Is craft an art?

From where do we get our notions about art versus craft? In the end is craft an art? According to the Brazilian Dictionary of Portuguese Language, an artisan is an individual who “produces, for artistic pleasure or professionally, a work that depends on manual skill”. In this sense, craft is a professional and artistic technique.

Despite this concept, handicraft is still discredited when elevated to the category of art. Why is a painting handmade by a painter considered a piece of art – frequently a masterpiece – and, a crocheted piece is not seen as an artistic object, despite both being produced with the intention of embellishing?

To answer this question, Briselier listed some points to explain the relationship between arts and crafts.

1. After all, what is the definition of art?

First, we introduce the concept of crafts. But what is the definition of art? Art is the “use of the technique of imitating nature, with a view to a practical result that can be obtained by different means, in different fields of activity”.

Therefore, an artist is an individual who combines their techniques and creativity to obtain a practical result – a dance, a painting, a film or a sculpture, for example. It can be a form of expression, as well as it can aim at some kind of recognition – material or not – based on that action or object.

Crafts are made of techniques, creativity, expression and search for recognition. If a work of art is intended to sell and attract attention for its beauty, handcrafted pieces also follow the same objective.

Thus, we can conclude that the definitions of art and handicrafts are similar, and so it is totally possible to place them on the same level of technique and purpose.

2. The monetary issue

As mentioned in the previous topic, art can also aim at some kind of recognition – material or immaterial. Despite this, the monetary issue is still a resource that many people use to separate crafts from art.

Handcrafted pieces are mostly produced for sale and this is a factor that causes the objectification of art. In this sense, all the work performed by the artisan to crochet a mandala, for example, is seen not as a process, but as a work performed solely to generate a product for consumption.

This vision goes against the sustainable logic that handicraft practices, in addition to contributing to the devaluation of the artisan’s entire artistic process.

Photo: Aline Caron for Briselier.
Photo by Aline Caron

3. The devaluation of crafts

Still on devaluation, the reason why crafts are not valued enough to be considered a work of art is related to historical factors. I have already talked about the main reasons for the devaluation of handicrafts, but I’ll bring here a summary again.

In summary, due to the industrial revolution and an unfair market model with small producers, handicrafts was seen less and less as an important, laborious and artistic technique.

Therefore, these reasons contributed not only to the devaluation of handicraft, but also to the distance between “artistic techniques and a craft work”. Consequently, it also distanced itself from the vision of what a work of art is and what handicrafts are.

It is worth mentioning that we have already commented on some practical actions that contribute to a greater appreciation of artisanal work. We need to remember that the appreciation of crafts starts with the artisan, so to check out these tips just click here.

The name “art” is already part of the word craft. So, given these points that I’ve listed, I raise that handicraft is not only a technique of manual work, but also an artistic one.

Finally, follow Briselier on InstagramPinterest and Youtube. There you will always find more about crafts, crochet and dreamcatchers. 

Thus, follow our excellent photographer who produced the photos for this post: Aline Caron.

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