arts vs. crafts

Rebecca Loudon said, in a post which Bloglines picked up but has since been deleted:

“And I hate writing and I hate writers, too. Seriously, it all pretty much sucks. Can’t we just get together and drink and do crafts? I’m sure I can find some ribbon and rubber stamps at the dollar store. And some glitter. And some glue. Lots and and lots of glue. The kind you have to squeeze into a sock and inhale in order for it to work.”

It really annoys me when people imply that crafts are somehow lightweight, frippery slapdash pursuits, compared to arts. Tell that to Chippendale. Or Lalique.

Or that the thumbprints on a handmade pot make it somehow more authentic. Rubbish. The best handmade pottery (and furniture, and glass, and clothing) has a superb finish, better than anything a machine can do. The idea that ‘crafts’ are amateurish is a sad side-effect of the Industrial Revolution. William Morris, although he has to take some of the blame, must be spinning in his grave.

It saddens me when quilters feel the need to describe themselves as ‘quilt artists’. Or when a fine piece of pottery is described as ‘art pottery’. I understand why people do it – ‘artist’ is a word with a lot of cachet, whereas ‘craftman’ has very little – but I’d rather see people make the case for crafts, rather than trying to hang on the coat-tails of so-called ‘fine art’.

Chippendale was a craftsman. But he was surely more talented and more influential than any British artist of the period. He probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves, as one of the greatest creative talents of the C18th – but Chippendale is no more an artist than Pope is an architect.

BTW – Rebecca just happened to wake one of the bees in my bonnet. I’m not suggesting she holds the any of the annoying opinions that I’ve mentioned.