Friday, February 26, 2010

A Brief History of Art v. Craft: Introduction

As requested, the next series will cover the differences between art and craft. Or arts and crafts. Or just what is craft? Aren't crafts those things you made at summer camp with yarn, Elmer's glue, and popsicle sticks? Yes, that's one definition of craft. But the craft I'll explore over the next few posts is the idea behind the contemporary artistic movement, what craftspeople do, who they are, and why I care. I consider myself a craftsperson, as in "one who makes crafts." The more common term would be "potter" but I am like those who work in wood, clay, fiber, metal, plastic, found objects, and other forms in that I work with my hands to create an object.

I plan to write my thesis (should all the stars align properly) on the beginnings of the contemporary craft era. In the post-World War II period in the United States, craft-making changed drastically for a variety of reasons. But this is only one part of the story. I will explore those reasons as we move forward, but I will go chronologically, starting with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in England in the late 19th century. Granted, handmade objects of beauty and fine workmanship were on the scene much earlier, but it was in this time that people began to seek to align such objects with fine art. The Industrial Revolution and mechanization changed attitudes and feelings toward object-making. There is much more to this, but I'll discuss that in my next post. But for now, I'm going to glue some popsicle sticks together.

Up next: William Morris and How Craft Can Save the World.
Image from here.

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