Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Art vs Craft

We saw Judy Chicago speak last night at San Diego Museum of Art. Her seminal work "The Dinner Party" made a great impression on me, and I have great admiration for Judy's drive, talent and collaborative projects. Last night, when asked the difference between art and craft, she said "craft is used for it's own sake" and "art is used in the service of meaning." Judy's work is foremost about meaning and message. She selects the materials after, or based on the meaning she wants to communicate. When I think of my artwork, I can name only one or two pieces that began as 'meaning' first. Usually I start with the materials, and sometimes, find meaning from them, sometimes not.
Thought provoking.


  1. Hmm. I'm usually left underwhelmed by distinctions between art and craft, maybe because I produce more craft than art, and I often feel those distinctions are made to put down craft. Anyway, I think the "line" between them is far fuzzier than most believe. The act of using a "craft" object can contain just as much meaning as intellectually contemplating an "art" piece that you are not allowed to touch.

    I seem to approach my work more from a process point of view -- I get my "meaning" in the process of creating. I have an idea and materials in the beginning, but they may change dramatically by the end, and the finished work may bear little resemblance to the first idea. I'm guessing Judy Chicago is more interested in communicating her ideas --everything follows from her idea, and from whom she perceives as her audience. Some of us are more interested in what we discover in the materials, and in the doing, as we go along. Neither approach is right or wrong, it's just different.

  2. I always thought that 'craft' referred to a skillset used for creating a number of items, not necessarily original in design, such as a pieced quilt following a pattern, as opposed to an original work, using skills, but creating a work unique to the artist. I do both: tie-dye is my craft, but I also draw, paint, and make original fiber art creations. Far as I can recall, I have never created something to convey a meaning.

  3. thanks Judy and Judy for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate them. Food for thought indeed.

  4. Interesting definitions of "craft" and "art," but I don't know that her def. of art excludes work that finds meaning in the process. At least from the way she has phrased it, I would think it doesn't matter whether the meaning exists in the beginning and the art follows from it, or whether the meaning is understood somewhere in the process; as long as meaning is present in the end, it would seem to fall under her definition. Anyway . . .thanks for making me stop and think for a moment :-)


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