Commenting on ‘Craft’

The misgivings about the word “craft” expressed by a significant percentage of CERF+ Survey respondents were reinforced with additional comments on the subject. This sampling from more than 600 open-ended replies captures some of the artists’ ambivalence, irritation and struggles to come to terms with other people’s perceptions of the word.


“ ’Craft’ is a beautiful word that intimates something that is ‘finely made.’ The use of the term ‘crafters’ as ‘anyone who makes anything’ has lowered the connotation of expertise that ‘craft’ once conveyed.”


“The romantic idea of craft is no longer an effective way to create interest and excitement about the work. It is a trend or fashion that has passed.”


“The term fails to distinguish between hobby and art. Public respect for ‘craft’ does not seem high.”


“I identity myself as a traditional artist, or bead worker… However, I just LOVE the word craft! To me, it brings connotations of focus, thoughtfulness, creating something beautiful with my hands, and being part of the collective.”


“The work needs to speak for itself.”


“When the ‘crafters’ got trendy, the word went to a bad place. The word ‘maker’ seems to be better.”


“ ‘Craft’ sounds like an activity with popsicle sticks at camp.”


“I market myself as an ‘artist’ and not a ‘crafter’ because I see so much of the ‘crafts’ sold out there in the marketplace as a lot of garbage.”


“The art world never got over ‘craft’ as meaning homemade, hokey, less valuable.”


“I’m guilty of avoiding the term ‘craft’ because around here ‘craft’ is what Martha Stewart does before the holidays.”


“While I do think of what I do as a craft (letterpress printing and handmade books), and still equate ‘craftsperson’ with ‘artisan,’ I think the majority of people I meet equate ‘craft’ with ‘crafty’ and do not view it as art. So I call myself a book artist. I’m hoping more events, articles and conversations like this will help ‘craft’ take back its earlier connotation.”


“Have you ever tried to say the word ‘mosaic-ist’? What a tongue twister that is! And that’s why I call myself a ‘mosaic artist’.”


“I’m a collagist and a printmaker—two mediums that teeter on the border of art and craft. When I describe what I do, I use these two terms. Where I come from, the word ‘artist’ is sometimes viewed as pretentious; if I say I’m a craftsperson, they assume I have a space at the community center where I sell beer can hats. So to me, it’s best to use your medium in your job description.”


“ ‘Craft’ used to work. Now is overused and almost meaningless. I find myself slipping in ‘Fine American Handcraft’.”


“I think it is time to realize that there is a difference with craft and craftsmanship. There is NO art without craftsmanship.”


“Excellent craftsmanship is a high value, but ‘craft’ itself sound hobbyish, which is a low value. Craft and artistry are not synonymous and I’d like my work terminology to reflect artistry as well as excellent execution/craftsmanship.”


“What I do is a craft, but I’m not a crafter. The word ‘craft’ often refers to hot glue guns and glitter, without much training in an actual craft.”


“ ‘Craft’ is ‘squishy,’ both within and outside our community. Outside is the ACC/Martha Stewart split. Inside is the continuing Art/Craft brouhaha.”


“I just rebranded my business to fully embrace the word ‘craft’.”


“I think ‘craft’ still relates strongly for our older collectors. It will not bring in younger collectors. I describe myself as an enamelist, studio art-jeweler.”


“I am a contemporary artist who works in clay. I create ceramic sculpture.”


“ ‘Craft’ is a loaded term. The great debate of art vs. craft rages on.”


“I generally consider these attempts to define me and what I do moot. It seems to be important to others.”


“ ‘Craft’ seems to increasingly imply cheap and easy goods, not high-level artistry or mastery of a medium.”


“Art and craft are two entirely different things, in my view—art has no physical function unto itself, it is a form of communicative act (visual, performance, written, etc.) with no distinct end point, i.e. predetermined end point or possibility of perfection, whereas craft is a task that has a defined product at the end of a set process which can be perfected, or nearly so, with a utilitarian function.”


“I prefer ‘handmade’ to ‘handcrafted’.”


“ ‘Craft’ can often refer to inferior design and skills. Craftsmanship has a better association with high skill levels.”


“ ‘Fine craft’ seems a better fit. Unfortunately the word ‘craft’ has too many meanings. Not to put down the folks who do crafts at my local fire hall shows, but their type of craft is significantly different than what I do.”


“We have to stay away from the term ‘crafts’ as an art community. I think we need to be identified as designers and artists, and then specify what media we associate with best if we prefer. Saying I do crafts raises too many negative stereotypes created through poor uses of the term.”


“I have been a glass artist, a metal artist, an emerging artist…. craft is HOW I make my work. I think of myself as a maker.”


“ ‘Craft’ just always sounds so ‘hobbyist’.”


“Some of my work is craft and some is art. Both require considerable care and training. As my work evolves, the distinction between art and craft continues to blur. I hope eventually to completely blur those lines of distinction.”


“I think most people don’t understand ‘craft’ in relation to craftsmanship, but the people who seek me out do.”


“ ‘Craft’ is not a bad word, but it refers more to process and is best used in conjunction with art.”


“Art, craft and design are distinct and mutually supporting. I perform all functions as I create.”


“I also use other words to describe what I do. There is so much more to my day. I am a designer, a marketer, a craftsman, a salesman, a bookkeeper. To do this and survive, you have to be able to do some of everything.”


“ ‘Craft’ is a generic word capturing a wide range of products and services. More creative expressions such as ‘handmade’ or ‘studio-built’ provide an upscale perception of the product or service.”


“Sometimes I think the debate between art and craft is more among us professionals then everyone else. People are happy to hear that we are artists, or craftspeople. It is such tired debate.”


“…I’m not so sure ‘craft’ accurately describes what I do to the general public. They are grossly uninformed about traditional artisans (and the skill we develop over many years) and how what we do differs from a craft project anyone can do.”


“The term ‘craft artist’ seems to be a good bridge between the craft and fine art communities.”


“I slide all over the place in the space between ‘art’ and ‘craft’. The only time I resent ‘craft’ is when a 2-D artist uses it as a derogatory term.”


“Buyers and collectors understand craft, the general public thinks of it as a lesser product than art.”


“ ‘Craft’ is a fine word to use, just not as a distinction different from ‘art’ or other creative expressions. This dichotomy/argument/discussion is really very, very boring…. “


“Craft is technique, no more, no less. I make an effort so my work passes from the category of craft to art.”


“Superb craftsmanship is an integral part of what I do, but I consider it an art form.”

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