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Is it art or is it craft?


Guest ford hallam

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Guest ford hallam

Hello all,

 

I've just picked up a rather thought provoking little book called "Art & fear--observations on the perils (and rewards ) of Artmaking" by David Bayles & Ted Orland.

 

At this point I've only dipped into it, here and there ( as is my wont :) ) but I'll post a full review once I've digested it, should'nt take me more than a week.

 

Anyway, by way of provoking comment and hopefully some gritty debate, I thought the following quote from the aforementioned book would be of interest. This is part of a larger analysis of that eternal chestnut, is it art or craft, question.

 

"Yet curiously, the progression of most artists' work over time is a progression from art to craft. In the same manner that imagination gives way to execution as any single work builds towards completion, an artist's major discoveries usually come early on, and a lifetime is then allotted to fill out and refine those discoveries"

 

" At any point along that path, your job as an artist is to push craft to its limits--without being trapped by it. The trap is perfection: unless your work continually generates new and unresolved issues, there's no reason for your next work to be any different from the last. The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them. For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision."

 

I'm not totally at one with the sentiments expressed however I think they may provide a good starting point.

 

I look forward to lots of opinions and thoughtful discussion.

 

as always, Ford B)

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Ahhh Ford, it seems you are trying to stir a much energized pond of confused intellect.

 

To whom does it matter if it is art or craft? The artist? The academic? The historian?

 

Many works from numerous cultures since time unmemorable were produced purely as part of the culture of the time and there was no intellectual concept of art or craft on the part of the perpetrator ‘artist’.

 

What is now considered to be ‘art’ in many contemporaries minds had no such differential values in the mind of the specific individual, or individuals, at the moment of execution.

 

It is nothing more than an intellectual concept.

All too often a faithful copy of nature is looked upon as nothing more than a reproduction and is only considered as craft by many academics, regardless of skill.

 

So what about Michael Angelo’s ‘David’.

A faithful reproduction of nature in the human form?

 

Contemporary humankinds need to qualify, quantify and categorize concepts ignores the heart of the issue.

 

Is it not here, in the heart, where all else is inconsequential? To follow ones ‘heart’, that which excites one most, is really all there is. Anything else is to bow to another’s perception of what is or is not. And at the end of the day, when one is first and foremost true to oneself, who cares? Other than those uninitiated who are looking in from the outside and attempting to attach a label to validate their own perceptions!

 

You may remember the words I used in Stone Bone Jade of Mr. Anonymous who wrote ……..

 

”One who works with their hands is a laborer,

One who works with their hands and their head is a craftsman,

But, one who works with their hands, head and heart, they are the artists.”

 

A pertinent guideline?

 

The creative process is a unique facet peculiar to all, no two being the same.

More often than not the ‘creation’ is a subliminal, spontaneous recognition of something already within an individual and all that follows to realize the vision is no more than a technical exercise.

Punctuated by flashes of inspiration resolving issues in the realization of the project.

I.E. Design issues, tooling issues, varying material qualities or any number of problems appearing as the work progress. Whether a tangible, physical item or otherwise.

 

So, stir it up Ford.

 

I look forward in some anticipation to your review.

Another’s perspective is always enlightening.

 

At the end of the day 'Art is of the Heart'.

Donn

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Ford,

 

I do a lot of work in the movie/themed intertainment industry. We are all considered craftsmen by the art department, and as artists by the other crafts, i.e. the carpenters, plasterers, etc.. because alot of whet we sculptors do is artistic to most people. Carving gargantuan statues out of piles of styrofoam blocks is art to alot of guys swinging hammers all day. The art department, rightly in my opinion, views our work as craft, no matter what is being produced, because the work is not our conception. We may add a bit of flare of our own, but the work is the designers. We act more or less as midwives to their concept, and the production designer has the final say.

 

I work with a gentleman who has an uncanny abiltity to capture the likeness of any face before him. He works with a scarey efficiency that leaves us all with jaws agape. He is a human pantagraph machine. Yet, he has no output of his own. I asked him why he spends his time standing in a stuffy sound stage, when he could be showing his work in galleries? He gave me a look of confusion. "I'm not an artist. All I can do is copy things. I tried to do a sculpture one time, but I couldn't think of anything to do."

 

To me this is the defining aspect to the arguement. Inspiration is the tipping point. I have seen inspiration expressed with lesser talent outshine a work of "art" totally calculated in its execution. In my proffesion we are being challenged by cnc, stereolithography, and rapid pototyping machines more and more. So far, more often than not, we humans are still called upon to " liven things up a bit." The machine can pump out the work undaunted by the off day that can plague us all, but it still can't impart a sense of life, or drama that can only be executed by the ability to transmute feeling into a 3D object. Life is found in flaws, not perfection. Until a software programmer can write the code for feeling, we can still find work in the morning.

 

The technical aspect of what we do can be taught to almost anyone. You can demonstrate the use of tools, how to enlarge or reduce, the different aspects of wood and stone, and almost anyone can produce something. Inspired use of these things that result in an object that resonates with the viewer evokes a kind of reverence. I don't know what art is, but I know it when I see it.

 

My father once told me that craftsmen work with their hands, but artists express feeling with theirs.

 

My grist for the wheel,

 

Derek

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest ford hallam

Hi Donn,

 

my apologies for taking so long to respond to your post. To be honest I was unsure as to my own response.

 

You ask to whom does the question matter, I think it ought to matter very much to anyone who is engaged in the artistic acts of making. To papaphrase a wiser head than mine, " the unconsidered life is not worth living" .

 

But more to the point, I get the feeling the title of the thread, ie Is is art or is it craft?, obscured the gist of the actual quote. What I found interesting was the suggestion ( fairly obviously ) that craft is in fact what we utilise to give birth to "art". I thought that given the fact that an awful lot of people visiting these forums may be beginning their own journey into these waters and that these questions may well arise, that this kind of exploration might have proved helpful.

 

You may well be right in asserting that "it" is only an intellectual concept, but by that token so are all the words we use to communicate. This forum is based almost entirely on the written word so it follows that our mutual comprehension of those "intellectual concepts" ought to be a matter of some concern, particularly if there is a genuine desire to share one's own ideas and "hear" those of others.

 

 

You make a very valid point regarding the personal view of self of makers in the past, but it may be all the more important to us, today, to be clear on these "concepts" precicely because in our present culture ( I use the word very loosely ;) ) titles like "Artist" are so easily applied, not to mention "genius". :)

 

and is Michealangelo's 'David' really all that accurate?

 

Another claim I would have to challenge is the commonly held belief that if a work somehow expresses "heart" ( a rather wooly intellectual concept if ever there was one ) it has value as art. An evening watching "the X factor" or "American Idol" should demonstrate that despite ample and often self indulgent displays of "heart" all too many are utterly devoid of any real art. Frankly, I find this use of "heart" to be an affront to my intellect, it's the kind of word adverisers routinely use to convey someting nice and comforting, and is so very useful in that regard precicely because it can mean whatever you want it to. I'm sure it will enter political language soon. <_<

 

and finally, your last paragraph seems to echo much of what the quote expressed.

 

More often than not the ‘creation’ is a subliminal, spontaneous recognition of something already within an individual and all that follows to realize the vision is no more than a technical exercise.

Punctuated by flashes of inspiration resolving issues in the realization of the project.

I.E. Design issues, tooling issues, varying material qualities or any number of problems appearing as the work progress. Whether a tangible, physical item or otherwise.

 

in the interests of a free and open debate,

 

regards, Ford ( stirred but not shaken ) B)

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest ford hallam

Hi Kathleen,

 

I'll begin developing pre-packaged dehydrated martini's ( with dried olives ) right away, You'll just have to add alcohol. :D

I'll pass on the skiing offer though, thanks. A totally undignified form of locomotion for a man of my reputation. :blink:

 

I think you've picked up on an excellent point here,

 

I would suggest that if an artist's major discoveries come early on and refinement of such encompasses the majority of the artist's lifetime, then is not stagnation an issue of concern to be addressed? And additionally, boredom?

 

I also felt that the author was being just a little too general in his assertion, obviously in an attempt to validate his thesis. I not completely convinced that he is too far off the mark though, in the sense that we often do appear to carry the same set of "interests" regarding what we are drawn to, how we work through ideas, what materials we work with..etc. In many ways I think that this approach can allow an individual to gain a far deeper understanding of themselves and may consequently result in a less superficial expression. Perhaps, those "major" discoveries can come at any time or merely evolve and grow over time.

 

Your comments regarding the trap of perfection seem to echo what the author was saying. I assume you agree, as do I, on this point. Although I will take exception to the suggestion that perfection is unrealistic, how little I have revealed of myself......( taking the pith out of self, smiley)

 

I don't know that I feel comfortable with the notion that craft must be pushed to it's limits. It could be seen as a completely self referential exercise, one not actually connected to the artistic expression but rather a case of "virtuosso twiddles" devoid of any emotional content. I seem to remember Jim saying, some time back, that his technique had to serve his artistic vision, ( hope I did't mis-represent you there Jim ) and I must agree with him wholehartedly on this point.

 

Your last paragraph also leaves me somewhat unsatisfied, this bit in particular....

 

Unless the work comes into it's own has having a 'soul' separate unto itself, it is not art because it has no life of it's own. All aspects of the creation process must come into balance in a single piece in order for it to succeed as a work of 'art'.

 

This sounds very meaningfull but I can't really get a hold of any substance, can this concept be more clearly defined?

 

thanks for your thoughts,Kathleen, they have certainly urged me to revisit these ideas.

 

regards, Ford

 

P.S the thoughts expressed in this post may not always be those of this writer. :)

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Guest Clive
You ask to whom does the question matter, I think it ought to matter very much to anyone who is engaged in the artistic acts of making. To papaphrase a wiser head than mine, " the unconsidered life is not worth living" .

 

To paraphrase a wiser head than mine,

 

"Thankfully ought is not IS."

 

no time to explain... got work to do. :)

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To paraphrase a wiser head than mine,

 

"Thankfully ought is not IS."

 

no time to explain... got work to do. :P

ought is not is. out of chaos, is order. What i do, I do out of want and curiousity, and because i can, limited only by my abilities. what if is not is. but it keeps me happy. I guess in my case, what keeps me happy is my limit. Not all of us are in search of mastery, tho I must say, those who are have my respect., as I expect theirs in return. At least I get to watch to search, and in watching, I learn. Thanks, I love this site. cooch

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"I like to watch." (A quote from an old Peter Sellers movie)

 

Thanks all, for the thought encouragement. :P

 

Cooch, thanks, you are so right. There is much to learn by watching. By sharing one learns as well.

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