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the old, art vs craft roundrobin

updated wed 3 sep 03


wayneinkeywest on sun 31 aug 03

I've tried to stay out of this thread, not being the most literate person
among the group. But finally, I'm going to lend my $0.03 (adjusted for
Putting political correctness aside for a moment for the sake of

I was brought up believing that a craftsman was a person who, after studying
for a certain number of years, either in a field of education or under the
tutleage (sp?) of a master
was able to demonstrate a basic or more advanced proficiency in a particular
field. Didn't matter if you studied electrical appliance repair, plumbing,
cabinet-making...whatever; you had successfully completed a course of study,
and were deemed able to perform adequately or admirably in that field.

The title artist was given to a person, who, having been successfully judged
(at one point as above) a craftsman, went on to even greater accomplishments
in their chosen field.
Sometimes it is a greater attention to nuance in the work, sometimes
attention to detail, sometimes a new procedure or use of material that
garnered the respect and admiration of the _rest_ of the persons in that
field (one's peers).

We have all seen examples of lousy electrical work (to choose just one field
as an example, no offense intended or implied, ok?)
The work is done to pass code, and is probably safe, but it looks like
garbage. Things out of square, wires hanging that should be secured etc.
It works, and probably will for a long time, but it isn't pretty, and upsets
our sense of what is "right" about it. We have also seen examples of
excellence in electrical work. Lines run square and parallel, properly
conduit run level with the surrounding structure. It looks good, it gives
one a sense of quality. Looking at it inspires an inherent confidence that
the job was done right.
This is fine craft, as Vince describes below. Is it art? To some people,
it is.
I have seen truly beautiful machine wiring layouts. So perfect in design
and execution that one's breath was taken away. Every wire in place,
everything "just so". Truly a thing of beauty. Because I was then in that
field, to me that work was artistry, done by a true artist.
The same goes with plumbing and cabinetry, as I said before. Anyone can
build a table, all it takes is four legs and a top, but will it be
beautiful? Will it take our breath away?

Therein lies the difference between craft and art. I forget who first said
it, but here's a quote: "The purpose of art is to evoke a response in the
viewer. It does not matter whether a good or bad response. If there is no
response, there is no art." "Kraft" BTW, is a registered trademark for a
company that makes, among other things, macaroni and cheese :>)

Is there some reason that (as Americans) we prefer not to use adjectives?
Other languages do not change nearly as often as ours. We are the inventers
of "fast food", "instant gratification", "short-term" viewpoints, the
"sound-bite". We're in such a hurry, we as a culture. The food commercial
that promises "You can have it all done in thrity minutes or less".
Perhaps slowing down, using a few more words to _describe_ what it is we're
trying to say, is not such a bad thing. I see no reason that we can not use
"fine craftsmanship" or even "fine art" as a way of differentiation between
the ordinary and the extraordinary. Use of the adjective "fine" would NOT
imply that "plain" was bad, either. (For example...plain yogurt)
Just a way to tell the difference.

Out of deference to the female hu(person) beings on this list, I will not
launch into my rant on "political correctness". Suffice it to say that
(person)kind has gotten a bit testy of late, and needs to sit back, take a
deep breath or two, and learn to relax a bit :>) The state of Florida
started to require us to ask for sex and race on our employment applications
a few years back. Dutifully, we changed our form to ask the following
questions, and gave choices to check. I'm going to reprint the questions
and choices below. The state sued, saying that we were in violation. They
lost. Nuff said:
Sex: ( )yes ( )no ( )occasionally ( )prefer not to answer
Race: ( )human ( )non-human ( )prefer not to answer
(Hey, they required, we complied. What more did they spoketh the
judge :>)

Happy Labor Day, all
Wayne in Key West

OF COURSE craftsperson is the non-sexist reference, but that doesn't change
the fact that in many parts of the country it has become a catch-all for
every form of "craft" that ever appears at local fundraiser craft-fairs.
Too often, the terms "craftsperson" or "craftspeople" are used to simply
refer to anyone who makes anything with their hands (which IS in itself a
noble thing to do), with no qualitative judgement - in otherwords, no
implication that fine craftsmanship is a criteria at all.

I wish I could suggest a solution here, but I can't. In referring to people
who make craft items by hand, craftsperson/craftspeople/crafter are the only
terms in usage out there that are gender-inclusive, and "crafter" has even
less association with fine craft. In making the distinction of true
quality, the terms "craftsman" and "craftsmanship" are still the ones most
closely associated with "fine craft" or simply finely crafted work, deespite
the unfortunate gender reference. So yes, those terms still carry that old
baggage, and I wish there was a suitable and effective alternative.

Anyone have any other suggestions?
- Vince

iandol on tue 2 sep 03

Dear Friends,
Introducing the notion that Plumbers, Carpenters and Electricians, =
Fitters and Turners, Black Smiths and Printers are craftsmen may be =
true. But also they were and still are Tradesmen. That is, they had =
skills which others who were less fortunate could exploit.
In that sense a Potter is a Tradesman.
Best regards,
Ivor Lewis. Redhill, South Australia