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Art and Craft: Twins Separated at Birth

March 4, 2013

The last 2 years of my undergrad was spent with my hands covered in slimy mud or burning my retinas trying to see when cone 10 dropped.  I was living the dream: dry, cracked hands, calloused fingers, minor burns randomly strewn about my body.  I was a potter trying to finish his degree in philosophy.

The debate between craft and art inevitably came up.  It was an exciting conversation for a philosophy student to dive into.  I took a few extra art history classes and avoided anything having to do with art theory.  Who needs it anyway?   It was rarely an open discussion, more a subdued tone of the Bethel Art department.  I felt like I had to prove to the painters and sculptors that non-sculpture ceramics was still art.  I bought into it, there was no going back and I had to prove that a thrown vase or bowl or anything pottery could be and was art.

Art is often about the ideas, commentary, criticism and the ilk.  When I think of craft I don’t think about the actual creative genre, rather the quality of the work.  Being a great craftsperson is a worthy thing.  But being an artist without any craft leads to “meaningful” crap called art.  Art is found in the quality and craft is found in art.  Art and craft are not enemy or polar opposites rather good friend with uncompromising views about the world.

So why all the negativity and fighting?  Education and pride are major factors.  For those of us who have spent hours and hours of studio time trying to learn, explore and master our particular medium, we want that to mean something.  No we don’t want, we need it to mean something.  Artist can’t be crafters and crafters can be artists.  It’s insulting to an artist’s pride.  Well not really, art is not and should not be defined and held hostage by where and who taught you art.  To limit art to a ‘school’ limits human creativity.

Now that the art/ craft debate has been settled I will move onto easily understood things like happiness.

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