When discussing 'art' with people, I often find that there is a blurry line line between when an object is 'art' and when it is 'craft'. Because I am a silversmith and art jeweler, usually thought of as fine craft, the line for me is even more unclear. I believe a beautiful and well crafted saddle is just as much a work of art as an oil painting, requiring the same attention, design abilities and skill. Native American Beadwork, ribbonwork or jewelry also has the same requirements.
For me, as the curator of an art gallery, I try to remain very broad in how I approach an object, or piece of art. I ask myself several questions. Did it require the application of good design? Has a 'craft' been elevated to art? Is the 'maker' trying to push the envelope of their work to a new level?
As an example, my mother was a quilter. Her pieces were often broad in their color palette and used mixed patterns and colors, as well as texture. If you have ever known someone who quilts, you know they 'hoard' color pattern and texture just waiting til it is the perfect component for a new piece of art. For me, a fine quilt is craft and art.
The underlying question really is not one between fine craft and fine art, but one of creativity and approaching a media or craft form and taking it to it's highest level. As a silversmith, I draw each piece, working on the design and flow and beauty of a finished buckle or pendant. Sure, it's fine craft, but the process of creativity takes it to the level of art.
An appreciation for the value of fine crafts as art is a part of my approach to the gallery. I am just as likely to show a gourd with pyrography as I am a fine oil painting, based on it's beauty as an object and the level of skill.
Musings by Bruce Carter, Owner/Curator of Tallgrass Art Gallery