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.]

Written by Kelly Rand

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.

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