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Art or Craft? What Do You Call Your Work?
Posted by Erin to Articles
Am I the only one in this quandary? I look back at most of my pieces and I don't see art. No matter the time spent, the reworking, the morphing vision, the feedback from others... I think of art as something that other people do. "Art" seems like a *really* lofty label. It's appropriate for someone with more insight/inspiration/skill/passion/innovation.

At the same time, the term "craft" makes me feel like I should be using more toothpicks, glue, felt cutouts, and safety scissors. All this in spite of the fact that the terms "craft" and "craftsmanship" are becoming mainstream and "handmade" and "handcrafted" are watchwords for many consumers.

I did some thinking and chatting around the concept of art vs. craft. My *very* limited pool came to the following conclusion: "Craft" implies an object that can be held, used, or consumed. Things that are crafted can also be art, but aren't necessarily. Art, on the other hand, exists beyond its function. It is the creator's exploration of theme, space, material, self. Art goes beyond the decorative or functional.

Based on that definition, I can own that a limited number of my pieces are art. Even after some pretty deep soul-searching, I still feel like "craft" isn't the right word for me either. While I was deep in procrastinating, I opened up Instagram and saw a friend sharing her first large-scale commercial venture. She's always identified herself as a "maker". This term I like for me. I create jewelry because my hands want to move, because I like seeing order come from chaos, because creating things that weren't there before gives me joy.

Maybe, sometimes, I'm an Artist. And sometimes, wrapping 28 gauge wire in perfect loops, I'm a Craftsman, drawing on years of skill. Most often, and always, I'm a Maker. That's my constant, consistent, most honest impulse: to make.

To keep this blog from being just me pontificating, I've shared a few pictures. These projects were concocted with the the express intent of keeping my mind free and my hands busy. I wasn't invested in a fantastic outcome or mind-blowing design. I just wanted to idly fiddle with some wood beads (available from RoundBeads.com) and some Dakota Stones Plated Hematite that had been sitting untouched for too long.

- Erin, Dakota Stones

Get the look: Wrap bracelet with ds hematite.

white silver hex chips
matte green cubes
white silver flat square
copper nuggets

hematite squares
dk gold cut cubes
copper hex chips
lt gold hex chips

Leave a comment below
Holly Thomas Date 2/19/2018
I love this. It's how I feel. I too am a jewelry designer and artist and it just seems so...pretentious. I look at some pieces and still feel giddy about them knowing that no one else created anything like that or like...wow, look at me! But, I really think of myself as a designer. I am a good designer. I know how to put things together, but when I think of an artist, I think of Renoir, Maxfield Parrish, that kind of thing!
Judy Larson Date 2/19/2018
Have you ever noticed that the letters A R & T are in the word "craft"? In early America, you had to perfect your craft to labeled a craftsman or an artisan in that craft. So, if you are no longer a beginner, but can complete in your sleep many of the steps needed by your craft, your really are an artisan.
Kim Muller Date 2/19/2018
Thank you Erin for helping me settle what my jewelry can be labeled most often. Yes, there's times I consider my jewelry art but for now I consider myself a maker also!
Ted Carpenter Date 2/20/2018
Erin, I have been called an "artist" from time to time at an art fair and I thank the person for the compliment and then tell them that I actually am an artisan. An artisan is "a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand" and that is exactly what I am. I do tell people who like a piece I have made "I let the stones do the talking", which points to my being an artisan. I always search for stones which are interesting in themselves and hope my skills will bring their beauty to the forefront and not hide it from others. An artist could take the same stones and make them jewelry which would produce an emotional response. Thank you for your time. Ted Carpenter
Steve Deignan Date 2/20/2018
I find creating a piece of jewelry is a true ART as you say it's not gluing things together,Your mind is constantly going ( what looks good what does not)
Lindsay Date 2/20/2018
I agree, art is the more appropriate term for what you, and I, tend to make. To me craft sounds too much like a term for something a kindergartener might have made in class, with paper, glue and googly eyes.
Judy Champa Date 2/20/2018
I think craftsman like you and me are a bit of both artist and craftsperson. I have realized that it doesn't matter what amount of time you put into something. That doesn't seem to be what makes a craft into "art". It all comes down to how others perceive what we have done. Was it something that made them stop, take it in, and maybe oogle just a bit. Like you, I don't feel like I can label my own work as art, but that is for others to do. It is their opinion that changes work from craft to a true piece of artwork. I believe that "art" creates an emotion. Maybe that's the big difference. "Craft" is EASILY reproducible, "Art" isn't. Good luck with your "making", crafting, and your art.
Sharon Redgrave Date 2/26/2018
I know the quandary well ! I have found that some of my best pieces arrive into reality when I have a pretty specific impression I want to see. A windy day on a hill with a kite, a medieval Healer at Stonehenge at Solstice, the blooming of the first snowdrops in Spring. And I never feel, even then, that the title "artist" applies, even when they sell out of the shop within a day of being brought in! I really like the term "Maker". Yea---that works really well. : )
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