Wednesday, April 13, 2011

But is it art?

Photo courtesy of

sifis / Joseph Sakalak

I'm still thinking about the whole issue of art vs. craft and the semantics of what it all means. The original post is here

Below I've listed a few more of my rambling thoughts on this subject.

One of the definitions of art vs. craft I read, included a section that postulated that a highly intellectual explanation by the artist is what makes it art. I don't agree with this view as it means that what art is determined is by the maker not the viewer. I could come up with this type of description for many of the items I've made so that argument just doesn't make the cut for me.

I recently read about how art quilt makers are trying to distance themselves from traditional quilt makers.  It struck me that it is similar to what I see going on in Ravelry threads  over knit vs. crochet or acrylic vs. natural fibers. For whatever reason people want to separate themselves from what they view as less valuable in others. It is making me think that our view of value maybe skewing this whole discussion in a way I'm not sure is meaningful.

In the knitting community there is intense interest in male knitters and if they are gay or straight. One of the Yarn Harlot books had an essay on how things made by a male Knitter are seen as much better than items produced by women. When I read the book I mentioned in my original post about art and craft there was some discussion about the fact that it took white male artists to give fibre credibility in the art world. This leads me to believe that this an issue of gender not art . 

Women, knitting, art, any more comments???


  1. This is an age old problem which will likely remain with us. I got a fascinating book through ILL that was about "Nuns work" from the Middle Ages. Even as far back as the 12th century distinction was drawn between the art created by monks and male artists and the craft made by nuns. Monks created very expensive and treasured Illuminated Manuscripts and Nuns, using the same techniques, materials and skill, painted small devotional one sheets.

    The nuns work was sold, unattributed, to pilgrims to raise money for the Abbey. These sheets were taken home and tacked up on the wall or tucked into a devotional book. Noblemen commissioned manuscripts from the Monks at high prices and then displayed them with pride in their homes.

    Art historians have all but ignored nuns work over the ages but written treatises on the men who produced art.

    Women's work has always been seen as utilitarian and therefore a craft. What men do is Art for Art's sake.

    I can understand fiber artists, both male and female, trying to distance themselves from the "craft" of their respective genre. Trying to receive recognition and the accompanying pay-scale for their efforts that are truly at an artists level makes sense. But I would hope it could be accomplished without casting the same aspersions on the "craft" that the uninitiated see fit to dispense.

  2. I had no idea anybody in the "knitting community" cared whether a male knitter is straight or gay. Maybe because I don't. I suppose I pay attention to male knitters mainly because I know they "get" me and the whole knitting thing. As for the art vs craft debate, I tend to agree with you--just because you get wordy about something doesn't make it art. I can wax poetically about my dog, but I won't call her a work of art.

    Interesting discussion! Thanks for posting it.

  3. For me, no matter the medium, if the work has meaning it is art. Yes, craft or process goes into making art. If an artist chooses to narrate the meaning out loud in an artist statement, that choice may have and probably was made by an art world that desires explanations for everything.