Course Description

This interdisciplinary fine arts course results in the development of a body of work around contemporary art topics. Research, concept development and studio practice will combine to broaden your skills and ideas. Stimulating assignments together with experimentation promote analysis and understanding of contemporary art ideas, world cultures and historical periods, and other areas of visual information. Studio production and the communication of concepts visually, verbally and in written form will be combined in this thought-provoking course

Friday, October 14, 2011

Craft or Fine Art?

One of my most recent mediums is carving soap. Some artists consider this craft and others a form of fine arts. The history of carving soap stems back to Northern Thailand where they carved soap flowers to sell at local bazaars. In the past America has been carving soap as a hobby since the late 1800's. Carving soap can also be linked to prisoners in jail carving the soap out of what they could find in their cells. I understand the context of why the soap is being carved should be taken into consideration but should it still be considered craft or in modern day times should it be considered fine arts? Discuss.


  1. As a fiber artist, I have long been faced with the whole debate on art versus craft. Some of the underlying questions; first and foremost is the work art or craft and what is the difference. Personally I have defined it around concept. Craft is primarily about technique and usually about utilitarian issues but not always, whereas art is based more on the concept but should still display technique. I would also argue that a finely crafted object is every bit as valid as a good work of art. And of course the lines are blurred between art and craft. This debate has gone on for centuries especially in fiber art now that so many contemporary artists are employing the same soft materials that fiber craftsmen have used throughout time.

  2. I agree with what Char is saying. Concept is what I've thought is the main difference between art and craft, and skill is something that should be present in both. I've also been debating if it is even necessary to differentiate art and craft because the line between the two seem to be getting blurrier and blurrier.
    I think the fact that you are carving soap and you are doing so with the knowledge of the history and reasoning behind it you are approaching it in a conceptual way. I think this means that it is fine arts and even boarder line art appropriation. What are your intentions behind carving soap? Are there other reasons you choose soap as a medium?

  3. Someone recently told me that "The way you tell a craft from an art is how your brain work when it is acting them out. If your brain is constantly thinking and problem solving then it's a "Art". However if your brain can slip into a meditative state while creating, then it is a craft. Craft takes less mental power to produce."
    I do no think this is true at all and I do not understand how that can be seen as any kind of standard. I paint portraits and slip into a meditative state all the time. And with some artist they have to come to some sort of meditation in order to create. I do not things that Craft is any different with this. Who is to say that soap carving is not art. It takes skill and planning just as art does. I agree with Megan that the craft/art line is blurry, however I think there should be a line between them. Perhaps not designated as craft or art, but rather hobby vs. profession. I do not mean to be demeaning by saying this but I would never want my work to be compared to a soccer mom who occasionally paints flowers for fun. There has to be a difference between these things. I don't pretend to know what that is, and maybe it's just my pride that wants there to be a difference. But still I think there is one somewhere, even if it can't be explained.

  4. Let's add another dimension to the discussion of art vs craft by looking at professional artists as opposed to naive or folk artists. How do you classify one? Is it by virtue of education and training as opposed to being self taught? What if the naive painter produces work that is as good as the professionally trained painter. Is the work of one more valid or valued than the work of the other?
    Should the work be judged on its own merit; technical skill, aesthetics, and concept (which could be utilitarian)?

  5. During this modern time, whether the artist is a professional artist with a degree or a naive hobby artist, the internet has allowed everyone to reach the same intelligence through the world wide web. Therefore, is there such a thing as a naive artist when all artist can acess the same information through the internet?

  6. I would like to add in the idea that fine art can function metaphorically, that the viewer is reminded of other things beyond the immediately identifiable one.