Okay. I don't know about you my fellow crafty compatriots, but do you ever get sick and tired of people asking the difference between "arts and crafts?"
I do! They always look at me, with that "look", as if I hold the answer to global warming, or third -world famine. You know what I mean? It happens at the most inopportune moments too, like at a party, you're juggling your blackberry margarita in one hand and a deep-fried cheeseball in the other, when you find yourself cornered, as your sneaking in a quick double-dipping of your chip. You think your about to get chided for such a careless display of hygiene, when instead you're asked "So, tell me, Cheryl, you're a crafter, explain the difference between craft and art?" This is generally, followed up with a quick disclaimer such as, "Oh, I'm an oil painter, by the way."
Crafty girls and boys, how often have you found yourself in this same scenario? Not long ago, I found myself cornered at the supermarket by a very earnest man, who seemed puzzled by my answer. He seemed to be looking for a definitive and concrete answer to this pressing question. He finally decided that he agreed with me. It was a strange conversation, but it got me thinking. I mean, why is it so important for people to segregate the two, or at the very least try to compare and categorize?
Guess what? My answer is that I do not separate the two. I know my artsy friends with the expensive degrees feel terribly slighted by my theory on arts and crafts, but I don't care. Craft has always been artsy and art has always been crafty. End of story.
If I had to break it down in a simplified manner, I might say that perhaps craft, or "craftsmanship" used to be assigned to the category of goods and products that were made out of necessity for humans to live and function comfortably. You need blankets, throws quilts to stay warm and cover you, hence, a necessary part of living life in relative comfort. You need a pair of shoes, you need a roof over your head, or pottery, or paper goods to write and express or communicate upon. However, nobody said these goods had to be pretty, just functional. But somewhere along the line, craftisans from way back decided that beauty in everyday, functional objects was important too. Look at ancient native Americans and their beading, basketry, etc. Look at any European immigrant and their needlework embroidery on such functional items as pillowcases and linens, tablecloths.
Art, is it a necessity? Can you live without that sculpture or water color painting, or that beootiful ring?
Some would argue that beauty is not a necessity. But I happen to think that what appeals to the eye, warms the heart, and is what makes us human. I think we crave to experience other human expression in it's varied art form, from music to drawing. So, I argue that art is craft, and craft is art.
In this crafter girl's head anyway, arts and crafts are like peanut butter and jelly. You cannot separate them. Why would anybody want to? A misplaced sense of elitism? I generally get sneers on my theory from the art camp, not the craft camp, but occasionally a craftisan will decry my theory and a few of you craftisans can be every bit as elitist as the artisans. ;)
I just got back from Portland last week. I heart Portland, with it's love of nature, awesome bookstores and coffee, and I love how Portandians aren't afraid to take on a good topic and rant about it - in a constructive way.
It was by sheer coincidence that I'd had this topic on the brain, when I came across an article in the Portland Mercury entitled, "Is it Art? or is it Craft? " You know that got my attention!
It seems my beloved Portland agrees with this crafty blogger's theory. So much so, they even opened a museum dedicated to just that, The Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft.
The museum was founded in 1937, seeing an evolution of American craft evolve and explode in the 1970's (yes, I remember my mum was HUGE into macrame). Since then, the 80's and 90's took a new perspective on craft from a fine arts point of view. Allegedly, it was during this period that Craft took on an "identity crisis." Now, from my perspective I'd say that it was the fine arts camp crying "foul" about that. But, I digress.
Here we are in the infancy of the 21st century, and critics ( don't we love to hate 'em) are now calling this new craft revolution which was spawned in America and now hitting the UK hard, "promiscuous." Le sigh.
Borders are dissolving, and this makes some folks mighty uncomfortable. Craft has always been rich and complex, and some craftistas are just wickedly fun and inventive with their chosen craft/art. Nothing wrong with that.
The curator at PDX, Namita Gupta Wiggners is a brave visionary, and I for one, admire her work. Wiggners says that, "We want to stay flexible, We think of 'craft' as a subject, as a verb, and through a range of perspectives." Amen, sistah, is all I have to say.
The PDX Craft Museum is a real museum and hosts a 1,000 plus project collection that maps the history of contemporary craft through such outposts as Etsy to Crafty Wonderland and hey, I just know my crafty sisters in the Portland Craft Mafia will be a part of this too.
Little did I know that while I was in Portland, the annual Craft PDX Block Party was going on right on 6th and Davis! Cripes! I missed it, and I was just minutes away.
But that 's what I love about craft and Portland, it's that community feel. You know that if you were to throw a block party, folks would actually come! Much like Petaluma!
So while some folks are still duking it out as to what makes art- art,and craft-craft, I say if you looked around lately at the work our craftisans are making, or took a trip to Craft PDX who showcase such talent, it could change your mind and blur those artsy-craftsy borders forever...and that's not just the blackberry margarita talking.
Happy birthday to my fellow watery sign cousin, you crabby Cancerians!
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