Wednesday 14 March 2007

A Working Knowledge (in which there are two cents)

I am not an artist. I am a scrabbler, a transformer, a put-back-togetherer. Blank canvasses frighten me, but give me a task or a constraint and I flourish. Having not been trained in any of the arts, I have only a working knowledge of the different schools, different influences, different conversations that make up the "art world". That being said, someone recently uttered the "That's not art, that's craft" line, which struck a note with me. It was as if to imply one was of more importance than the other. In all fairness, I did not ask how this person valued art and craft or where, in their opinion, the line is. For it's a blurry line. It's not even a line, it's an open field as far as I can see.

Reading the articles in the "Golden Hands" books, which were printed in the early 70's, is like a draw from a fresh well. There is some history:

some articles on fibre and "art"and some lovely ideas (and illustrations):

some wickedly painful photos:

(oh my lord, that is just the sexiest makes me want to just tear off each little pom-pom...i digress...)

...ahem....and so much knowledge and instruction being passed on! Is this where art and craft differ? Is it the accessibility? Perhaps the closer the finished product is to human touch, the less it is regarded as art and the more as craft. If I put a beautiful embroidery as a patch on a dress or on a bag, it's craft. If I put it behind glass, it's art. For the amount of thought and effort and ingenuity and beauty are very often the same. Sometimes even the medium is the same. (Very often the gender is not, or the venue where the creation happens is not, i.e. home vs. studio, or the amount of money that's exchanged is not, but let's not get too political, eh?) Perhaps once again it's one of those false dichotomies, a question that's not appropriate, that doesn't push us in the right direction (wherever that is). Art is not craft is not art. To me, they are valued for different reasons but equally, for their stories and for the sweat and creativity that goes into them.

This was all brought back to mind when I visited the lovely Guild Shop downtown today, which is run by the Ontario Craft Council. There is a lovely exhibition opening tomorrow night called Stitch: Fibre Beyond Beauty, by various artists. They were just in the process of assembling the exhibit, and the work is exquisite and thoughtful. I found two of the artists (Thea Haines and Kate Busby) here, and Arounna Khounnoraj from Bookhou Design is part of it, and others. I'll be visiting again. (If I get more info I'll post it as well).

As for accessibility and art? I'd do two exhibits of felt sculptures at two different venues or in two different rooms - of houses, of trees, of fabric flowers, a soft wonderland of all kinds of things...and they'd be identical except that one would be called "PLEASE TOUCH" and the other would be called "BE CAREFUL" and I'd love to sit back and see what would happen, just for fun.

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