Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art or craft?

Episode 2 of Y Knit, Art or Craft? is asking a fascinating question. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their interview with Sabrina Gschwandtner, and a lively discussion is going on in the Y Knit Ravelry group about what people think of their own handwork: is it art, or is it craft? (Send them your opinion and enter the contest!)

Since I'm not really interested in the contest prize (sorry guys--I have really limited bookshelf space, so I'm big on using the public library!), I thought I'd ask the question that I think of whenever the "art vs. craft" question is raised: why do you ask? We inherited this distinction from Victorians who were compelled to classify everything into hierarchies. Is even asking yourself this question useful? Are you engaging in the marketplace, so need to think to think about whether to sell your creations in a boutique (craft) or gallery (art)?

I spent untold hours considering this question until I gained a little historic perspective by reading Rozsika Parker's history of women and their embroidery, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. Why do most women give their handwork away? Why are female-dominated creative endeavors usually seen as "craft" rather than "art?" If these questions interest you, read this book. And if you haven't heard it, Philosophy Talk's What is Art? is well worth a listen.

Of course, Timson doesn't care about such distinctions. He has a more Eastern approach. Rather than if his knitting is "art" or "craft," he asks himself if he's finding joy and fulfillment in the work.

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