Art vs Craft

I have been trying to come up with a clear working theory on the difference between art and craft.

There are some works I’d seen in craft fairs which overall quality surpass the artworks I’d seen in (modern art) museums.  It always makes me to wonder why unoriginal  pieces that are not even well made deserve to be put on pedestals  (literally and figuratively), analyzed by critics & scholars, featured in periodicals, and valued highly (monetarily, aesthetically, & sometimes intellectually) by many.

Finally, today,  came up with some breakthrough.

I believe that it is helpful to see art and craft as two completely distinct things that cannot and should not be compared and contrasted with one another.

I used to be an art major in college. I did not give it much thought at the time, but:

1. Every time a professor grade my work, s/he grades not only the originality of my work but also my level of craftmanship.

2. Whenever I present my works in front of my fellow students, the professors grade me on how well “sell” my idea .

This conclusion might seem obvious to many other people, but … today, I come to realize that

{idea + craft + originality} = art

In other words:  Art is an original way to present an idea through the thing one crafts.

Some works I saw at the craft fairs are mind-blowingly well-crafted; however, due to the absence of (deeper) concepts and originality, those works are nothing more than decorative objects.

So, does it mean that craft is the inferior to art? And how about those poorly made unoriginal pieces people see in museums?

Let’s consider this illustration: As we can witness them ourselves, everyone can sing … some people sing well, some people sing off-tune, and some others can follow the tune but they are not exactly world-class singers.

Likewise, people’s craftmanship levels vary. People’s ability to present or communicate their thoughts also vary. People’s craftmanship levels influence the end result of the works through which they try to communicate their thoughts. Therefore, some people create good artworks while the others create the not-so-successful ones. However, no matter how unsuccessful the artworks are, these works are visual communications – containing messages, worldviews, or ideas – authored by their makers. Those works, even the ones that are not so well crafted, contain some ideas or thoughts the critics and the academics can analyze. Unlike craft works, no matter how aesthetically pleasing and well made they are, artworks are much more than just their external appearance.

So, does it mean that not everything we find in museums are artworks? I’m talking about those furniture, jewelries, and potteries we can find in most museums.

{to be continued}


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