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I Forge Iron

What is Art? What is Craft? What is Craft Art?

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Interesting discussion, and some good honest opinions about art and craft. I feel pretty well stuck on the fence between them!
Sometimes I think craft is to do with making useful objects, and art is more about making stuff without a function. That's pretty simple with paintings on canvas and marble carvings... not much good for anything else other than be looked at. However, if a crafted object is unusable (like an elaborately embroidered quilt, or a knife with gold and pearls for instance) does it then become art? Could be used at a pinch, but the maker intended something else. So is it more about imagination and creativity, doing something else with the skills?
When it comes to artist blacksmiths, Eduardo Chillida's early forgings are worth looking at: abstract sculptures using trad blacksmithing techniques.


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I spent three years in a degree discussing (arguing) about this topic. My degree subject, BA (Hons) Fine Art- Silversmithing and Metalwork. Was it a degree in Craft or Fine Art? I still don't know, a bit of both I reckon, although it depended on which tutor I was speaking to. Imagine doing a degree in such and being told by your tutor, "No one appreciates the hand made in our post modern world".

(Perhaps that bitter, jaded old woman got stuck being a tutor because no one appreciated her handmade work and she couldn't make it as an artist/craftsperson in her own right, therefore subjecting students to her negative attitudes re:craft, I wonder). Perhaps she took that view so that I could argue with her and refine my own ideas about what it is I do (but I don't think so). I digress..

Best to conceptualize they said- make it art, not lowly craft. The term "Craft" holds connotations of grannies knitting sweaters, or stuck on macaroni pictures done by four year olds. Oh, poor, lowly craft, and thus the word became unfashionable.

I think, In my humble opinion, that the word Craft has actually made a comeback. (and thus perhaps never really went away in the first place)

When I have spent time and energy making a set of gates, I might call it Craft. Sometimes I call it Art, but most often I just refer to it as my work, and let others be the judge. When I have spent time and energy making a sculpture of which the ideas come straight out of my head, I will call it Art, I am not so inclined to call it Craft, but also, am more than likely to refer to it as my work. When I have spent time and energy making a hook, I will invariably call it Craft. It really is merely a hierarchy of lexicon.

What is the difference between art and craft, I still don't know. How long is a piece of string, anyway? :confused:

What I do know is that there ARE people out there in our post-modern world that DO appreciate the handmade.

- Colleen

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"A man who works with his hands is a laborer. A man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman. A man who works with his hands, his brain and his heart is an artist."

By: Louis Nizer
Source: The Great American Bathroom Book, 1992, page 3-A1

That is a beautiful way to state it.
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I don't think there are any clear definitions for either 'craft' or 'art'. At the least, I see no sharp distinctions.
Unfortunately, I think 'craft' is associated with 'skills of the common folk'.
Just as unfortunate is the idea that one must have a degree to appreciate 'art'.

Maybe it just comes down to how one perceives something.....as to whether it's art or craft.

If a work implies more than the sum of it's parts.....I kinda think of it as art.

It's like looking at cloulds........if you see....a sailing ship?........or a human form?.....Or just cloulds.........are there any wrong answers?

James Flannery

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The difference betweeen a craftstman is the language.

A craftsman will say "this is a vase."

An artist will say "This is entitled 'The swirl of an oncoming tornado." and then he will say "I intended to emphasize the inhumanity of nature against man, to invoke the impotant uselessness of mankind's works.".

While my example is rather weak, as I am not yet an artist, but the language is really the biggest difference between an artist and a craftsman.

The artist, though, will go well beyond the simple form into pure art, which tends not to be "useful" but instead pretty.

I read in a wood working magazine an analysis of some work at a show. a lot of the discriptions started with SEAMED TO ENVOKE. or some similar phrasing.

An artist will have imaginative titles for their pieces "sympathies in blue" or "Arganston's revenge." The title will envoke the sense that it is not simply a vase.

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I've always looked at it as a craft is something you do, art is something you make....

To practice a craft is to always be learning, practicing, experimenting....

To create art requires imagination, knowledge, and vision....

To create something from raw material, to form it to match a vision of your imagination such that others can see and appreciate that vision, is art....

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We may as well to try and define beauty. . . It's subjective.

I work with a bronze sculptor who being in his eighties now has made his art for almost 60 years. We've had this discussion more times than I can count and he always comes back to . . . "I've never defined art, you can make distinctions but you can't define it". "Come to what's comfortable for you - leave it at that".

For myself, artists are people who have something to say . . . a message to convey and they choose a medium to deliver it.

A Craftsman takes their chosen trade and blends passion for the work with the highest degree of skill and attention to the details of the process.

I consider myself a "craftsman becoming" - I have nothing to say through my work - I follow more the sentiment of William Morris - " Have nothing n your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"

Works for me . . .

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The League of NH Craftsmen is a juried member organization, and has a week-long fair every August. If I remember correctly, in addition to the subjective quality of the work, an exhibitor must be able to demonstrate the ability to craft his/her items repeatedly. Assembly line stuff is would pretty much disqualify, but the intent is to show ability vs happy accidents. They also look for durability, proper finish inside and out, fitted joints, etc.

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"A man who works with his hands is a laborer. A man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman. A man who works with his hands, his brain and his heart is an artist."

I have always considered this to be total BS as I know many a craftsmen who do more and better work with their hands, brain and heart than many a recognized artist and so consider this saying as a slur against craftsmen.

I consider a craftsman a person who has control over their materials and processes and can design to use the best of both.

An artist is trying to convey their "vision" but may have neither the skills or the design ability necessary to do so. I worked a year with a swordmaker who's work was listed as "investment grade" (with prices over US$10K!). One day a fellow came by, looked at his exquistely made blades, all done by hand, no milling machine or grinding jigs, they almost sat there humming! and he said "that's very nice; but I am an ARTIST". Sort of turned me off on folks who considered art to be higher than craft.

Now the ones that can master their art and/or craft can be truly transcendent---I once saw a picture of 3 bales of hay in a field and understood immediately that it was a crucifixion scene. I talked with the owner of it and learned that the artist was of a sect that did not allow representation of human figures and yet had transcended this limitation. I envied her the ownership of it and was happy to hear that the painter did not have the BS layer of the "art" world.

Me; my goal is to be a craftsman.

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Once was a fella that came by the camp at a rondy. He said to me "We have a lot in common. I do WROUGHT IRON too but I just use an acetelyne torch" . A short discussion with him explaning that I had NO IRON IN THE SHOP and that all the forged items he saw were steel fell upon deaf ears. Some will wish to describe me as an artist but I always tell them I am not. I just try and get the stuff out of steel that is hiding inside ( back behind the Miricle Whip in the corner). The public is really intriguing because some will say that I think little of myself when I try and tell them that there are smiths in the world that are remarkable compared to me. Men and women. True humility is my goal but I doubt I will ever achieve it.

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