Art Vs. Crafts : What Is The Difference Between Them?

As I began to build my ideas for this website, I deliberated on whether I should focus on how to make art (and concentrating on art only), or whether I should also include how-tos and step by step guides on how to build and make things for functional or decorative purposes, too.  Like, how to build a screen door.

As you will always hear me say, I am not a master at ANYTHING.  Most of the things you’ll see me do on this website are self-taught and self-explored.  I should say that my only formal instruction in the fine arts were my drawing and painting studies while a short-lived fine arts major at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.  I specifically studied drawing (which included pencils, charcoal and some pastel), and my painting background came from watercolor classes.  I’ve never taken an oil class (as of this writing), and I never got my degree in fine arts–my degrees are in writing and education.

Okay, with that said, I have my opinions about what makes something “Art.” (with a capital A)

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Art is something that is meant to speak for you.  It is a point, a theme, a message.  It is usually something tangible (performing arts, music, spoken word, etc are not really what I’m talking about here–though they are MOST DEFINITELY forms of ART).  You can make the case for “high” or “low” art, but I tend to put them into the art and craft categories.

If I want to get my anti-war message out, I might choose to paint a picture of a beautiful little child, missing an arm, and playing with a doll who is also missing an arm.  I might title it “Collateral Damage.”  Okay, I know, that one is hitting you over the head with subtlety, but that would be a message or idea that would immediately elevate my painting from a “painting of a girl,” to ART.  It is an idea that speaks FOR me when I can’t be there to say it myself.

Now, in my honest opinion, is something that doesn’t necessarily derive from an idea or message which you mean to project–it is more something you want to get out there en masse. A basket is a cliche example, so I’ll start there.  I feel like a basket tends to usually be a craft type of item–you can can make a thousand of them, and they will look almost exactly alike, and they are functional and can be placed in one person’s home to hold fruit, and in another person’s home to hold flowers.

Now, if you are a found objects artist, you might create a locational art installation where baskets are placed along a walkway –empty–and your message might be that these empty baskets represent victims who died in the disastrous 2004 tsunamis that rocked southern Asia, wiping out entire villages as people did regular everyday tasks, like going to the market with a basket.  In this art piece, the everyday, hand-crafted basket become part of the artwork, and it transcends “craft.”

And, yes, I do esteem ART over crafts in some ways. But, I am practical, and I think we need more crafts in the world to balance out the weightiness of art.

Needless to say, I will be showing you how to do both to the best of my ability.  We are all on this journey toward discovering new things–and the techniques and ideas that go into making them take shape and “come to life.”

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Jason Sipe Jason Sipe (68 Posts)

Jason Sipe is an artist, craftsman and writer. He has spent the last 20 years working in the art and media fields. He now turns to this blog and helping others learn about creating art as his main focus.