Saturday, August 05, 2006

Arts or Crafts


One of the great controversies that has entered into the woodturning world is the discussion over whether a piece of turnd work is art or craft. Consider the piece shown here. It is obvious, I trust, that this piece is not intended for utilitarian purposes. It is to be held, felt, looked at and pondered. On the other hand, it is equally obvious that this is not the first piece I ever turned. To blow my own horn, as it were, this piece demonstrates a fair amount of craftsmanship to keep it in one piece as it turned as well as to achieve the finish and form that the wood deserved. The question remains: is it art or is it craft?

11 comments:

Peter said...

Darrell this is a great idea and it looks like I will be the first to comment!
As this piece cannot have utilitarian functions because of the holes it can only be regarded as something to look at or feel. The same can be said of any ornament that is purchased at Walmart. The "art" designation really could only be used if the piece was in some way conveying a message that provokes thought and investigation and arouses feelings. I would say this piece does none of that. It is a really nicely crafted ornament.

Darrell Feltmate said...

Peter
This makes sense to me. My question would be, "At what point does an object change from ornament to art?" Much modern art does little for me even in the way of ornament, yet people regard it as "art" and expect me to appreciate it, whatever that means. If a piece provokes thought in one person and not another, does it fluctuate from art to craft, or is it neather and must be considered in an even more nebulous category?

Mike Burr said...

Darrell,
The whole point is "Yes". If I look at the curves and flow, then I look at the artistic value. If I look at the development of the form from the raw material then it is the craftsmanship. So the simplest answer is yes. It is all dependant on how the individual looking at it perceives it. That is the whole artistic beauty of the craft.

Ray Sandusky said...

Darrell

I will chime in with a few pennies as well. I have 2 references that I have heard in the past that make sense to me - Picasso and Ellesworth.

Picasso said something like - "I am a good painter because I know how to use a paintbrush" or something to that effect. This to me says that a person who knows how to do something correctly can produce work that acheives "art" in the eyes of those who
"appreciate" art with their wallets!

Ellesworth said something like "the point where craft and art come together is a handshake that displays a desirable level of skill and beauty. Or something like that... What he is saying is that art is a product that requires a great deal of skill to acheive the resulting object.

I can look at the items in the monthly instant gallery at our club meetings and easily discern those turners who are indeed artists and those who are just turners.

Some turners become artists and some artists have a housefull of turnings - the key in my book is the dollars received for turnings produced. If people are willing to invest in your work, (read: pay extra) that that is an indicator in my book that your work is acheiving the level of art.

Darrell Feltmate said...

Mike
I understand where you are coming from, but it only repeats the question, what makes it art? There are some people turning out half finished trash that they call art and somehow get it into the galleries, but generally fine art requires fine craft. While a utilitarian axe handle is a wonder to behold, especially on a hot day with a tree to come down, few would call it fine art. On the other hand, a Ming dynasty bowl is art whild a Walmart bowl may not even be craft. I can see the difference, but how to describe it? Then how to move it on to wood?

Darrell Feltmate said...

Ray
I like it, especially the Ellsworth comment. The question is how to get that repeatability in the art movements.

Peter said...

After thinking about this for a while maybe the point at which an object becomes art is purely in the eye of the beholder. People buy the ceramic flock of ducks and hang them on the living room wall as an "art" display or they have a collection of Elvis on black velvet portraits that they proudly display. To them it is "ART"
So as producers of items that may be art to some viewers, and a chunk of wood to others, we are placed between a rock and a hard place.
If the item is well made and has some aesthetic appeal then the eye of the beholder has the final say, and that we have no control over at all.

Peter said...

After thinking about this for a while maybe the point at which an object becomes art is purely in the eye of the beholder. People buy the ceramic flock of ducks and hang them on the living room wall as an "art" display or they have a collection of Elvis on black velvet portraits that they proudly display. To them it is "ART"
So as producers of items that may be art to some viewers, and a chunk of wood to others, we are placed between a rock and a hard place.
If the item is well made and has some aesthetic appeal then the eye of the beholder has the final say, and that we have no control over at all.

Peter said...

After thinking about this for a while maybe the point at which an object becomes art is purely in the eye of the beholder. People buy the ceramic flock of ducks and hang them on the living room wall as an "art" display or they have a collection of Elvis on black velvet portraits that they proudly display. To them it is "ART"
So as producers of items that may be art to some viewers, and a chunk of wood to others, we are placed between a rock and a hard place.
If the item is well made and has some aesthetic appeal then the eye of the beholder has the final say, and that we have no control over at all.

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Derek Andrews said...

Hi Darrell, it's good to find you blogging! I'll be adding this to my blogroll.

I think this question is like asking whether grey is black or white. There is all sorts of middle ground, and of course black and white are just a subset of lots of other colours.

So I would also like to throw the word 'design' into the fray. This is kind of the science of art. A set of basic rules that help an 'artist' create something that will achieve whatever the designer wants to achieve. Another good word is 'aesthetics', and many of the rules of visual design are about creating something aesthetically pleasing. Most people would probably find this piece good to look at, so I think this means that it is well crafted and well designed.

It may also be useful to look at art and craft as the process rather than the result. Craft might be considered the process of making art, whatever the medium. The physical process of making a painting might perhaps be considered craft? The intellectual process is perhaps the the art? I don't think that every painting can be considered art.

Perhaps a fairer test would be to ask how you felt while you were making this piece, and how it's new owner feels whenever they look at it or hold it? If it touches hearts, then it's probably ok to label it art.

Keep blogging Darrell!