August 27, 2012

On Craft vs. Art.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , — amandajocrafts @ 12:22 pm

In undergraduate, I minored in Studio Art. From the beginning, this was my “fun” minor; I already had a major in English and another minor in Computer Science as a “just in case,” so art was because I had the time and opportunity. It was an wonderful chance to use supplies and machinery that I right assumed I would never have the means to use again, at least, not without a studio fee or a millionaire’s salary.

During this time, I got involved in printmaking. What a magical discipline of the arts–it is a blend of severe discipline and throw-your-hands-up willy nilly. I could–and will–have an entire post on the beauty of this art, and its origins for me, at another time.

Suffice it to say, for my final project to complete my minor, I wanted to incorporate my new favorite art, lithography, with knitting, something I truly enjoyed doing. At that time, I, surprisingly, had to fight for my right to knit art. According to my professor, knitting was craft, not art, and I could not complete a craft project for an art minor. I had to find a way to make knitting art.

I did, by creating a family tree, both satisfying myself and my professor. However, I still was not satisfied with knitting, as a definition, being craft and not art. Was I really to believe this was less of an art than fingerpainting, or twenty-first century smudging on canvas, or works that have three paint strokes down a seventy-inch wide canvas? Wasn’t knitting hundreds of hours of fine, concetrated work, often tasking every reserve of patience and discipline you possess? Why, since it finished functional, could it no longer be considered art? Why, if I could sell it, did it downgrade to craft? Painters and drawers sell their work, and they are “doing art.”

Where is this line drawn?

Moreover, why is “craft” something less? It was spoken about in our classroom like it wasn’t worthy of being included in galleries, or treated as seriously as art, or something to cherish. Isn’t craft a seller putting their all into a piece to make a livelihood? What’s more deserving than that?

For me, two years later, I still don’t have the answer. I still feel slightly slighted and indignant of behalf of fellow sellers. I would love to know your views.



  1. Love the tree!

    It makes sense that knitting and crocheting might not be considered an art. They’re more crafts because they usually produce more useable items, like blankets or clothes. It’s similar to woodworking, which makes chairs and tables.

    I do say “usually.” Clearly, yarn and wood can produce really nice pieces of art, just look at that tree! When I think art, I think more about something to look at and admire. There are all these interactive art exhibits now, but classically, art has been admiring a painting on a wall or looking at a structure and perhaps triggering an emotion or thought. It’s about looking, feeling, and thinking. Who really looks or thinks about the stitches on a blanket besides the maker? Good example, I made a hat for my friend, and it’s a hat. It might have sentimental value to her because a friend gave it to her, but it’s not going to be something considered art- it’s a practical item.

    A person who paints houses for a living is not considered an artist, but if that person decided to paint a mural on the house, completely different. I don’t think selling the tree would have downgraded it to a craft. It started as art and it would stay art. Art should provoke something and the tree does. If I crocheted a tree onto a blanket, it would be a craft, because the blanket makes it a more practical item. It’s less about the money people make, and more about the purpose behind it that defines art and craft for me.

    Comment by catzikay — August 27, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

    • Thank you so much for commenting! That’s a great perspective to have, and coming from the “triggering emotion” side of things, I hadn’t really thought it it that way–but I’m beginning to agree with you 🙂

      Comment by amandajocrafts — August 27, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  2. Great project! And great subject for debate, too. From my perspective, they are all ‘skills’ and it’s what’s done with those skills that make it art, or not.

    Comment by elise — August 28, 2012 @ 8:02 am

  3. I don’t want to get into the debate too much because I think that everyone decides for themselves what “art” is. However, I did want to definitely take the time to tell you that your tree is BEAUTIFUL! I love the almost spiderweb like feel of it. Like the tree was desperately trying to climb out of the floor. Do you still have this piece in your home? That would be so neat to see everyday.

    Comment by Jamie "ChatterBlossom" — August 28, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    • Thanks so much, Jamie! Unfortunately, I haven’t put it back up since in was in the art show where I originally photographed it. Since it’s so huge, there’s just not room in our apt now. However, it WILL be going on the wall in the “someday” house!! 🙂

      Comment by amandajocrafts — August 28, 2012 @ 10:37 am

      • Aw, the “someday” house. That is one of my favorite things to daydream about! So many possibilities. So many nooks to read and have tea in while flowers climb trellises outside my windows.
        Glad to know someone else has a “someday” house too! 😉

        Comment by Chatter Blossom (@ChatterBlossom) — August 28, 2012 @ 10:42 am

      • That sounds just like my someday house…it also involves a bay window and a library 🙂 I have a whole pinterest board of someday!

        Comment by amandajocrafts — August 28, 2012 @ 10:44 am

  4. Beautiful tree, love the concept! I agree, I love to paint and draw but also love knitting/crocheting, I sell all of the work that I do but definitely see the difference in other peoples eyes when you tell them you knit compared to you’re an illustrator. I’m not sure where that line got drawn but I would have to agree with you that they both take lots of time and thought and heart to create.

    Comment by peko1012 — August 28, 2012 @ 10:41 am

  5. Fantastic project! The shape is wonderful – it looks like a fairy tree. 🙂 I like Catzikay’s ideas on the difference between art and craft but this as a whole is definitely a work of art.

    Comment by Abigail — August 30, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  6. I like catzikay’s view that crafts are useful. My definition of art is “anything created with the intention of being art.” This includes good and bad art, but nothing can be called art post hoc.

    Comment by Lorna at Knits for Life — August 30, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  7. Q – LOVE this idea! Your professor sure has a narrow prospective! Maybe he/she has not seen some of the fabulous fiber arts displayed at museums across the world? We are genealogist and so this is really incorporating two of our loves: fiber and family!

    Comment by Curls & Q — August 31, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    • Thank you so much! I really had a wonderful time completing this project, and since yarn arts are so very often passed down between generations, it seemed like the perfect way to connect family 🙂

      Comment by amandajocrafts — August 31, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

      • Too true! Grandma passed her love of fibers through mom and to us. 8 -)

        Comment by Curls & Q — August 31, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

  8. I think people look down on knitting and crochet in general, which is sad because it does take a heck of a lot of work.
    Here is what I found in the online dictionary as the definitions of each:

    1. an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill
    2. skill; dexterity

    1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
    2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection. See fine art, commercial art.
    3. a field, genre, or category of art: Dance is an art.

    So my conclusion is that \’art\’ can be used to describe anything beautiful, whereas \’craft\’ is more about the skill and dexterity required to produce that art.
    (that makes art the poor relative if you ask me haha)

    Comment by mrsberploudestLianne — September 3, 2012 @ 11:29 am

    • Wow, those definitions are so fascinating, because you’re absolutely right, craft sounds positively superior there! I wonder how “craft” ended up getting the bum rap…?

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 3, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

      • I know, go figure! I went to state my opinion here and then thought ‘i’ll just see what the dictionary says first’
        (I’m so glad I’m not a cat-my curiosity levels could be dangerous!)
        It makes perfect sense doesn’t it, and yet we do seem to get a bum rap.
        Well, I have been a stonemason and a florist in the past as well as a crocheter and embroiderer and I consider them all to be both an art and a craft!

        Comment by LianneBerploudest — September 3, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  9. I believe that knitting IS an Art! Thought provokiing post. Love it!

    Comment by averyfairytale — September 6, 2012 @ 5:33 am

  10. I don’t understand either why crafts aren’t really considered art. They are creations made by a yarn artist or paper artist or sewing artist. My grandaunt called me an Artist of Crochet the other day, which makes sense to me as I am being creative and using my skills to make something aesthetically pleasing. Great article!

    Comment by Pops De Milk — September 20, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    • Thank you! I’m completely with you – we are “Artists of Crochet”!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 20, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

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