I came across a great discussion between several bloggers last week which originated from this post by Tammy at Jewelry and Beading. It’s all about the differences between the words “artist” and “crafter” and how we view ourselves within those categories.
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Cyndi from Layers Upon Layers said something right off the bat which made sense to me based on my own experiences as an artist. Her opinion was that crafters are people who use patterns when they create, while artists both design AND create.
William Lehman from Artist Hideout (who now writes at deCloned.com) had his own take on the subject via this article which explains why the phrase “arts and crafts” doesn’t necessarily work as an inclusive title for a group of diverse creative people.
That’s actually what led me to the conversation in the first place, and I definitely agree with William’s assessment that using the phrase “arts and crafts” tends to leave out the fine arts.
For instance, you certainly wouldn‘t say that an oil painter or a sculptor was doing arts and crafts. No, they’re just making art. And adding the word “crafts” to a creative process DOES seem to lessen it’s value in many circles.
It’s not always easy to pin down, though, because arts and crafts encompasses a wide range of activities, some of which might even be called folk art or mixed media.
Plus, people who make crafts are usually described as “artsy” or “arty,” and skilled masters of any woodworking or metalworking profession are often called “artisans.”
But there’s a connection that may help this all make sense. I didn’t see it mentioned by anyone else so I thought I’d cover it here and just include the links up top to the original discussion.
The phrase “arts and crafts” comes from the historical period in art history called the Arts and Crafts movement. The movement originated at the start of the 20th century in response to an increasingly industrialized and mass-produced way of life. It emphasized the importance of artistry in everyday objects and defined art as anything made from start to finish by one person.
Usually those objects were household items like chairs, tables, quilts, wallpaper, and even toys, although they didn’t have to be functional—there was a lot of decorative art too.
Unlike traditional paintings or other artwork, this type of art wasn’t too expensive for ordinary people to have and enjoy. The Arts and Crafts movement actually started to break down some of the barriers separating the art world from the everyday people.
Besides that, craftspeople of any kind were considered artists, which opened up the door for anyone to make art.
Of course, like every popular idea throughout art history, the Arts and Crafts movement eventually went out of vogue, becoming less of a high art movement and more like a group of diverse hobbies.
When I look back on the history of the movement, however, it’s obvious to me that it has greatly influenced many of the activities we now consider “arts and crafts.”
Feel free to to join in the discussion about what defines you as an artist, crafter, or both; or check out Wikipedia’s entry on the Arts and Crafts movement for more information about that.