It’s Art Because it’s Not Made to be Used. Really?

I came across a description of the difference between pottery that was art and pottery that was craft as being that the former is something that’s not made to be used. It’s been bouncing around my mind, and I’ve been trying to crystallize why I disagree. I think it’s because of the underlying concept that art doesn’t have a use, how “use” is defined. For me “use” isn’t synonymous with “functional”.

If a painting I’ve got makes me smile as I go past it, then its ‘use’ was to engender joy. If might also remind me of the artist who created it, or the person who gave it to me, or where/what/when I was when I painted it, or of an idea/technique, or a personal artistic achievement.

To take but one example from the artwork in our home, a painting of a cat by mixed media artist Morag Archer, called A Place to Rest: some days it makes me smile for the cat depicted, others for memories of cats in my life; occasionally the conversation Morag and I had about it; sometimes I stop and take a look at the detail or contemplate how it was made. All these “uses” are part of keeping my mental batteries charged.

The desire to differentiate between art and craft is a long-standing and ongoing one. (Rather like the one on the definitions of a drawing vs a painting.) To me it’s an artificial divide, one that denies the skill and creativity to be found in great craft work. It should be Arts AND Crafts, not Arts OR Crafts. More than 130 years since the emergence of the Arts & Crafts Movement it’s still a divide which many can’t or won’t bridge.
Wirework eagle bird by Marion Boddy-Evans, Isle of Skye Art Studiot

2 Replies to “It’s Art Because it’s Not Made to be Used. Really?”

  1. This is so interesting. I was one who thought craft was not art until I saw a tapestry hanging in a gallery. It was under craft, and not hanging with the “art work” It was the tapestry that caught my eye.
    What”s the difference….Really…. I’m looking out my window at the different colored Maples. Art. Bev is outside fixing the tractor so my husband can cut grass and make our fields beautiful to look at. Art….I’m going to get my nails done. Art…..if its not math to me its Art….

  2. I am so happy my little cat painting makes you smile. That was its intention. I think arts and crafts are undeniably linked. Originally I trained as a tapestry weaver and I was taught in a fine art method. Studying life drawing and design. Yet some would term such art as ‘craft’. To me craftsmen can have the same passion.and skillful imagination as an ‘artist’.

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