Is there a difference between art and craft? – Laura Morelli

Is there a difference between art and craft? – Laura Morelli


When you hear the word art, what comes to mind? A painting, like the Mona Lisa, or a famous sculpture or a building? What about a vase or a quilt or a violin? Are those things art, too, or are they craft? And what’s the difference anyway? It turns out that the answer is not so simple. A spoon or a saddle may be finely wrought, while a monument may be, well, uninspired. Just as not every musical instrument is utilitarian, not every painting or statue is made for its own sake. But if it’s so tricky to separate art from craft, then why do we distinguish objects in this way? You could say it’s the result of a dramatic historical turn of events. It might seem obvious to us today to view people, such as da Vinci or Michelangelo, as legendary artists, and, of course, they possessed extraordinary talents, but they also happened to live in the right place at the right time, because shortly before their lifetimes the concept of artists hardly existed. If you had chanced to step into a medieval European workshop, you would have witnessed a similar scene, no matter whether the place belonged to a stonemason, a goldsmith, a hatmaker, or a fresco painter. The master, following a strict set of guild statutes, insured that apprentices and journeymen worked their way up the ranks over many years of practice and well-defined stages of accomplishment, passing established traditions to the next generation. Patrons regarded these makers collectively rather than individually, and their works from Murano glass goblets, to Flemish lace, were valued as symbols of social status, not only for their beauty, but their adherence to a particular tradition. And the customer who commissioned and paid for the work, whether it was a fine chair, a stone sculpture, a gold necklace, or an entire building, was more likely to get credit than those who designed or constructed it. It wasn’t until around 1400 that people began to draw a line between art and craft. In Florence, Italy, a new cultural ideal that would later be called Renaissance Humanism was beginning to take form. Florentine intellectuals began to spread the idea of reformulating classical Greek and Roman works, while placing greater value on individual creativity than collective production. A few brave painters, who for many centuries, had been paid by the square foot, successfully petitioned their patrons to pay them on the basis of merit instead. Within a single generation, people’s attitudes about objects and their makers would shift dramatically, such that in 1550, Giorgio Vasari, not incidentally a friend of Michelangelo, published an influential book called, “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects,” elevating these types of creators to rock star status by sharing juicy biographical details. In the mind of the public, painting, sculpture and architecture were now considered art, and their makers creative masterminds: artists. Meanwhile, those who maintained guild traditions and faithfully produced candelsticks, ceramic vessels, gold jewelery or wrought iron gates, would be known communally as artisans, and their works considered minor or decorative arts, connoting an inferior status and solidifying the distinction between art and craft that still persists in the Western world. So, if we consider a painting by Rembrandt or Picasso art, then where does that leave an African mask? A Chinese porclein vase? A Navajo rug? It turns out that in the history of art, the value placed on innovation is the exception rather than the rule. In many cultures of the world, the distinction between art and craft has never existed. In fact, some works that might be considered craft, a Peruvian rug, a Ming Dynasty vase, a totem pole, are considered the cultures’ preeminent visual forms. When art historians of the 19th Century saw that the art of some non-Western cultures did not change for thousands of years, they classified the works as primitive, suggesting that their makers were incapable of innovating and therefore were not really artists. What they didn’t realize was that these makers were not seeking to innovate at all. The value of their works lay precisely in preserving visual traditions, rather than in changing them. In the last few decades, works such as quilts, ceramics and wood carvings have become more prominently included in art history textbooks and displayed in museums alongside paintings and sculpture. So maybe it’s time to dispense with vague terms like art and craft in favor of a word like visual arts that encompasses a wider array of aesthetic production. After all, if our appreciation of objects and their makers is so conditioned by our culture and history, then art and its definition are truly in the eye of the beholder.

99 thoughts on “Is there a difference between art and craft? – Laura Morelli

  1. Historically interesting and well written. I'm not sure the ending is really a useful way to put things though. Ever since Duchamp the west has gone by the rule that "it's art if the maker says it is", and it's a simple system that works perfectly well. If people don't understand that and refute that your art is art, then you can point out that their thinking is almost a hundred years out of date.

    However, that does mean that your craft will then be judged on an quite different set of criteria (and might well be seen as bad art), but that's what you put yourself up for when you call it art.

  2. I don't approve most of the distinctions made here… The word "art" comes from latin while the word "craft" comes from the proto-Germanic…

    One is from the French speaking high class and the other one is from the poor working class peasants… Plus, they were not invented for the same reason! 

    Art was originally meant to mean "to join or to fit".
    Craft was originally meant to mean "power/energy/strength." Probably implying the efforts needed to build something…

    This means art can be craft and craft can be art, but one does not necessarily imply the other…

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/craft
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/art
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ars#Latin

  3. So…. after watching the entire video… it couldn't really answer the goddamn question. "Is there a difference between art and craft?" 

  4. The body of work that is considered to be "art" may grow and change, but it doesn't mean that "craft" won't have a place in it either.

    There was a critical distinction drawn in the video that I think is important: Art is a product of individual innovation and creativity, while a craft is a carefully refined process that is preserved and adapted by groups of people. There are two essential elements in this contrast: first, the distinction of product vs. process, and second, individual vs. group. An artist makes art, but teaches and hones a craft.

    This expands far beyond mere "visual art." I'm a medical student. While a large part of my education has been geared toward understanding science, I am also being taught many skills: diagnosis, examination, history-taking, and others. These collectively form the craft of medicine. There's room for "art" in this as well; I may do an impressive job suturing a cut — that alone is a work of art.

  5. I was talking to this fiber artist and her opinion on the subject was that a crafter is a person who only makes things according to other peoples patterns while an artist is a person who creates something of their own design.

    As for what is craft and what is art I personally think anything handmade meant to be visually,or audibly appreciated is considered art while massed produced things are not art. "Crafts" is a world I relegate to describe the act of making things with my daughter who is 4 so if we make a potholder from loops on a loom that's craft but the pot holder itself is art.

  6. Why did that stone had ა. ერისთავი(a. Eristavi) written on it?

  7. the distinction comes from function

    also, what about non visual crafts and arts? poetry, literature, programming, music, maths?

    for one person a mathematics proof may be beautiful while for other it is purely functional, or worse, useless.

  8. Good Lord, she mispronounced "vase" not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES throughout the video! It's pronounced VAAZ, like in Häagen-DAZS; not VASE like firePLACE. I thought this was something Brits and Americans both agreed on!

  9. I have had a long thought on the subject a while ago with a friend and we came to the conclusion that the answer isn't about what the thing is, but what it is meant to be. While the goal of craft is to provide functional and sometimes virtual objects that serve a specific purpose, the goal of art is to provide functional to dysfunctional objects with the only purpose of existing for themselves.

    Here is a few example to make this definition easier to understand. A piece of music is art if it has been composed to exist as a piece of music. If a musician composed or even engineered a song to sell millions of copies, then it is the result of craft. If a song sells by the millions but the original intention was only to exist for itself, then it is still art as the intention remains.

    An other example would be the one of a light bulb. Most if not all light bulbs are designed to emit light to help us see in the dark. Some bulbs are also made to be astonishingly good looking. Still, they are primarily light bulbs and their function is to light a room, not to be exposed and studied for their artistic qualities. This makes them craft. If a bulb would be designed to look pretty to a point that would hinder its ability to light a room, then it would become art as the original intention wasn't practical.

    In other words:
    Craft is the creation of physical or virtual objects, most often beautiful than not, which have a specific purpose to serve in our lives.
    Art is the creation of physical or virtual objects, most often beautiful than not, which have the only goal of existing by themselves and might incidentally be observed, studied, judged or criticized and might even find a practical use post-creation.

  10. We can see that in the short history of video games.  A video game is now currently starting to be considered as art.  Back in the 70s programmers would not even get credit for making games.  Not until the 80s did we start seeing credits in video games, but the public never saw these as art.  It was just a child's toy.  Just like a quilt was just a blanket.  

    Now we skip to today, and we have video game art exhibits, and musicals.  The games that were just toys, are now art.  This is because of 2 things I can think of; Gamers of the 80s, 90s are grown up and; gaming is more wide spread with immersive technology.

    Now art vs craft, if everything is considered art then that takes away the meaning of the word art.  Art is perceived as having a sense of exclusivity and mastery.  Example, not everyone perceives Angry Birds as art or even as a game.  "Gamers" would put it as a casual game, not a "true game".  

    I am torn on wither we can consider certain things art, I believe it will always be the public's perspective that will decide.  Maybe 500 years from now the Mona Lisa will just be seen as a portrait of a woman and no longer art, or the museum that the Mona Lisa is in will be considered art.  As the question is not the difference between art and craft, but what is art?  Everything made is pretty much craft.

  11. I am Native American and come from the Hopi pueblo tribe in northeastern Arizona. In the Southwest archaeologists have actually discovered the transformation of pottery making throughout the years people have settled here. They now date prehistoric sties based on the types of pottery they and even call the time periods Pueblo I, II, and III. It's a mixture of the way the clay is fired and the types of designs people painted on them. 

  12. Art is Way to overrated! Nowadays everyone can do anything to become an "artist". Even by just fill a blank peace of paper with just one color makes it a peace Of art. That's just boring and not creative at all. I hear you already saying "you have no idea of real art". Pisch posch! Just because you behave like an artist, whatever that means, or pretend to "understand" the meaning behind a red colored peace of paper, doesn't mean you are sooo smart or ordinary. It's just stupid to pretend that art is more than an accident. And now go ahead and spend thousands of dollars for something you can't do anything with it, than just hang it on a wall and think "oh it feels soooo great to bought it"…

  13. What you talked about I would rather consider "historical art" because that's the reason they are kept nowadays right?

    Also even the paintings by the Renaissance guys are a work of craftsmanship. But what does modern art has to do with skills? throwing blood on a canvas and being able to talk about it's "meaning" for hours doesn't make you an artist

  14. The easy answer is yes. On a linear scale from beauty to function, where does the object lie? A painting has no function, it can't keep you warm, or sift flour, or stir soup, it is useless as anything but a thing to look at; it is art. The content is irrelevant even if it has a purpose. A horse shoe has no value as art in itself, its value is protecting the horse's foot. It may be beautiful because it was well made, without flaws, and perhaps even visually pleasing to those who can appreciate it, but it is not art, it is a functional thing, out of sight, made for a purpose that does not include looking at it. Contrary to Duchamp, calling something art does not make it art. It's a fucking horse shoe.
    So, which does the object have more of, beauty, or function? Very few things, except maybe Falling Water House or a Bugatti Veyron are smack in the middle serving equally well as beautiful, functional objects.

  15. Very useful discution. I think the  characteristic of originality and inovation is what realy defines art.

  16. I would say that all crafts are arts.. but not all arts are crafts. When an art become mass-assembled tho, creativity might be lost there and thus the art value of it diminish– tho will never disappear. Also curiously nowadays art are back into crafts such as many artists working together to make a movie or a game.

  17. Brilliant argument.  As a student of Asian visual arts, I now have a better appreciation for why their arts have NOT evolved over the centuries, and that it is all right that they continue to preserve their visual traditions rather than change them.

  18. When you say "art", I think of "useless shit". When you say "craft", I think of "intelligent design" (not the religious kind).

  19. I liked the history, but I think the idea of Art vs Craft wasn't well explored. Paintings or sculptures aren't always Art, just as Art can be a spoon or a vase, or even a performance. The definition of Art has changed once again and Art is now useless, so Design and Craft are the useful Arts. But pieces from the past are of the past and therefore keep the definition of Art of the past. The problem isn't vagueness, it's the lack of understanding people have about the definition of Art and what it defines, that includes the person who made this talk.

  20. Every time I go to watch one of these vidoes either the sound quality is so bad I can't make out the words or right when the lesson begins there is no sound at all. What is wrong?

  21. Please take some your time to do this survey about art, its for my school assignment, please and TQ

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LJ3RX2P

  22.  Strictly speaking, art can have no real use. A piece of sculpture can be pure art until someone hangs an article of clothing on it.

  23. Interesting. How about photography? And how about manipulating the captured image in Photoshop, after the fact?  For me, the LCD screen is the same as an artists easel. Yes or no? Again, interesting! 

  24. OK, before watching the vid, here's my take:  craft is something cool but fairly low skill-level that nearly anybody could do with some basic training, like basket-weaving, making a god's eye, or braiding some reeds.  But art is a creation of something that is expert-level, one-of-a-kind, less than 1% of the population could ever get to the point of creating something like that, and is heavily reliant on a person's natural talent.  

    To me, a craft is something that an average person could do.  Art is something that a person has to pour their life into in order to create.  It's like the difference between playing a musical instrument and composing fine music.  Lots of people can play the piano but there's not too many Mozarts out there.

    That's my take.  So am I right or am I talking shit here?

  25. This is Euro–centric and misleading, quite to the contrary of what it intends and proclaims to be.  Painting has existed in the The East as an art for 475ad,  There was a very clear distinction between art and craft.  For Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, the ability to paint and compose music were integral to their notions of "gentlemen" (君子).  Art and craft were strongly distinguished.  Artisans and artists were not treated equally.  

    You didn't need to tread into that territory to convey the idea of art being "in the eye of the beholder"  Either consult with a historian or stick to your vocation next time please.  

  26. The real problem began when the elevation of the craftsman to artist became self defined. I am of the opinion that there can be Art but Artist can never be defined during the lifetime of the craftsman who created it. Art must transend the temporary in order to really be Art. If it is just the latest Fad there is a better than even chance that it will quickly fade from our memories and any signifigance that was once thought to be so prevalant will soon be lost. 

    A self definded Artist, one whose life is devoted to creating Art, is not capable of making that judgement as are most Art Critics. The one Universal Truth is that most great Art was never seen as great during the Artists lifetime. You say what about Picasso? I say wait another 100 years before we really have the answer to that question. Will Pollack still be considered cool or will his paintings be classified as acidental spolches of color? I do not know and niether does anyone else.

    Let us recognize great Painters and Sculpters etc. Lets us also call them Painters, Sculpters and Craftsman until future generations can convey the term Artist. 

  27. I think the right approach to making a distinction for art lies in the concept of "merit" if we're to temporarily adopt normative terms.

    See, a work is considered of artistic merit when the work itself demonstrates a peculiar attention in creation.  This is to be contrasted with a more mundane habit of repetition and reorganization.

    Artistic work often allows us to peer into the mind of the creator in a way that makes the witness appreciate the method of creation.  While craft merely focuses on capitalizing upon established conventions.  However, an craftsman can sometimes be considered an artist if he displays a particular type of understanding on his work.

    For example, in popular culture, there are many examples of people regarding blacksmiths as artists.  In Japanese culture, many blacksmiths have been romanticized as artists for the particular way they carried their work.  Each sword they put out was created in such a way that demonstrated the particular creator's mastery and understanding of the craft.  This insight and the way it shows upon the work is the distinguishing factor among other swords that were created solely upon learned practice and convention.

    To quote something I said in someone else's post that may help to illustrate the distinction:

    "There's both art and craft in music if we're to abide by the distinction about innovation versus redoing the same shit over and over.  They're entirely compatible with the subject matter of the video.

    Bullshit bands like Bullet for My Valentine are bands that merely do things in a particular genre of music as a job, but don't have any artistic merit, since their contributions to music are nothing worth noting nor is there any merit the creation process.  Their work is merely craft, since they're putting out things in a specific format with the particular intent to appeal to people that like things for the sake of the format.

    Other bands, like old Eighteen Visions and Converge challenge the conventions, take the elements, and manipulate them to make something of their own, something that will catch the eye of a person with a keen eye for peering into the maker's creativity."

  28. I didn't understand the part where it goes from art and craft to 'visual arts'. How is that a term that encapsulates both?

  29. The difference: Artisans use their skill to craft art. The act of doing so is their craft. The entire idea of craft being objects and therefore in conflict with value of art is a social misunderstanding we have acquired and needs to just be dropped.

  30. art is in the eye of the beholder. 

    ten thousand years from now, what we viewed as art may have very little to do with what is then viewed as art. 

    art is constantly evolving, weather or not we recognize it.

  31. very well placed the African mask beside Picasso, is well Known  the great Master loved them and got  lots of inspiration from them. On the other hand anybody who only repeats again and again his most successful artwork is an artist or just a craftsman? 

  32. The two terms aren't mutually exclusive, they contain traces of one another and are contingent on who is using them. I think visual art is actually a more problematic distinction to make. It values vision above the other senses we use to interact with art and crafts, and undermines the tactility and materiality.

  33. Generally, the distinction I make between an artwork and a craftwork; Is if their value lies in their aesthetic alone, or if their value is in their practical application. There are of course points at which the lines blur. Where Artwork can be practical. And, where a Craft can be Artful. But, typically I find they are still mostly on one side of it or the other.

    I think the best of both worlds comes when one fully transitions to the other over time: If a painting becomes utterly ruined, but the canvas is repurposed for book bindings; Or if a farm implement becomes froze up with rust and broken to such a degree that the cost of repair isn't justified and it then becomes a lawn ornament.

  34. Modern definition of art is something what inspires thought and changes status quo.
    So art must be something new and it does not matter if it is painting or prototype of iPhone.

  35. Art is like philosophy, so past century shit… In this time crafts will be new art, like science. Some thing that is useful at the same time beautiful in all perspective. 

  36. Anything intended to make you feel an emotion is art, but anything else is not art. That's why Newman's "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue" is art, and your child's drawing is not. Or why the New York "One WTC" is art, and your terraced house is not. Or even why Delvoye's feces-producing "Cloaca" machine is art, but Coca Cola's bottling machine is not.

    Whether your feeling agrees with the artists intended feeling or not doesn't matter, all art wants to make you feel something, anything.

  37. I always figured that "art" was objects like paintings and artisan crafts were simply objects of art that also had a practical function — like a vase or beautifully woven basket. The fine vase is a work of art that also serves a practical function, so it's an artistic "craft". Well, that's always been my take on it

  38. Is craft a noun that could (or is) used to describe an object? A spoon is described as a "hand crafted spoon" not "craft". Craft is the method of creation, a concept which is supported by the video when they differentiated between artists & artisans. If craft is the method of creating an object then what is the term for the finished object? You can craft something, you cannot art something. Now that artisan guilds are no longer the standard, the definition presented for art seems difficult to apply to present day creations. Since things are typically mass produced is craft less valuable than art? The video seemed to devalue craft, as if somehow something lovingly & skillfully crafted is less valuable without being labeled art. I think trying to define something as craft OR art is unnecessary since both terms can be used for the same object (something the video didn't address).

  39. A few years ago(1976) at the Denver Colorado USA Art Museum someone suggested to have a showing of the local area art work and skills and talent. I think that students from the many high schools and colleges and local art galleries and a handful of individual artists submitted their work. It was an exhibition that we will never forget because of the verity of different works of art… There was one that was made from a large number of clothes that were sewn together with a large number colors and textures in great detail. There were so many great works of art and so different. Maybe we'll start showing local artist works of art at our cafe and other shops and sell them to the highest bidder…… Let's make money, Honey.

  40. 1.     We have noticed that some paintings achieve their greatness and value because the artist has included great detail. The artist or artisan had work many hours or even days or weeks or more to finish the painting.
    2.    We knew a man whose primary skill was a metal fabricator and welder. Over the years he sculpted a one of a kind 8 foot chrome ultra modern figurine or statue. People could not take their eyes off it. It was so different and so beautiful.
    3. Art can take you back in time. Search paintings of people and places from the past. LIVE, LOVE, LEARN AND LAUGH

  41. I disagree. The difference between art is a compositional manifestation of a thinking : what is the purpose of the universe? what is the mission of the human being? These ideas are reflected in the formal qualities, themes and subject chosen by the artist. Art is always breaking with traditions, not because traditions are not worthy, because art is always looking for its own freedom, its own possibilities, its own terms.

  42. Put it this way, you get couture fashion houses making all sorts of weird and wonderful footwear that has no life beyond its critical appraisal on the catwalk. The designers are pushing the limits of their own creativity and finding new ways to express themselves. This is a form of art. But the models can't walk in them. You then get steel toed boots made for working on building sites and trainers made for sport which also have another life as fashion items but would have no critical value within the world of fashion. The value here is in fulfilling a need and the commercial viability of the product. This is a form of craft.

  43. 4:10 They did not value innovation; their art barely evolved past its most primal forms. This is what it means to be primitive. Get over it, you dirty relativist.

  44. For me all craft is art. If I can piss on the floor and call it art, surely a fine porcelain, an intricate plasterwork, or a sculptural salt cellar can be called art.

  45. Very interesting and precise documentary. About the art which doesn't evolve much in time, one of the greatest example is Bizantine art with its derivation, like the famous Russian Icons. They are almost the same in centuries. The reason was in the message they wanted the art to carry, and that was that God and the saints were powerful and somewhat the centre of the universe, while in Europe, more attention was starting to be given to the mankind and art developed somewherelse. But nobody would ever dream to say that bizantine art is primitive or that it isn't art.

  46. Muy buen video aunque discrepo de la frase final "El arte y su definición depende de la perspectiva que se mire" pues según esto el concepto se convierte en algo subjetivo y visto desde ahí todo podría ser arte, por consiguiente si todo es arte, el concepto mismo se ve afectado pues pierde completamente su valor, como lo vemos en nuestros tiempos.

  47. There can be endless opinions of what is craft and what is art. Most probably art is an elevated form of craft.  The problem with art is that there are many kinds of art so in a way it defies definition. Besides, the line between art and craft is often blurred. Eventually it's up to the viewer to define what is art and what is mere craft (GattoTheCat)

  48. After 40 years in the Craft and Art discussion here are my thoughts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VjGZIAQyaw

  49. I'm amused by the number of people who think art has no functional value. If something pleases your mind, to your mind it has value. If a functional item serves it's purpose, it pleases your mind. So I'm thinking that an item that is further from physical functionality is generally more art than craft, even though you can't make art without craft processes. If an "art piece" doesn't please your mind you are welcome to call it bad art or a useless end result of craft applied to material.

  50. So, art is creative, while craft is reproductive?

    I don't see any reason to change the treatment of it and invent more nebulous terms.

  51. I once had a long debate on this. Here's what I think:
    Art and Craft are intertwined but there are 2 main differences between them.
    1- Craft is born out of a PRACTICAL necessity. Art is born out of an EMOTIONAL/INTELLECTUAL necessity. You can create a beautifully engraved chair, give a stylish haircut, serve a masterfully decorated cake, or design a cool looking car, but ALL of the crafts required to make these products are born out of practical demands: "I need to sit down", "I need to trim my hair", "I want to eat", "I need a car".
    Art, on the other hand, exists purely out of a mental necessity: be it for beauty, emotion or intellectual stimulus. You can't eat a novel, you can't drive a movie or wear a painting. All of these things exist SOLELY to serve your inner self. (This is also why it's MUCH harder to make a living as an artist than as a craftsman: emotional/intellectual necessities are MUCH harder to monetise than practical ones).
    2- The second difference is structural in nature.
    Craft is MUCH more structured than Art, because Craft creates products to sell, so the products need to be consistently replicated again and again and again. Art, on the other hand, while still structured to some degree, has almost NO LIMITATIONS in terms of transformation and degrees of expression. An actor can rehearse his part and perform on a stage for 15 nights in a row, yet EVERY single night will be slightly different. Art is performative in nature, so it's deeply tied to the individuality of each artist.

    Every artist studies and practices his craft in order to become a better artist, but the craft itself is not the end goal: it's just a tool to create the art.

  52. Art is a reflection of the individual, craft is a reflection of the collective. Both aspects can be found in the same objet d'art.

  53. I don't know who said this, but I think it's very insightful. "There is art in craft and craft in art. But craft aims for perfection, and art aims for full expression."

  54. Art exists because the West puts innovation on a high pedestal, which is a blessing to all of us eventually. The same impulse that created Art, also gave us space-ships and trains and planes. Being a Westerner, it's easy for you to denounce this innovative impulse, but being an Easterner, I see the utmost value in this break in tradition and the drive to create something new every time which speaks to its time better than a work preceding it.

  55. Art is a picture weather using colour or drawing or painting craft is an actual object that is physical. So you can have an artistic crafted vase but you know that vase has designs and or colour which either been moulded into the design or been drawn or painted on

  56. The difference between art and craft

    Art is creating something from your heart to make something beautiful

    Craft is just hot glueing to popsicle sticks together to make the holy cross to bless ur unholy family

  57. I prefer for there to be no distinction between artists and artisans. We're both craftsman, seeking to create what is practically necessary to fulfill human desires. Whether that manifest in beautiful cups or paintings, people want them, and are satisfied in them in ways other objects can't provide.

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