Arts and Crafts
The Difference Between

What is the difference between art and craft?


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2014-04-10 17:30:44
2014-04-10 17:30:44

Art and Craft Difference

Craft work is skilled work: any kind of craft must involve the application of a technique. The word, after all, is the German Kraft, simply means power or ability. Craft involves technique, yes, but not necessarily mechanical technology. For we wouldn't attribute a high level of craftsmanship to a machine which produced thousands of coffee mugs in an hour. Craft implies the application of human intelligence and usually when we use the word we have in mind the application of the human hand. The craftsman has tools at command, but to the extent that the tools themselves, independent of human guidance, accomplish a task, we don't talk about craftsmanship.

A second point. The concept of craft is historically associated with the production of useful objects and art well, at least since the 18th century with useless ones. The craftsman's teapot or vase should normally be able to hold tea or flowers, while the artist's work is typically without utilitarian function. In fact, if an object is made demonstrably useless if, to cite a famous example, you take a teacup and line it entirely with animal fur it has to be considered as a work of art, because there is nothing else left to consider it as. The crafts tend to produce things which are useful for various human purposes, and though they may be pretty or pleasing in any number of ways, craft objects tend to exhibit their prettiness around a purpose external to the object itself. To this extent, the crafts aren't arts, according to a idea which found fullest expression in the aesthetics of the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. Works of art, Kant said, are 'intrinsically final': they appeal purely at the level of the imagination and aren't good for any practical utility, except and I'll return to this except the cultivation of the human spirit.

These two symptoms of craft, that craft involves the application of intelligent skill (often some kind of handwork), and that it commonly results in the production of useful objects, are uncontroversial, but they still don't get us very far in distinguishing craft from art. Because, of course, works of art in painting, in music and its performance, in poetry, and elsewhere normally require skill, and, moreover, many great works of art are also objects of enormous practical value, for example, works of architecture.

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