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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What is the Difference Between Art and Craft?

When I am writing a blog, web page content, item description, or some sort of bio statement, I sometimes find myself stumbling over the choice to use the term, art or craft, or perhaps both.  For the most part I tend to use both terms interchangeably.  Partly because there are many who think the two indeed refer to the same thing. If the majority of my audience are likely to use both, or either terms in a keyword search, so too must I use both terms in order to be found by those who seek.

I use both art and craft interchangeably also because I have never really been able to definitively decide which term I should be using. I never know from day to day if I feel like I should describe my own work as art, or craft, especially since I do not create just one type of work.  Am I am artist? Am I a crafts person?

And so again I have come back to the same old question.  What is the difference between art and craft?

According to Wikipedia "Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings. "

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), although best known for his literary work, also penned various articles on art. Tolstoy believed that Art is subjective, and means something different to every single person.   

Craft, according to, means to make or manufacture (an object, objects, product, etc.) with skill and careful attention to detail.

Most people probably don't consider there is any real difference between art and craft. But if you listen to people share their views on this topic, you will see that there are varied opinions and no definite consensus. Most people in the art and craft field do believe you can draw at least a thin line of difference between the two.

Let’s consider some of the ideas people have about Art Vs Craft:


  • Art is a form of work that is the expression of emotions.
  • Art is often described as unstructured without limitations of expression.
  • Art is difficult to quantify.
  • Art is thought to be born of heart and soul.
  • Art is a manifestation of a person’s innate talent.
  • Art typically serves an aesthetic purpose rather than a specific function.
  • Art need only appeal to the mind to fulfill its purpose.
  • Art may have intended meaning and have ‘something to say’ within the finished piece. 
  • Art is usually not a planned and defined end product before the artist begins.
  • Art can stand alone. Ars gratia artis (Art for art's sake).


  • Craft is something that performs a service or fills a specific purpose.
  • Craft is a form of work, which results in a tangible output.
  • Craft can be quantified.
  • Craft is an extension of art but art is not necessarily an extension of craft.
  • Crafts attract people, but does not make connections emotionally.
  • Crafts come out of the mind.
  • Craft skill can be acquired with experience.
  • Craft is historically associated with the production of useful objects.
  • Craft work is skilled work: any kind of craft involves the application of a technique.
  • Craft, traditionally is a handmade process used to achieve an end result, usually something practical. (Not to say that these items couldn’t also be decorative.)
So, what can we conclude?

Art comes from emotions and expressions.  It need not fill any other purpose than to simply exist. Craft has a physical form, performs a service or function. It can be decorative, but it's first responsibility is use.  Art moves emotions, crafts attract the mind. Art is born in heart and soul, craft begins in the mind. Art is innate, craft can be learned.

I think, for myself Art describes the end product, the items that I make.  Craft is my skill set, already learned and still learning, which I use in order to create my art.

Art, or craft if you prefer, once conceived and created remains the same, regardless of whatever label we might choose to affix to it.  Words will not alter it, all you can do is alter your perception.   Craft can be art and art can be craft.  Ultimately, if you enjoy what you create, or love what you acquire from those who make it, art is whatever we perceive it to be.

So, what do YOU think?



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