The Intersection of Art and Craft, and the Whys of Inspiration 

Do art and craft intersect?  Or are they parallel paths?

Craft is technical proficiency: the knowing how to do something and using skills to achieve a desired result.  Art, well, everyone has their own definition, but doesn’t art have to have some inspiration behind it? Can art be possible if there is only craft involved in the making?

And what is inspiration? Half of my painting and drawing is because I want to see if I can do something, not because I am trying to communicate something or I have some ethereal vision.  I want to see if I can make something that looks like the flower growing in my garden.

Does that make it not art? Is it just an exercise at that point? If someone seeing it is inspired by it, or it moves them – regardless of my intention when creating it – does that make it art? (There’s another post in here about artist intention versus audience reception….)

And does the desire to recreate something I see count as inspiration? Does wanting to tell a story I find interesting qualify? Does it need a higher message to be art?

The question of “Why should anyone care?” seems to be driving a lot of my creation lately. I look at things I’ve done and think, well, that is technically proficient, but ultimately…boring.  My creation ability seems to be well suited to knitting socks and sweaters and less well matched to painting and writing.

Perhaps I have an antiquated view of art in my head. Art as the fine and rarefied thing you see hanging in a museum (which, realistically, I won’t ever be featured in), craft is the thing that everyone can do. Is there art in craft? Certainly. That passion, that inspiration that crosses the divide between the two, though, what is that made of? Where does that come from? Does it start with wondering if you can do something? Does it start with seeing God in a sunset? Does it start with practice or talent?

There’s a loaded word. Talent. I’ve grown to hate it. So much stuffed into one little word. Expectations, limitations, fantasy.  Being told I’m talented feels like a dismissal, as if I’m not working at what I do, it just happens magically with no effort.  This is hogwash. Being told I’m talented also ranks up there with people saying they don’t know where I find the time to do art, or that they could never do what I do.  It feels like a way of telling me it’s frivolous.  That doing something I’m already talented at (if I even am) is a waste of time I could be using to do…what? Accounting? Dishes? Whatever it is that other people use their free time to do? Something that is qualified as work. Something that isn’t useless.

Clearly, I don’t have any grand answers. I paint and draw because I find things beautiful or fascinating, and I want to create something that is beautiful or fascinating.  I also paint because I like finding out if I can do it.  I write because I have stories in my head that I like to put down on paper, and also because I want to see if I can do it. I knit because I like socks that fit and warm sweaters, and also to see if I can do it.  (Seeing a theme here?) Is that enough? For me, for right now, yes it is. For other people? I don’t know.  I don’t know if people will ever find my writing captivating, or my art inspiring.  There is no objective measure though, so I will keep creating as I can and see where it takes me. At the very least I will have made something pretty at the end of the day. And my socks will fit.

What inspires you to create? Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter? Does the word talent make you grind your teeth?

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5 thoughts on “The Intersection of Art and Craft, and the Whys of Inspiration 

  1. I am inspired to create from emotion, as I’m a feely-feely-feeler. The dedication it takes to work to get good at something is harder for me. I want to spread my ribs and bleed on paper, not learn theories and techniques. I love reading your thoughts on craft, art, inspiration! And I don’t think our paintings boring. I see the technique and effort and growing skills. Interesting to read of your “can I do it?” drive! Thanks for this insight into your creative brain!

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    1. This is interesting. I often write blog posts or poetry from a place of emotion. Very raw, often private. Fiction and art has always been planned process for me. I’m terrible at abstract art, because I am always trying to figure out what I’m doing, rather than just playing. I never feel creative, so I look for skills and technique that can fill in for creativity. And that’s when I wonder if I’m simply doing a craft, or of I’m making art.

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  2. “Being told I’m talented feels like a dismissal, as if I’m not working at what I do, it just happens magically with no effort. This is hogwash.”

    this fits so well with growth mindset/fixed mindset — but from the other direction, as if *other* people have a fixed mindset about us when they say, oh, you’re so talented. like they don’t see the hard work that has to take that talent someplace.

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    1. Exactly. It is such a weird limiter for both sides. You’re either “talented” or you are aren’t, there’s no room for growth on with side. The talented person no longer has freedom to screw up and experiment to get better, and the “not talented” has no room to work on something and learn.

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