All too often, art and craft are seen as the same thing. Today, you will even find the phrases combined into the generalized hobby of “arts & crafts.” Despite this common perception, however, art and craft are two very distinct forms of human creativity. Each have their own, unique strengths and specialties.
In a nutshell, one could describe the differences between art and craft as follows:
- Art is the use of various tools and materials in order to express an idea, emotion, or set of ideas and emotions.
- Craft is the use of various tools and materials with the sole purpose of creating a real, tangible product.
However, this distinction is too brief and nonspecific so let’s dive deeper into the unique characteristics of each one.
Artists, art historians, and art critics will all give you different answers to the troublesome question of “what is art?” These widely different definitions are part of what makes art so wonderful. It is a boundless medium of expression that can take on many different forms and meanings the imagination and conjure up. It is precisely this boundlessness which makes it so difficult to define.
In addition to being boundless, art is unreproducible. An artist creates many unique pieces of art rather than producing the same exact work over and over again. Even if that artist or another artist attempted to duplicate a work of art, it would never be exactly the same as the original. There is only one true Mona Lisa, all the rest are simply imperfect copies.
The boundlessness and reproducibility of art is being challenged today. This can be witnessed in the influences of technology on modern art.
Art is informed by emotion. This means that aesthetics will not always be important. A work of art can be considered art even if it is not traditionally beautiful. So long as it evokes an emotion in the viewer, it has succeeded in its role as art.
Where art is boundless, craft has more rigid structures. Each craft is begun with the intention of achieving a specific product and each product comes with its own clearly defined set of rules in order to make it. This does not make it less beautiful or creative than art. On the contrary, it takes great talent to master a craft and when the structural rules are met with style and skill, the resulting product can be just as impressive and awe-inspiring as any work of art.
Because of its rigid structure, crafts are repeatable. For example, once you learn how to make a specific type of pottery, you can make as many of those pots as you have the energy to do. Art, as you have read, does not share this quality. Each work of art is its own unique creation.
Another quality we can see in crafts is how they affect people. While art reaches us on a very deep level regardless of whether or not the work of art is beautiful or not, crafts are always aesthetically pleasing. Examples of crafts include pottery, jewelry, and glass work.