Art or Craft?

Art or craft.  This is a topic that comes up a lot among henna artists, and today I was hanging out with silk painters and the same issue arose.  One person complained that there were people “out there” who don’t take the art seriously and they production paint and sell things cheaply — which cheapens the Art and devalues the Artists…. so they should charge more.

Seriously? I think there is a wide spectrum between art and craft and FINE ART and low-end art.

My parents are fine artists.  They SEE something universal and try to convey that with their artwork.  My father has never achieved his goal and thus has never exhibited his artwork.  If fact, I’ve never seen his paintings and sculptures, but he talks about them a lot.  My mother hasn’t quite reached Nirvana, yet, either, but that hasn’t stopped her from sharing her art photographs with others.

Me, I’m not sure I do art.  I make things because it makes me supremely happy, and I like to share what I make with other people because it makes them happy.  I can draw flowers for 6 hours straight and if my clients are happy, so am I.  I get into the moment of creating that henna drawing and try to infuse each one with joy.  But none of us are confused about whether or not it’s Fine Art.

I draw henna designs on shirts and bags and lamps and silk.  They make me happy.  But I don’t see them as ART.  I’m a craftsperson.  I do the best I can, but no-one is going to see the meaning of life, the universe and everything by looking at my henna or other drawings.  However, if they make people smile, then my work is done.

henna inspired silk blouse
Hand-painted and jeweled silk blouse
Henna on lampshade
Indian-style bridal design hand-drawn in henna on a lampshade

Money. The silk Artist who was complaining today said that the other folks who sell things for prices that most people can afford were selling themselves short and cheapening all the other artists’ work as well.

I’m all for charging what an item is worth.  But I have to admit that my t-shirts which take 1/2 hour to draw are not worth as much as the blouse I hand-dyed, took 3 days to embellish, and encrusted with swarkovski crystals and glitter.  If I charged what the blouse was worth, it would not sell.  The silk Artist would say it’s perfectly OK for it not to sell because you maintain its value that way.  The practical person in me says, “Um, I have to contribute to the mortgage payments and food budget…”

The silk Artist lamented that there are no real patrons of Art anymore….me, too.  I’d love a sugar daddy…um, patron.  But for every Michealangelo who was patronized, there were a zillion guys out there selling their stuff by the river trying to earn enough to pay their rent…. Did those popular artists who hawked their wares by the Tiber cheapen Michealangelo’s work?  No. But I sure hope they were able to pay their bills!

I think there is a place for all of us on the art spectrum.  There’s the stuff we produce with as little labor for the results as possible (my t-shirts) and there’s the labors of love (my silk blouse — which I did not sell; I had to give it to a friend b/c I knew it would make her supremely happy.)  The silk Artist creates such beautiful and intricate things.  She pushes herself and her techniques and the artform in bold directions.  The rest of us are inspired by her, but we can’t afford her work.  I hope she has a patron….

Anybody want to be my patron?  Hmmm.  Guess I’d better keep making things that sell…

reposted from Musings from a Hennaphile, September 23, 2010

Share
This entry was posted in art, craft, creativity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *