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The Art of Craft

From Bamboushay Pottery – Despite obvious grumbling from the world of artistic hierarchy the fine arts and design are creating work upon and across a fine line that separates the two. For me and many others involved in the world of the arts, the mention of “craft” is sometimes met with sharp eyebrows and crossed arms. Late in college and thirsty to mix my aesthetics with a penchant for function I convinced the head of my college’s Art Department to oversee an independent study in making artful furniture.  I was the only student and we called it, “The Chair: Questioning the Anti-Experimental” for which I received one credit.  We met weekly in the metal shop to share Art News articles and discuss my eager craft; a laminated Greco-Roman wooden chaise, a small rounded ottoman and my modern steel chair of perfect geometry.  I even got into the cushion-making, but my handicraft was welcomed as exactly that—my art would require more focus.

Many great works are born of mistakes, an unexpected fleck of yellow in a paint stroke that changes the way you see color or the clay vase that slips in your hands and finds itself adorning shelves reincarnated as sculpture.  Some might say that appreciation for artistic “snafus” is a devaluing of artistic vision—the ability to create what has been imagined, but the process in between the idea and the finished piece is often more exemplary of an exploratory mind.  

After the nineteenth century, art took a sharp turn that left craft in a world of categorized antiquities.  Art could define and redefine itself as it liked—uncanny, expressionistic, industrialized and self-reflective, and all equally authentic.  The word “craft” became a less desirable moniker for its historical roots of purposeful art.   

The snobbery in believing that function implies anti-art is implicit, but it does pose a considerable question: what makes craft an art?  It has always been curious to me what makes something artful, as a piece and as a process.  It seems that the basics to any medium are design, which is ultimately a game plan for a creative idea.  Perhaps design and process are not one in the same, but there is something to their shared objective that makes it easy to find a piece in a room full of pots.

Bamboushay Pottery
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
284 494 0393

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