Art Vs. Craft

On the final day of my drawing class, a classmate eagerly pursued me and asked, “Can I draw you in class today?”  He seemed intrigued as his eyes looked over my features, not that I got the sense he was necessarily pursuing me romantically.  Instead he seemed to be taking me on like a challenge, but I wasn’t sure what the challenge was.  “Sure,” I responded, shrugging my shoulders and not thinking much about it.  I didn’t think more on it as I concentrated on drawing another classmate, until I saw the final result.  It hit me hard.  It wasn’t that it was terrible.  It was that the drawing was so accurate my heart jumped.  I couldn’t believe how I looked.  He perfectly captured my large dark brown Italian pupils perched in the narrow Epicanthic folds of my eyelids.  I always thought I looked Mediterranean, but never Asian.  “I look Japanese,” I replied in shock.  He took this as an offense, but that wasn’t the problem.  It surprised me that someone could capture me so well.  Other students tried, and some were close, but none had drawings like this final result. 

Cezanne

Paul Cezanne’s “The Basket of Apples” at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I had this feeling again when I finished a Chinese Opera headpiece for a Costume Construction Class and when I completed the final essay I wrote about my sister for a Creative Nonfiction Class.  The last time I had it was standing in front of a painting from my favorite artist, Cezanne, at the Chicago Art Institute.  When I tell people I used to work in the arts, I usually get a response of excitement as people eagerly asked me for in-depth details.  They immediately imagine a glamourous and refined way of living.  When I tell people now that I advocate for respect towards artisans and traditional handicrafts, I usually get the opposite response.  It seems the idea of “crafts” garners a completely different reaction than “art” as people imagine a woman in the 1950s sewing drapes for her living room.  When I told my millinery instructor I wanted to learn to make hats to work in Costume Crafts, she looked at me with hesitation, questioning the word “crafts.”  So, what exactly is a craft and what is an art?  Is one more important than the other?  Does one label imply superiority over the other?

Nighthawks

Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” at the Art Institute of Chicago.

It seems art and craft are continually intertwined.  I even find in my own writing I’ve written about the artistry and value of handicrafts while in Peru or why I see the importance of handmade traditional arts and crafts.  To me, the intricate weaving and hat-making techniques of the artisans of Run by Rural were nothing short of a work of art after learning it could take one month to make a hat.  But what about my D.I.Y. tutorials for fleece blankets or scarves for Christmas presents?  I don’t consider them to be an art.  They’re nowhere in comparison to the traditional craftsmanship I see throughout my world travels.  Looking at them doesn’t reach into my chest and grab at my heart and make me stare at it for hours wondering at its mastery and how it was made.  Looking at my printed fleece blankets doesn’t make me stare at them like I do at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, wondering about the backstory behind the solitary people in the diner: “What is the story behind these lonesome people?  Do they know one another?  Why are they at a diner so late at night?”  Instead, I only see a colorful blue blanket dotted with puppies chasing toys and barking.  I feel a sentimental value but no feeling of being taken into another place, time or universe.

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera’s “The Weaver” at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Another craft blogger, Aunt Peaches, brings up these same feelings when she says in her blog, “[A]rt speaks to your gut.”  A craft project may leave me with a sense of accomplishment or sentimental attachment like my grandmother’s blankets do, but it only becomes art when it reaches inside of you and gives you that sense, that spark, that feeling.  Art is something that can’t be recreated and could only be brought to life by the artist who made it.  I may be able to recreate and D.I.Y. a fleece blanket and share the knowledge with others to encourage them to be sustainable and independent, but I can’t recreate weaving a hat with ancient weaving techniques or reproduce a hand screen print like artisans from Mata Traders.  Whether I’m advocating for artistic capabilities of traditional craftsmanship or working on my own project, I’m reminded that art and craft are different, but both are important.  However, I know it’s truly a masterpiece, a work of art, when I’ve given my energy, blood, sweat and tears to the project, or it gives me that spark.  It’s the spark I first felt when I stared up at my classmate’s final drawing and realized I was looking at my reflection.  Staring up in wonder at the perfect recreation of myself in charcoal and a sketch pad, I really saw myself for the first time.

This post is a part of Tip Me Tuesday hosted by Tip JunkieThursday Favorite Things Blog Hop hosted by Katherine’s Corner, Sweet Inspiration hosted by Repurposing Junkie, My Sweet Things, Kreativ K and The Boondocks Blog and Flog Your Blog hosted by With Some Grace.

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14 Comments

  1. Doris

    Do you have a picture of the drawing your classmate made of you?

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I don’t. I didn’t think to take a photo of it with my phone either! Guess it will have to stay in my memory.

  2. Lisa Chow

    I can totally relate to “that feeling” dear, it’s something we artists all have in common when “it” speaks to your soul. Everyone of us has our own forte, and being able to replicate something doesn’t determine our identity as a creator of art 😉
    I enjoyed reading your blog babe! Gonna follow you for more exciting updates, keep on blessing the world with more of your works!

    Hopefully one day, i’ll visit an art gallery and proudly say “hey i know the artist of this artwork, as i stalked her blog!” 😛
    Haha.

    http://www.arisachow.com

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks Lisa! You have wonderful insights and I appreciate your enthusiasm for my work and my blog. I haven’t done any of my own artwork, but maybe someday I’ll pull out a sketchpad and come up with an idea! I hope to hear more of your thoughts on my blog in the future!

  3. laurenonlocation

    It was really interesting to hear your thoughts about the differences between art and craft. I had never thought about it in this way before, but after reading this I completely agree with you.I’m not an artist at all, but I do agree that when you see real art you just feel something so deep. It’s really cool that a classmates drawing of you evoked all these feelings 🙂

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. I’m glad I could inspire you and changed how you see art!

  4. Betty

    Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop

  5. KreativK

    I’d love to see that drawing! I think art is something unique and original…and I agree that art and craft definitely are intertwined in some ways. Very interesting read, Thank you so much for sharing at Sweet Inspiration #6!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it and was able to reflect on art and craft from my post.

  6. ScavengerChic

    Such a well written post. When people tell me I’m an artist I can’t help but argue, I’m just a really good crafter and a good copier. Artists are in a category all by themselves. I only can wish I was a good artist.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I think you can be both a craft artisan and skilled artist, but there is a difference between fine art and craft. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  7. To me art can make you feel exaltation and can make you cry. Whereas craft does not get to such an extreme level. Craft can give you a feeling of accomplishment and pride if you are the creator.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Great insights. You’ve made a good point about how you experience art and craft.

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