What the difference between crafts and art?

Watching that Hennesy Youngman video and thinking about art (which I seldomly do in a serious way), I wondered what separates art from crafts.  I’d probably know this if I’d taken a single art class in college or high school.  Whoops!  A quick google of “difference between crafts and art” brought up an essay by Denis Dutton (and also a website called differencebetween.net, which does what it says) goes into the utilitarian aspects of crafts (which were mostly utiilitarian until the 18th century) and supposedly useless nature of art.  I’m probably not going to dispute that difference, because what I’ve always been curious about is is anything I make art? If craft is technique, my technique is not actually that good (why I don’t rush to create an etsy store). My creations don’t pose questions and are generally not useful.  They do bring enjoyment, and are replicas of existing objects.

Art by Gabby Schultz
Craft by Anca of Firststitch.etsy.com

Some of the things I make I would like to call art.  In the back of my head I feel this is pretentious, but it may just be low self-esteem.  Or that I know lots of artists and I do not feel like part of their community.  Or I haven’t had any formal training or education in art history/theory.  When I think about my sculptures, I think they are art, because they are one-of-a-kind little scenes that are delicate.  But I also think of making more than one of each so I can sell them, and that seems wrong if framed as art.  But not if framed as craft.  This probably has to do with the different economies of arts versus crafts.  Etsy is mostly what I guess would be crafts, and is a marketplace.  But I don’t think of marketplaces when I think of art.

I think it’s important to have a proper label (for myself) so when I explain what I do I don’t fall back into the female habit of self-effacing.  You don’t have to use the word, but it’s good to have that option.  I found a discussion on a UK crafts site that asks people what they like to call themselves, and one commenter said it’s good to have a name so you’ll have an answer when people ask you what you do.   So, I think because of my high levels of creativity and lower levels of skill, I would call myself a designer.  I can make things, but I’m sure someone else could make them better if I just gave them the drawings and models.

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2 Comments on “What the difference between crafts and art?”

  1. Lucy says:

    I saw this quote on James Gurney's blog the other week:“If you work with your hands, you’re a laborer.If you work with your hands and your mind, you’re a craftsman.If you work with your hands and your mind and your heart, you’re an artist.”—Saint Francis of Assisi(http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2011/02/laborer-craftsman-artist.html)I think of the difference is more to do with the process by which the work comes about, and what you're trying to achieve with it.

  2. a. b. says:

    Thank you Lucy! I thought of your comment often this weekend. I guess I am an artist, then.


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