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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.


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