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Re: crafting art, arting craft

I tend to look at craft in a particularly traditional way.

>From a point of view of popular culture, Norm Abrams is called a master
carpenter.  He can synonymously be called a master craftsman.  Many people
debate this, especially other woodworkers and carpenters.  Mostly they are
jealous because a guy with a big belly and flannel shirts and glasses can be
on TV and be a star cutting up wood and swinging a hammer.  I don't think
anyone would call Bob Vila a master anything, except pitchman.

Look at "Craftsman" furniture in terms of the Arts & Crafts Movement.  The
folks producing furniture, or ceramics, or block-printed chintz fabric, were
considered craftsmen/persons and some of the work was considered high art in
interior decorating.  Look at what came out of William Morris' workshops and
also from Greene & Greene architecture in California.  Beautiful stuff.  But
produced by craftsmen, not artists, even if considered art today.

I am not sure that someone who considers her/himself an artist and wants to
be called such by peers can really be one without first learning and
mastering  the craft in which she/he wants to produce the art.  EG Would
Picasso or Klimt have been the great artists they are considered to be today
without first learning and mastering classical drawing/art techniques, the
craft of art?  Look at some of their earliest work if you are not sure and
compare it with the work for which they are famous.

Personally, I agree with the Rose Slivka quote Richard presented in his message:
"If it's good it's Art. If it's not, who cares?"  Art is (hard)work and
skill and craft and a vision.  It is all of these.

On the other hand, being a good craftsman does not make you an artist.
Maybe no one cares what you produce because it is unintersting although
technically perfect.  (These arguments can go round and round without

When I am doing woodworking, home repair, bookbinding or book conservation,
calligraphy, or playing my guitar, I try to do it to the best of my ability,
of my skills, of the craft as I have been taught it by worthy mentors or
practitioners, and to my own satisfaction.  But is it art?  Like the
past-produced objects we admire and treat as the art of the craftsman today,
created by long dead practitioners, I would say that I will never know.

Robert Milevski

Robert J. Milevski
Preservation Librarian
Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
609-258-5591; fax: 609-258-4105
email: milevski@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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