Art vs. Craft
Posted On 07/08/2008 10:00:43 by mauramacaluso

Personally, I would say I am an artist who also happens to be a capable craftsman. To me craftsmanship is taking something and making it fit perfectly where it should go while art is taking something that shouldn't fit and making it work regardless.

The following are excerpted from my free ebook on woodcarving "the state of woodcarving in America today" Chap.9 Art vs. Craft... You can read the whole chapter here



There are many things which are debatable in woodcarving circles but there seems to be one universal truth, and that is that the public, on the whole, does not view woodcarving as an art. Although it is usually said in jest, the only difference between art and craft is the money that you can charge for it. Yes, there are areas of the country where wood sculptures may command high prices. There are many wildlife carvings which sell for $10,000 or more. They are exceptions to the rule, rather than the norm. Woodcarving, in and of itself is a craft. There is no debating this. Woodcarving is all about technique, which can be taught and learned by most people. So are painting, clay sculpting and turning. They are crafts and in some cases, sciences. A painter or sculptor does not become an artist through technique, whether he/she perfects his techniques or not. A painter or other craftsman only becomes an artist when he unleashes his emotion and infuses it into his craft. You cannot use a pattern, carve it and then have it considered a work of art. Yes, it may be beautiful and you may have mastered the techniques involved, you may even ask for and sell the carving for big bucks but it is still not art. Art is original and emanates from the heart, soul and mind of the artist, and then translates itself down his arms and through his hands into his chosen medium. This is something that you must accept because it is what separates art from craft. Craft is technique and repetition of that technique. Can we all agree that a paint by number is not art, no matter how well done it is? Do Bob Ross’s painting techniques produce works of art? Is tole painting an "art"? Art must be distinct from craft, although the two frequently intermingle until where the craft ends and the art begins is completely obscured. Works of art must be unique, not particularly as to subject matter, but in sense of style and interpretation. Our handwriting is unique and when interpreted by those who study such things, it tells a story about who we are. It is the same with our artwork. There are little subtleties among the tools and techniques that we carvers use. When finished, our carvings should have their own signature look about them. It is fine for a hobby carver to use patterns and to look at other carvers’ works and try to duplicate them but an artist must truly create, not copy. Without an artists’ intention, the work may be a fine piece of craftsmanship, but in my opinion it will never be art.


How can woodcarving be perceived as "art’ by the general public when carvers themselves do not present it as art? The price of ‘art’ cannot be whittled down in order to turn a profit. Devaluing one small carving affects the price of every other carving in the marketplace. Electricians, plumbers and doctors do not discount their services to the general public, woodcarvers do. No surgeon ever said to a patient, "I usually get $6,000 to remove a gallbladder, but I can let you have it for $4,500 and if you come back at the end of the day and I haven’t made enough money yet, I will let you have the surgery for $3,000". If your doctor ever says something like that to you, run and don’t look back. Imagine a plumber says to you, I will do the job for half price but I will save on my materials and use inferior pipe. Would you want him to work on your house? Woodcarvers do it all the time. They try to guess how much a person will be willing to pay before they set a price rather than feeling comfortable with the value they believe their work to have. Mass produced carvings are imported from Thailand, Bali, Indonesia and other cheap labor countries. The items are hand carved but yet bear price tags of 14.99. These carvings are flooding the market and some carvers attribute the decline in appreciation of carving in America directly to the influx of imported carvings. What they fail to understand is that for a carver to be an artist, he is not really selling carvings, but is selling himself, his image and reputation and all the other carvings that he has ever produced in order to be who he is today. You would not know Andy Warhol’s name today if he asked $14.99 for his copy of a Campbell’s tomato soup label. You cannot compete with the mass-produced carvings and must offer something other than your carvings, namely yourself.


What’s the difference between art and craft?

About $1000

Art is not for the average person, craft is.

Craft comes with instructions and art doesn’t.

Crafts requires skill and art doesn’t.

Craft is external, art internal.

Craft has judges, art has critics.

Craft sells, art starves.

Craft is learned, art born.


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