Arts or Crafts?

I’m thinking about the difference between art and craft. There’s a reason why those classes are called “arts and crafts.” The words “arts” and “crafts” are not synonymous.

I’ll start with craft. Crafts are functional. A craft object is made by hand and is both useful and aesthetically pleasing. Great attention is given to making it aesthetically pleasing. Although they are hand-crafted, crafts don’t have to be one-of-a-kind. Especially exquisite crafts are often referred to as “fine crafts.”

For twelve years starting in the early 1980s, I made my living creating both functional and non-functional ceramic objects. Most of them were one-of-a-kind commissioned works of fine craft. But I also enjoyed running my business called Whimsey and Company where I made and sold colorful ceramic novelties such as brooches in the shapes of man-in-the-moon profiles, winged hearts, clouds with silver linings, and rainbows with pots of gold on the end.

Just for fun – this brings to mind a Valentine’s Day party (my favorite holiday) I hosted during the ceramic years. I made about 50 heart-shaped pins for the occasion. The night of the party, I pinned them all over the front of the red leotard I was wearing and as each guest arrived, I removed a heart and pinned it on the guest. What fun that was!

Back to the topic at hand.

There’s a wonderful non-profit organization in St. Louis, Missouri called Craft Alliance. It includes a school where they teach classes in such crafts as jewelry making and pottery, a shop that sells fine crafts made by artisans from all over the United States and a gallery where they exhibit extraordinary craft objects.

I have seen some of the most mind-blowingly gorgeous and fascinating craft shows at Craft Alliance – especially at their annual teapot shows that, year after year, amaze. I’ve seen teapots there that are unlike any you’ve ever seen! Some are almost unrecognizable as teapots, yet teapots they are!

A note on fine art. Works of art are non-functional unless you count the function of affecting us deeply. Art is intended to be seen (and, more and more often, experienced through other senses as well). Artworks do not hold flowers or tell time. Not only that, but the art of our era doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing in the traditional sense. But that’s another story…