I recently found myself in a conversation with a group of people about selecting art for a show. The topic of “art and craft” came up and I found myself saying: it’s art when the hand is not certain of where it is going before it starts. Otherwise it’s craft.
It seemed to make sense and yet so much was left out. Whose hand? Going where? Starting when? Where did I get such a notion? Why does it matter?
On reflection, I realized my point of view is synthesized from Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct,The Principles of Art by R.G. Collingwood and talks with Batya Friedman and Lee Gass. Collingwood’s point was that skilled work is purposefully directed toward a final product or designed artifact. The craftsman knows in advance what the end product will look like while the artist, still requiring skill and technique, does not know, when starting out, what the end state of the finished piece will be.
While Dutton said, “We pay craftsmen to paint houses or repair clocks because of the dependability of learned techniques: these people know what they are doing. But in the sense of using skill to produce a preconceived result, creative artists strictly speaking never know what they’re doing.”
Assuming skills and technical ability are the same, the distinction is about intent and goal of an effort.
In an email exchange with Lee Gass his summary was: “… a difference between an artist and a craftsman is that the craftsman knows, and can know, the desired outcome. If so, it would mean that a craftsman could plan things in detail. List steps. Make a recipe. Follow it. At least to some extent, according to this idea, an artist must discover the pathway while he walks it, as Antonio Machado suggested about life in general.”
In the Artist/Craftsman way of thinking, where does the designer fit in? This question comes to mind, because I have been working with Batya Friedman to set up the January 17th evening workshop: Art, Design, and Intention – All to What End? She speaks of two different worlds:, “…the designer is intentionally interventionist with a goal of effecting change of some sort, be it imagining a new "thing", a new technology, or a new social structure; in contrast the artist is accountable to form and beauty — magic in the universe. Artists may or may not choose to engage with social or political change. Both designers and artists typically remain open throughout their processes to the direction their work may take them. They are often surprised by what emerges in the end. ”
Lee Gass thinks we are all designers and some of our work is art. Where, in your work with stone, do you see your Art, Design, and Craft?
I leave that as something for you to ponder while you work with your stone. May the coming months be ones of discovery and magic.