Art vs. Craft and the Confuzzlement Surrounding the Two

Art vs. Craft and the Confuzzlement Surrounding the Two

We live in a world where everything and everyone has a place, a title, a category. Somehow we are born into these groupings; raised to classify, raised to recognize the haves from the have-nots, raised to believe our place in the world is determined by others. And for those that recognize the wrong in this, we work endlessly to stop the classification of humans, of things, of life. The arts are no different. Somehow the type of art you create validates you as a creator. If you are a painter you are held to a higher level than someone that quilts or makes handmade cards. We don’t judge on craftsmanship or skill level, we judge on what we learn growing up; that artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso “made it”, that they are true artists because the museums say so. But guess what?!? It’s 2021, and if there’s ever a time to break down more ridiculous beliefs and unlearn something, it’s now.

So let’s look at how we got here, or moreso, why this notion continues to dominate the creative world, so that we can begin to break the system of classification. According to our dear Oxford Languages and Google, art is defined as, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, such as painting, music, literature, and dance. On the opposing side of our argument, aka craft, is defined as, “an activity involving skill in making things by hand”. So in my comparison of these two definitions, I first recognize that the definition for art is significantly longer than craft already sets the wrong tone. Second, it defines both words as a skill. One could also presume, based on these definitions, that crafts are items that are only made by hand; woodworking, sewing, quilting, cardmaking, etc., and arts are things that explore emotions. But yet, sculpture is categorized in the art definition. Aren’t sculptures made by hand? I’m so confuzzled! Finally, according to the provided definitions, crafts apparently don’t require any creativity OR imagination (insert confused emoji). This is where I find fault in this stigma surrounding crafts. I have seen some BEAUTIFUL work from artists at craft festivals. But you know what, if they don’t fit into the “art” realm, they can’t even enter into juried art shows because of the medium in which they choose to become experts or express themselves in. But my big question…..Why? Why are we devaluing the work people create at any level? Why don’t we call these card-makers or quilters artists? It frustrates me as an artist, and as an Arts Educator. When I teach my students about Art, I tell them that art is anything you put your hands on, give your creative energy to, or pour your heart into, that’s ART! So here in this blog and everywhere we are, you will see these two words used synonymously. No more value will be placed on activities I name “Art” over those labeled “Crafts”. I simply title activities, courses, or videos, as creatively as I can to build the excitement from start to finish, from the very moment you hear the title to the finished product in front of you. I live for that VOILA!, that teeny, tiny, magical moment of joy+pride in the work they completed, the challenges they overcame, and the risks they took by even attempting to be a maker. You see for me, art isn’t just about making, it’s about all of the life skills that develop throughout the process, the fact that art is a universal language, and can speak without ever saying a word. Art is so much more than a definition, a category, and I hope that through this journey, our communities, our families, and our schools will learn to appreciate the arts a whole lot more!

Happy Creating!



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