Art and Craft

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When men do it, it’s art. When women do it, it’s craft.

People have long debated the difference between art and craft, and have struggled to define the terms. Craft is defined as technical ability; art as creative ability. Craft is defined as producing useful objects; art is created for its own sake. The process of creating art is seen as open-ended; craft has a specific goal in mind from the beginning. Art is seen as expressing emotions or ideas; craft isn’t. There are dozens more definitions and distinctions, each hotly disputed by artists, craftspeople, critics, and audiences.

But another factor is at play in this distinction. When lots of men do a creative endeavor, it’s seen as art. When lots of women do it, it’s more likely to be seen as craft.

This plays out in lots of arenas. The craft of everyday cooking, for instance, is seen as women’s work, while high-paid, high-prestige culinary artistry is seen as a man’s world, with male chefs “elevating” the plebian. But one of the places we see it most vividly is in fashion and style.

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Thus begins my latest piece for Femme Feminism magazine, Art and Craft. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

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Art and Craft

2 thoughts on “Art and Craft

  1. 1

    Both men and women can be creative and produce art. Both men and women can be creative and produce craft. That is the way I have always understood people’s (men or women) ability to create art or craft.

    A much more badly needed revisions of the definitions are needed between the terms “believe” and “accept.”

  2. 2

    I agree with you and BronzeDog on femmefemenism. I also dropped the distinction between art and craft in art school, but it was because of the (extremely) classiest attitude the art school had about the values of “fine” and “folk” art. I have experienced the distinction between art and craft as a classist more than sexist phenomenon, but there are definitely elements of sexism there.
    I wanted to add a possible solution. Your proposals match what usually seems to work is sexist situations, but I think this might have a different solution. I personally believe that being creative, however it’s done, is fundamental to being human. So I think we ought to teach people that everyone is an artist of some kind and encourage them to find their medium. Back in school, the commeraderie of being in school together created an environment where everyone’s art was equally valuable, so they were judged without consideration of sex, race, or class.
    I think if everyone is told they are an artist and encouraged to create, and we make a culture where all creative expressions are seen as valid, you would end up with a much healthier, happier society, and there would be no art vs craft or men’s vs women’s work, just different, equally valid mediums.
    So thats my utopia speech for the day.

    As a side note, in school we sometimes used “craft” to indicate the technical skill with which the concept, the “art”, was produced. So you could get an A on the art and a C on the execution for an overall B on the project.

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