Art in Crafts?

I’m seeing myself in a whole new light these days, as I recently learned that all the time my family and friends complimented me on being artsy, they really should have been referring to me as craftsy.  This notion has been bothering me, but I’m not sure why. I mean, is being an “Artist” more prestigious than being a “Crafter”? And really what is the difference? 

Art is exploratory, limitless, and is described as an unrestrained form of work that expresses feelings and visions.  Craft is specific, defined, and is said to be a purposeful form of work that is made by hand. With one you gaze at it on a wall perhaps, and it makes you want to…emote.  With the other you hold it in your hand, and it makes you want to…use it. Also, an Artist is thought to have an innate ability to create, while a Crafter is taught skills and techniques to produce.

Can an Artist produce a Craft? Can a Crafter create Art? Alas, this a conundrum for another day.

If you define yourself as a Crafter like me, then you have cause to celebrate, as March is National Craft Month!  Hooray for us who make functional things!!  Among the crafts I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid are crocheting, sewing, and jewelry making.  But for most of my life, playing with paper has been my craft of choice. Whether water marked, gloss coated or hot pressed, I just can’t wait to get my hands on sheets of it. And with papers available like rice, vellum and mulberry, project possibilities are endless!

Over the years, I’ve learned techniques from instructors in in-person classes such as Zentangling, online courses like LifeBook, and from step-by-step directions printed in various reference books. All have helped me hone my skills, but there has been one teacher who has been most influential. We didn’t meet in an art class or a course of study, we were introduced by a mutual friend at a British Ladies’ Supper Club dinner about 13 years ago.

Jan – artist and crafter!

Lucky for me, our ex-pat circle expanded to include her, Jan. Jan is both an artist and crafter extraordinaire! We got to know each other on tube trips into London, movie days at the Odeon, and walks in Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. We also volunteered together at the Orleans Gallery where we gardened as members of the “Beautification” committee.  But what may have bonded us most, was crafting.

Now I could never have imagined the types and amounts of art supplies Jan had, nor her true artistic ability, until she invited me over one Friday afternoon. While I had a few markers, pens, and pencils in a Tupperware-like container, Jan had a whole room dedicated to crafting! In it stood a sturdy printer’s cabinet, originally from a newspaper shop that offered drawer after drawer of rubber stamps, ink pads, paper in all shapes and sizes, embossing tools, powders, paper punchers, glues, washi tapes and even a heat gun!

One of her latest creations!

From my journal: March 12, 2010, Twickenham, England

“Jan is an excellent teacher – very calming and encouraging!  She is so good at designing; I am learning a lot!”

One craft session led to another, then another.  Soon we were meeting just about every week. Borrowing a sentiment from my friend, Donna’s husband, John, who said, “There is only a two-letter difference between craft and crap,” our hands-on sessions became known as Craft Crap Days. How funny, how poignant! Other friends, like Genean came from time to time to join in the fun.

During that year, Jan taught me things like, embossing, rubber stamping and decoupaging.  I also learned to let go of preconceived ideas, and that yes, I could mix mediums (there are no rules!) and true, designs can be asymmetrical! And I discovered, you really can find art in crafts.  (ART is actually in the word CRAFTS! Ha!)

From my journal: September 16, 2017, Newbury Park, California

“Jan’s artwork and article have just been published in Somerset Digital Studio – wow!!  So impressive and so inspiring!”

One of Jan’s image from “Ageless Whimsy”- Somerset Digital Studio, Autumn 2017

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at a craft; pottery, knitting, weaving, or whatever your heart desires, now is a great time to give it a go.  In addition to learning new skills, crafting has been known to relieve stress, and you just might discover a new way to express yourself!  Oh, and there’s the fun social aspect, too.  What can be better than hanging out with friends and doing something creative?  Whether you choose to learn something new or reconnect with a craft you loved as a kid, here’s wishing you Happy Crafting!

4 thoughts on “Art in Crafts?

  1. When I do crafty stuff with the grandkids Steve says to them, “Oh you’re doing arts and crap with Nani.” Thanks for the insight Sharon.


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