Skip to main content

Is it art or craft?

Monday morning I start my new position as marketing director for The Center for Contemporary Arts. It’s a nonprofit modern art gallery in the heart of the revitalized downtown of Abilene, Texas.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most while hanging out at The Center as a volunteer is being around artists and art-loving people. The other day I was talking to Darla Harmon, the executive director, about art versus craft.

It started when I said there were bazillions of women making jewelry and that I wanted to create pieces that were unique using skills that not everyone has. She pointed out that this is the difference between art and craft. I haven’t heard that kind of talk since my college days in the art department of The University of Dallas back in the mid-seventies. 

Making simple earrings is a skilled craft
As young art students my friends and I made many snide remarks cutting down the education students who made cute little crafty projects for their classrooms while our work was “fine art.”

Now, with some hindsight and the humility that comes with middle age, I question what is the difference between craft and art. I’m sure Darla and I will have more conversations on this topic, and, I hope to have it with others at The Center. I hope to explore and ask questions and share with you what we come up with in the future.

For now all I know for sure is that before I started volunteering at The Center I was making jewelry that would sell. Marketability is what drove the design of my work. Yesterday I designed a necklace that is a work of art. It may not sell because of its price and unusual design and materials, but creating it, looking at it and holding it in my hands feeds my soul. 

Taking salvage yard copper and transforming
it into a hammered cuff with verdigris patina
is an art.
Perhaps the ultimate difference between craft and art is just that. Art feeds your soul.


Popular posts from this blog

Joseph Cornell’s Boxes

Boxes by surrealist artist Joseph Cornell
“Shadow boxes become poetic theaters or settings wherein are metamorphosed the element of a childhood pastime.”
Joseph Cornell was not a sculptor, a draftsman, or a painter. This internationally renowned modern artist never had professional training. He was first and foremost a collector. He loved to scour old book shops and secondhand stores of New York looking for souvenirs, theatrical memorabilia, old prints and photographs, music scores, and French literature. 

Cornell was wary of strangers. This led him to isolate himself and become a self-taught artist. Although he expressed attraction to unattainable women like Lauren Bacall, his shyness made romantic relationships almost impossible. In later life his bashfulness verged toward reclusiveness, and he rarely left the state of New York. However, he preferred talking with women, and often made their husbands wait in the next room when he discussed business with them. He also had numerous friend…

How to Clean Copper After Annealing with a Recipe for Non-Toxic Pickling

This is not your grandmother’s pickling recipe. I’m pickling copper bangle bracelets instead. As you can see by the previous post, I’ve been annealing copper bracelets this week (my first time was Sunday evening). To give you a point of reference, these bangles were dark brown, almost black, when I put them in the pickling solution.

Today I used a recipe for a non-toxic pickle to clean the oxidation from the copper. It was simple: 1 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon table salt. I heated it in the microwave for 30 seconds in a glass jar and then put it on my husband’s coffee cup warmer. To test it I stuck a piece of annealed 6 gauge wire in it, and it worked beautifully. I only had to brush a little of the black stuff off, and it was bright, shiny copper again. Better yet, the brushing didn’t take a lot of effort.

Feeling very successful I doubled the batch and dropped all six bangles in and left them for about 15 minutes. When I came back the black was flaking off nicely and floating…

Eulogy for a Difficult Mother - what I wish I’d said at my mother’s funeral

I fell in love with my Mother for the first time on the night she died. It was May 20 of this year. Less than two months ago.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t love her before. I believe that all children love their mothers, but all mothers don’t necessarily love their children. My mother was a loving woman, but my sadness is that she loved her husbands more than she loved her children. In spite of that I always loved her. Every day of my life.

Mother had a difficult time living with bipolar disorder in a time when the only treatment was hospitalization and useless counseling, and the medications for it were toxic. It wasn’t until the last decade of her life that everything came together for her, and she was able to live well and with some peace.

On the evening before she died her husband called to say she had not awakened that morning but she was still breathing. Her doctor told us two or three years ago that she would not suffer with renal failure and that she would gradually lose energy,…