Monday, October 5, 2009

Art and Craft

Years ago there was a perennial bewhiskered question as to whether “art quilts” were art or craft.  Such a pointless question I thought – just assess the piece for what it is in itself, d’you like it? does it work? is it satisfying and interesting?  would it give you something new every time you looked at it?  but people always seemed to want to argue that a given item had to be one or the other.   Getting into a metaphorical bath (not easy! especially with Archimedes looking over my shoulder)  - Eureka! I finally saw a clear way of expressing the truth, clearly and succinctly.

  I realised that artiness and craftiness are probably orthogonal (or as near as dammit).   I’m defining “artiness”  as the quality of being art (whatever that is!), of course,  and “craftiness” as the level of quality of craft – not something to do with Brutus or Cassius or that lot!

So, any given piece can be low or high  (or medium) on either axis.


Piece A therefore would be low on art and low on craft….a rubbish piece of something thrown together poorly that doesn’t do anyone any good not even the cat.   There are many examples of this to be found, usually in doctors’ waiting rooms – and not a comfort!!! 

Piece B being High on Art and low on Craft might be considered “Sloppy Craft”  described by Crafts magazine as “how practice make imperfect”…if this was deliberately done, of course!And there has been a lot of discussion in the art world as to how one can tell if it’s deliberate sloppiness, practiced sloppiness or plain old sloppy sloppiness! Stuff that’s interesting to see in a museum, but not anything you’d really want on your mantelpiece.

A piece in the C area would be very well crafted, but poorly conceived in art terms – many of these items we see in any craft show.  Overall ugly or trite, but beautifully put together.

And D – what we all hope for – is a piece that is both very successful as art, being a strong fascinating composition with a single notable theme – and absolutely gorgeously made so that the workmanship adds to the piece rather than detracting…something that will last a long long time.

Now I shall go for a walk and hope that someone will ask me – are quilts art or craft???  I’m waiting!

and, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth


Clare Wassermann said...

excellent. As far as I can gather the only reason most people have to define stuff as a quilt or not is so that they are allowed into the various categories at shows or exhibitions which is a nutty approach to making art. Art is art. Stuff what form it's in...

Kay said...

Terrific metric (is that the right word?). Every local quilt show is full of A's and a few C's, and many bigger shows are full of C's. D's are rare, where ever one goes.

Margaret Ball said...

Great definition! Helps me verbalize the difference between our local quilt guild (sees only the Craft Axis) and Quilt National (appears to me to see only the Art axis, but maybe I'm doing them an injustice). What I really like is that it's applicable to other beadwork, which I'm doing a lot of this year, and which most people put pretty firmly in the Craft category.

Anonymous said...

Ask a craftsman to paint your ceiling, it will take months for him to get there, but the paint will stay on forever. Ask an artist and it will take forever for it to be finished, by which time it is falling off.
I want to be, or want to employ, a D artist/craftsman to get it just right.
Your simple diagram makes a lot of sense.
Thank you, I have been reading, and learning.
Judy B