Art vs Craft Debate Redux

Fit of Pique “Flower Dog”

Is it “Art” or is it “Craft” and what defines each?

Remember the classes we took in high school decades ago? I do. “Arts & Crafts” tended to attract the girls, while “Shop” attracted the boys, though some of the items made in Shop would have qualified, in my opinion as art, and some of the schlock produced in art class was, well, schlock. I have seen a lot of crafts which were just that — functional items made by a process specific, usually in wood, ceramics or glass. But just as Tiffany made craft art, and Warhol made the ordinary extraordinary, the lines are not straight and true.

I have had many call my Fit Of Pique mosaics “art.” To the extent that they are an expression of some inner emotion or spirit, even though made with the usual materials associated with craft, I would have to agree. Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

But it is not a comfortable tag for me. It feels rather pretentious. “Art” to me is an oil painting, such as my mother used to create, requiring extraordinary skill as well as expression that is unique. My Fit Of Pique pieces are functional — a photo frame, box, mirror — which might assign them to the craft category. Yet to me, they are more. Much more. In fact, though I sell them, parting with each is emotional for me.

There are certainly some who feel it cannot be art unless the maker is starving or coughing up a little blood. And certainly how others perceive an item or its maker is an important gauge. I remember when I painted my first oil painting — a still life of an apple and knife on a soft cloth. I entered it in my 7th grade’s “Art Contest” only to have the teacher eliminate it because it was, in her opinion, so obviously a Paint-By-Numbers production which was prohibited (it was not). When I came home in tears, my mother let that teacher have it! But the impact on me was severe. That “art” teacher had quelled the spirit. I didn’t attempt “art” again for years, until a drawing class at the Corcoran drew me out once again in my twenties.

I would prefer to think of my Fit Of Pique pieces using the Swedish designation of  “ArtCraft,” with elements of both in each piece. Some are certainly unique and artistic, such as the Flower Dog frame shown above. Others are more craft than art, but still beautiful, such as the Playing Cards box shown below.

Fit Of Pique Playing Card Box

Fit Of Pique Playing Card Box (Interior)

So, does that make me an “Artist” or a “Craftsman” or an “ArtCraftsGal” — I vote for the latter. But let me know what YOU think. And please visit my Fit Of Pique section at to see all my artcraft mosaics.

3 thoughts on “Art vs Craft Debate Redux

  1. Of course, I agree with “ArtCraftsGal” being your label. It’s a great debate, and I am curious about your replies. One thing in the article that stood out was the statement about the artist not being considered an artist “unless the maker is starving or coughing up a little blood”. From whence did that come?

    • Ha! Interesting you would put your finger on that. The term “Starving Artist” is fairly common among outsider artists. And the phrase, “Cough up a little blood and get creative” conjures up images of phlegmatic and melancholic writers and painters dying in tiny lofts in Paris or on tiny Greek islands for the sake of their art.

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