Artsy Things

Published on January 27th, 2011 | by Kelly Rand


Are You an Artist or a Crafter?

Art Supplies
This guest post was written by Beth Holmes who is a wife, mom, friend, and self-made superhero with deep abiding love for recycled crafting and all it entails. She writes regularly on her blog, My Handmade Hell.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the difference between craft and art. Primarily my question is: if I am a crafter, at what point do I become an artist? My perception has always been that those who came up with the idea in the first place, posted that first photo, created that first tutorial – they were the artists of the crafting world. The artists were the ones with the creativity, the ideas, the tools, and the skills to create something the world has never seen before, and to inspire others to follow their lead. Those who followed were the crafters.

Recently, however, I have begun to doubt this definition. Isn’t an artist someone who puts a little of themselves into every piece, infusing it with their experiences and ideas and opinions? Isn’t an artist someone who simply loves and creates from love?

Those who choose to craft with recycled items probably have a lot of reasons for it. Maybe it’s the cheap materials or the resulting conversation pieces. But ultimately it probably comes down to one primary reason: we want to make a difference. We want to feel like we are contributing to the solution, not to the problem. We want to give throw-away items new life, to show them love until they are transformed into something unexpectedly beautiful. And we do this because we love. We love our homes and our families and our planet, and we aren’t afraid to show it, even if it means using someone else’s great idea as a springboard. What sets us apart from traditional artists and crafters is that our choice of materials fills a need outside our desire to create. It offers a solution to a growing problem.

The truth is, if I make calendar envelopes just like my friends do, and if I jumped on the t-shirt yarn bandwagon a couple of years too late, that doesn’t make me “just a crafter.” My calendar envelopes and my t-shirt yarn will be different, because they are mine. My crafts came from my materials, my hands, and my love, and that makes them art.

And that makes me an artist.

[Image by B_Zedan, used under Creative Commons License.]

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About the Author

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting. Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.

9 Responses to Are You an Artist or a Crafter?

  1. Good topic Beth. I think your description and sensitivity to your creations makes them art. Thanks!

  2. I’ve always considered myself to be both, and sometimes a craftswoman as well. (Because craftsMEN don’t have to go bra shopping, lol) But I think that part of the distinction is that art is intended as a form of expression, where a craft is not necessarily an expression of anything but “I need a nice-looking envelope”.

  3. Kristy says:

    Great article Beth! I started life out as an artist in the “art” world and have gone onto eco-crafting. However many of the “crafts” out there are truly works of art. In recent years certain crafts have begun to be recognized as art. I like the way that art is being redefined. 🙂

  4. MargaretAnne says:

    Personally, I reject the hierarchy between art (which is made to sound somewhat loftier) and craft. I think crafting IS an art; it just happens to be one kind of art. I would encourage crafters everywhere to reject the idea that you get “promoted” from crafter to artist. Crafters everywhere: you are artists!

  5. Oskamunda says:

    I suppose that if there is a distinction between craft and art, it must be taken on a project-by-project basis. An artist can make a simple craft, and an unambitious crafter can make art, after all.

    What is the purpose of the project at hand? Is it meant simply to be beautiful? That would be art. Is it an exercise project for the specific purpose of refining a technique to facilitate future projects? Then it is a craft. Is it only to burn time, leaving no hands idle? Craft. Meant to be shared and admired? Art. Etc., Etc.

    I think this distinction is important, as an implicit understanding of what you are making from the outset will not only improve the final product, but also emboldens the Crafter to extend their creative reach; making simple crafts yields in the Crafter wanting to make ART, and making ART is self-satisfying and fosters courage and bravery!

  6. Check says:

    Sorry, craftsters are not artists. It is artistic work though. But Picasso, Rembrandt were totally different. That is 10 levels higher. Be real.
    Everyone calls him/herself an artist nowadays. That’s lying.

    • Oskamunda says:

      And actual writers who can logically posit their opinions [rather than simply demanding that everyone accept what is obviously a personal opinion as fact with no real supporting evidence other than comparative equivocation against an unrelated field] are 10 levels higher than you, apparently.

      There are many people who wouldn’t consider Picasso an actual artist, either; although his formal training is well known, and his ability was profound, it is his personal form of expression for which is famous, rather than his ability. In short, Picasso couldn’t TOUCH Rembrandt with a brush.

      As to your Argumentum ad Verecundiam, you are blatantly wrong. Fabergé eggs are crafts, you know.

  7. jillian morris says:

    as an artist and a crafter i have to say that i have always looked at this subject as follows, if you craft something from materials wether it be oil on canvas, watercolour on paper or cutting out fabric to make a garment you are creating therefore you are an artistic person, and if you look at the word artistic in the dictionary it says imaginative and creative.

  8. mira says:

    The artistry relates to the idea and design of the piece.
    Craft relates to the level of skill used to complete the piece – the workmanship.

    If you’re lucky, you’re both an artist and a craftsperson. The best craft is very artful. The best art is made by one who has honed her craft.

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