Your Opinion – Art? or Craft?

So I’ve been puzzling over this for some time now, and I am really interested to know what you guys think.

Stitch Graffiti by Mr X Stitch via Flickr

Framing stuff makes it art

Stitched by Bee Franck

We would probably all agree that a painting is art, right? Even if it’s a painting by an amateur painter, I still think of it as ‘art’. But what about quilts? If you or I make a quilt or a wall hanging, is it art? Or craft? And it doesn’t just apply to quilting – it applies to all the ‘craft’ genres. For example, I regard everything that Mr. X Stitch or Bee Franck makes as art; to me, they are really talented, witty artists who choose to express that through cloth and thread, as opposed to a canvas and paint. I also consider the stitchers whom Mr. X Stitch features on his website as artists.

The Stitch Graffiti (shown above) was my favourite Mr X Stitch piece at The Stitch & Craft Show at Olympia this year- and I definitely regard this as art. But I also regard what my mother made as art, and I’m certain she never intended it as such. She was just crafting to have something to do in the evenings in front of the telly. But not surprisingly, my mum stitches at a professional level. She does everything at a professional level except knitting. But I think that might be because she started with a fair isle Xmas stocking pattern – if you’re a knitter you’ll know, that’s crazy, right? She’s also a very accomplished oil painter too, but I haven’t got any pictures of her paintings.

My mum's cross stitch

My mum's perfect stitching

And I’ve made a bunch of quilts, which I regard as mostly craft, you know, as fancy expensive blankets. But sometimes if I am proud of the design I kind of think of it as usable fabric art. However, my friend Shanna of Fiber of All Sorts made me a wall hanging which I certainly regard as art and it’s a very treasured piece. And there are many ‘quilt artists’ out there - Shaun Quinlan, Luke Haines, Margot Lovinger are only 3 of the tons. They clearly create with an intent for their quilts to be art.

Shanna's Dresden Wall Hanging, made just for me!

But what about you? or someone you really admire? Do you regard yourself or others as great crafters or as artists? Is there even a difference? What determines whether a piece is ‘art’ or ‘craft’?

I don’t know if Lynne of Lily’s Quilts meant this to be art or whether she even thought about where it falls within the art-craft spectrum, but I find that her YouTube quilt is so clever and striking that I’d consider it art:

Do you feel it’s the intent with which something is made that determines whether it’s art or craft? Or is it the level of expertise? Or is it all in the eye of the beholder? I sometimes feel that people are sexist about it, even without particularly meaning to be: that if a woman makes an amazing quilt, it’s an amazing quilt. But if a man makes an amazing quilt, it’s art. Do you find that to be true too?

What do you think? Is what you make art, even if it’s usable art? Or do you feel you’re a crafter? Is there even a difference?

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18 Responses to Your Opinion – Art? or Craft?

  1. teresa g says:

    Here’s my feeling on the subject:
    If it is something you designed on your own, it is art.
    If it is something you made following a pattern, it is a craft.
    And there is nothing wrong with a craft going up on the wall. It doesn’t matter what the medium is, be it paint, string, fabric, wood, or what ever is floating someones boat to use.

  2. I think that for something to fall into the “craft” category, it has to have utility, or function. Some quilts straddle that line (like Lynne’s), but for me, they’re useful, so they’re “craft.” I’ve definitely seen quilts that I wouldn’t use – either because they’re tiny wall-hangings or because they’re not meant to be used, and I think those would fall strictly into the “art” category.

    I wouldn’t consider myself an artist, definitely not at this point – I’ve only been quilting for a year and a half and I either follow patterns I’ve found online or I’m just sewing together squares, so there’s really not much “creative process” to it. Now, pattern designing? Yes, that edges into the “art” side of things. Coming up with patterns, designing blocks, putting together combinations of blocks so that they look appealing (particularly anything with negative space, or those quilts that you see where if you look at it one way it’s got one pattern but if you focus on another part, it looks like something else??), that’s more of the “artsy” side of it. Like Lynne’s quilt, she came up with that, and the “coming up with it” part feels like art but the actual making of it is the craft.

    Wow, what a ramble! I’ve never thought about it before, but love that you brought it up! Thanks for the brain teasing this early in the morning!! ;)

  3. Jan says:

    If I make something totally from scratch, no pattern or instructions, it’s my art. 80% of my quilts are made that way. I never really thought about it until several different friends told me how much the loved my “art”. Basically I just love make things, working with fabric and color.

  4. Amanda says:

    This is deep for a Tuesday afternoon! I like the idea that if it has a function then its a craft. The only thing I don’t really get as art is the dead animal in a fish tank, that’s just a tiny bit odd, but each to their own!

  5. Heidi says:

    I think it’s both. Check the dictionary. A craft is an occupation requiring technical skill and artistic influence. Art is the use of skill and creativity in the production of aesthetic objects. Our sewing is art, and art is subjective. It all depends on what you like. That’s why there will always be the ongoing arguments about traditional vs. modern quilting, or people disagreeing on who should have won an online quilting contest. Different people like different things, and that’s okay. The most important thing — I believe — is to not get sidetracked by the discussion into making things because you think they’ll be accepted or popular. We need to enjoy the process and make what we love.

  6. Melissa says:

    I consider what I do to be both an art and a craft. I also think it is in the eye of the beholder but at the end of the day if I don’t like what I’m doing/making then I tend to put it aside. Most of my baby quilts I consider one craft, they are functional and I expect them to get loved to death, but my larger quilts, especially original designs and wall hangings, I think of as art. I guess where I draw the line is whether or not I expect it to become a family heirloom and last for generations (art) or whether or not I expect it to get used everyday – to get stained and well-worn (craft).

  7. Danny says:

    Interesting question. I feel that crafting is an art form. Quilting, an art form. Stitching, an art form. Art is a tangible expression of self and I feel there are many methods that fall beneath it. Kind of like this: a square is a quadrilateral, but a quadrilateral is not necessarily a square. It could be a rectangle or diamond or rhombus. The same is true with art. Painting is art, but art is not painting. It could be pottery or sewing or quilling or writing or any other number of creative outlets. I think whether a person describes their work as art or craft comes down to confidence. I may not call my quilts art, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are. Make sense? I’m not necessarily ‘right’, but these are my thoughts anyway.

  8. Katy says:

    I think it’s far too early in the week, especially when it’s the first working day of the week, to be thinking big deep thoughts… ;)

    Still, I suppose I classify non functional things as art, and functional things as craft, although someone making a craft they’ve designed themselves is artistic :D

  9. marjorie says:

    I think it is all art in one way or another….I believe there is certainly art in making a quilt of any kind or size…so; both for me.

  10. Kathrynn says:

    I think that it is both. There is true beauty in a well designed and crafted quilt, whether or not it goes on the wall.

  11. mammafairy says:

    I think all art is craft, just not all craft is art!, Craft implies ability honed and practised, art implies something emotional about the use or viewing of it. I think. But the edges are blurry!

  12. I think that craft is the doing/the skill and art is the result. Mr X Stitch is utterly awesome!

  13. Flying Blind says:

    I think of myself as a crafter, but it’s how you use it that defines if it’s Art or Craft… probably x

  14. I think any form of quilting is an art. I consider my quilts to be my artwork. And the ones, where I followed a pattern, maybe are more like a paint by numbers verses a completely original piece of art. But even then, I’m choosing my own fabric and making it myself, which means it is still my art, because I am making it my own by adding my own artistic touches and tastes. Also, other forms of sewing, such as designing clothing, home decor, etc. is just as much an art as anything else. I think it becomes a craft when you use your skill as a profession and/or are not creating products. Like, if I was a seamstress who only mended clothing or hemmed curtains, it would be more of a craft than an art. But if I bought fabric and made a dress, quilt, purse, pillow, etc., it can be considered art.

    Britannica Online defines art as “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.”

  15. Jennie P. says:

    I feel that all craft is art. :) When someone makes a quilt, and they put their blood, sweat, and tears into it, or if it’s just some cross stitch–they are “crafting” art. I don’t know if I’m making any sense at all. But I do believe all crafters are artists in their own way.
    The dictionary defines Craft as:
    1: skill in planning, making, or executing : dexterity
    2. a : an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill

    And if you look at the synonyms for Craft in the dictionary, the first one is Art!! So, yeah, long story short, we crafters are artists.

  16. Pattyskypants says:

    yeah, no, I’m not quite sure how you jump from “is it art or is it craft” to “if a man makes a quilt, it’s art; if a woman makes a quilt,” etc. Artists like Carol Bryer Fallert, Jane Sassaman and Susan Shie are not “crafting;” they are most definitely “arting.” Kaffe Fasset is definitely “crafting,” but not Michael James who is most often “arting.” The difference is intention, I believe. One of my first quilting friends back in the early ’70s was a professor of sculpture who was transgendering male to female and his first “quilt” consisted of pieces of fabric stapled to a background. It was displayed in a show of his “art.” The bottom line is that people will pay for what they want and if they want art then don’t sell them something made to put on their furniture and by all means don’t worry about popular colors or use patterns and don’t do custom work! LOL

  17. MissMary says:

    For me, it’s in the approach. Is paint-by-number still art? What if you use different colors than the ones recommended by the package? To me, the defining characteristic is originality. I consider myself an artist because I am a quilter who puts my own original spin onto every quilt I create, whether I’m going by a pattern or not. It comes from the same place that drives me to add fresh spinach and mozzarella to my frozen pizzas or peas and carrots to my ramen.

    On the other hand, I believe Western culture or pop culture has dishonored the term “craft” to include all sorts of paltry things. We’ve forgotten that “crafts” are created by craftsmen (and women) via good craftsmanship. My grandfather works in wood. He creates everything from butter knives to models of Moby Dick and Captain Ahab. Is he an artist? I think so. But woodworking is traditionally considered a “craft”, and I’d sooner call him a craftsman than an artist. Semantics? Maybe. But all this to say, I feel the connotations of these two words are too limited for the scope of what we are trying to express. To that end, the dichotomy is false, and the continuum is flawed. By nature, art/craft must be left somewhat undefined. Otherwise, it ceases to be what it is: something out of the ordinary that gives us pause, that evokes some feeling, that enriches our lives.

  18. for me……. art is in the eye of the beholder. If it’s in your house and it makes you smile, you can call it what you like. There will always be someone who begs to differ, but then, they are entitled to their opinion too. I have my children’s “art” hung adjacent to oil paintings from very well know “artists”. Both make me smile and as a rule, if it doesn’t (make me happy), I don’t have it in my house. I feel the same about the quilts I make. To me they are more than the sum of their parts, both art, craft and something else wholly intangible.




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