There are some exceptions which would blur the lines between art and craft.
In my mind if I am creating duplicate versions of the same item it then becomes a craft and not an art. I see it as more of a chore. Also, the emotion is lost when there are hundreds of the same item. However there are exceptions such as numbered paintings. The limited quantity or the prints and its scarcity keeps the value high and keeps it more in the category of art. You can still move people with emotion with a limited numbered print so I guess this is art. Or at least falls into the art category. In art, the artist has a flow, and the artwork is created from that flow and emotion. Where a craft is planned ahead resulting from an idea.
Distinction between art and craft continued
But wait. Is it totally ridiculous to even make the distinction between the two? It’s like saying the crafter or craftsman has no emotion when he or she created their craft. It’s like they are belittled and their talent is not as good as the artist. And this is defiantly not the case. It does take an incredible amount of talent. The talent was created, learned and trained over a period of time just like the artist. So one could argue there are great crafts and great art. Is there really a distinction or is this this just a made up distinction for the purpose of elitism?
Can art and craft really be separated? Is an artist really the brainy one and the craftsman the cookie cutter person? Or could both art and craft have qualities of each? A craftsmanship piece could very well be also a work of art. A work of art could also have great qualities of craftsmanship.
If I work with ceramic as an artist do I have to defend my choice of medium?
Is my medium of choice “dirt” too direct of a route to a finished product? Now days in the realm of mass reproductions and manufacturing having one’s hand in the process can definitely be of value. In ceramics, items are built to last and are beautiful, meaningful and can be utilitarian. It can be a work of art or a business project.
What we are seeing in the “digital age” is ceramics is hot. There is a rise in ceramic art.
This is an art form that has been around for thousands of years, dating back to 24K BC. It’s actually older than paintings. Ever found a 24K BC painting? But ceramics is being rediscovered today. There are new artists in this medium now who do not have a traditional ceramic background.
In the digital age there is nothing tangible we can hold in our hands. It’s merely a rendition on our screen. Take for example the Bulbertha character from Tom’s Fallout 3. See my Bulbertha project. It’s purely digital. I felt compelled to take a digital representation and create a real object you could hold in your hand. In this case one could argue that all ceramic arts cannot be simply classified into a “Crafty” category. Ceramic artists are extraordinary artists with their own style. Over time ceramic artists will gain even more respect and people will see ceramics move beyond the dinner table. The new age ceramics will be worn, hung on walls and will move past the medium debate.
Examples of art and crafts
But can the examples listed above be so cut and dry and so definitive? Could the emotion, beauty and flow be expressed through craftsmanship?
Or has the craftsmanship been cultivated to such a high level it now goes beyond the representation of a craft and becomes art?
But don’t arts and crafts involve both emotion and passion? Don’t both also involve skilled people, with talent, heart and soul?
Just because I work with a particular material does this automatically classify me as a craftsman? What if I made jewelry, does that automatically categorize me as being a craftsman? Or can my intention be the thing that classifies me as being an artist instead? Even if I spent decades honing my skills and I intend to express something does not that make it art?
Is ceramics an art or craft?
Ceramics is the oldest form of art and craftsmanship. Starting by mixing water and dirt and baking it to high temperatures it becomes ceramics. The practice has evolved over thousands of years and perfected by the Chinese to become a fine art. In recent years we have seen a resurgence in ceramic artists who are not to be defined by their medium of choice. Ceramic artist will continue to have and make enormous influences around the world. Ceramics is a thing of beauty and has though-out history cultivated to high level where many representations are art.
Who really makes the final decision between art and a craft? Is it really in the eye of the beholder?
Modern Ceramic Artists
George E. Ohr
Robert David Brady