It has been an ongoing debate far longer than any of us have been alive. Human nature, being what it is, demands we be competitive and challenging. And while we have made progress teaching new and emerging artists that we as a whole are community rather than competition, the ancient debate of Fine Art versus Craft is so very deeply ingrained.
My normal reaction when someone insists on furthering the debate by introducing themselves as a Fine Artist is “and how is that working out for you?” It is the ornery side of me escaping, I know. But when someone loses track and chooses to give voice to their creative energies veiled in condescension or become distracted by false superiority I tend to lose patience. Especially how often it seems their work is a reflection of this need to claim something greater.
“Handcrafted” has always been something of which to be proud. “Made by Hand” has always been a sign of quality and care, attention to detail – even reaching heights of perfection. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, Computer Age and now revisited in the 3D Printer Era, pride in and respect for Handmade is even more important.
Yet as a Society to equate something as “Fine”, to value art above craft, seems at times to be a driving need while at the same time being pedantic and woefully hedonistic. Does not the painter use science as they craft their pigments. Is there not engineering in sculpture to fend off gravity and pigeon deprivations. Does not a metalsmith raise form to artistic heights, transcending function through synergistic attention to the Elements and Principals. Is it not therefore both how and what we do as a Creative – quality, æsthetic, epiphany?
Of course it is complicated but let’s get over it – move on. Can we?
Just back from the ACRE-Philly tradeshow, this need to rethink Art versus Craft was made very clear from the quality of this show compared to other shows as these other shows allow more and more “designed by some big name but made by machine or sweatshop in another country” and “assembled from catalog parts” vendors into their shows. Where is the line? As artists, how do we define what we make – do we really need to or does the how and what speak for our work? Perhaps a better line in the sand is Professional versus Hobby or Handmade versus Designer or even Human-made versus 3D Printer.
Time for a re-branding. If craft is too “old school” for our newer patrons and creatives, if Art versus Craft is not a debate worth spending time on anymore, I am all for it. We have enough distractions in the day to day real world critique of the artistic lifestyle. Made by Hand, Created with Integrity, Responsible Practices, Locally Sourced, Up-Cycling, No Conflict, Fair Trade and Created in the USA are all battle cries far more worthy of our attention and energies. Can we simply be Artists, given a society of educated and informed consumers and patrons, and allow the cream to rise naturally?
Enjoy all the wondrous things about being an Artist. Revel in being a Creative. Focus on the joys of networking and being an individual within a Community. Take heart in the satori of your Awen.