In society, there is much confusion as to whether a specific work can be considered either ‘art’ or craft.
Although there is no checklist, no list of specific criteria to determine whether something can considered art or craft, there seem to be some inherent criteria common to both art and craft. Both require a good deal of talent and dexterity from the producer of art and craft and both require a great deal of skill and effort.
However, the two disciplines have several divergent attributes. Craft is considered practical and crafts often have a functional use. Craft does not express a specific ideal or arouse the deeper emotions. It can certainly be aesthetically appealing; I have seen quite a few aesthetically beautiful crafts, but they cannot be considered art in any sense of the word.
I think that the need for a deeper philosophy behind the piece is the important criterion for separating art from craft. I have produced some work that I can consider art, and other pieces that I consider craft. To me, graphic design is my craft, and writing (and to a lesser extent, drawing) are my arts. I do not intend my functional graphic design to have a deeper philosophy than what is directly visible there. It is concrete and tangible; there is no secret, numinous and arcane thought behind what I have wrought.
I consider pornography to be ‘craft’ as well. It is designed for the ‘practical’ purpose of sexually arousing someone. There is no hidden philosophy, and there is nothing hidden behind the brazen exposed bodies that grace the pages of pornographic magazines, or the words that convert the visual into the written expression of said purpose. A pornographic photographer might be adept at taking photos, but he is not producing any art.
Craft can be learned by most people. You can be artistically numb, unable to see the simplest abstract concept, yet be able to produce aesthetically-sound crafts due to an innate awareness of aesthetics. You can be taught crafts with little step-by-step kits and lessons. Even painting and drawing can be considered crafts if there is nothing behind them. A knowledge of craft is inherent to a knowledge of art, though. One must master the mechanics of what is to be produced before you can produce a great masterpiece that is able to convey your artistic expressions through that practical knowledge. There is a difference between art and craft, but one must master the craft before becoming a true artist.
Art, as opposed to craft, has a tendency to arouse the more profound emotions, rather than mere aesthetic appreciation or sexual arousal. Often there is a certain value or belief or message inherent in a work of art, something that transcends the tangible and concrete. Artists try to challenge ideas or support them through their work. In short, craft is about the tangible and art is about ideas. The great artists, both ancient and modern, tried to convey emotion and meaning through their work. Pathos and anger, lasciviousness and repentance, worship and blasphemy permeate the work of artists. It is obvious that artists’ work does not simply represent what is physically there, or is just meant to be pretty, for the most part. Not all of Picasso’s work could be considered ‘pretty’, yet it is art, because there is an underlying philosophy for it, and his work is a vessel for higher things.
Not just anyone can produce a work of art. One has to have an innate sense of how to play the tune of philosophy, to create a sense of awe and wonder or simply to convey an idea through one’s work rather than producing it for mere aesthetics. To make things clear, my opinions on craft and art also apply to writing, although if one is good with literary mechanics, it is easier to become an artist through writing because of words’ inherent ability to convey ideas. There are things you cannot see that can be described in words. Both art and craft are integral to civilisation, but there are areas that craft cannot reach that art can.
Essay by Sodalis – a San Francisco writer/blogger/social commentator, author of last issue’s Post-Racial Manifesto. You may read Sodalis’ blog here: http://anotherautismblog.blogspot.com/