Hand Forged Ironwork…Art or Craft?
I recognize the fact that for centuries, there has been a longstanding debate about “What is art?” and “What is craft?” or, “Art vs. Craft.” Many folks feel to discuss the subject is folly.
I wish to address the question “Where is ironwork today?” Is it art, or is it craft? Can it be both? When is it one or the other?
I want this to be an open dialogue, so I am requesting input from you. I also ask that you get others that may not know of this blog to respond. If nothing else, it will be an interesting exchange of thoughts.
I raise these questions for a number of reasons. I will present some thoughts, and then my own conclusions.
Ironwork has long been considered by many, one of the lesser arts, that being the decorative arts.
The decorative arts, as defined by most, include much of the work known to architecture, i.e. carpentry, wood carving, stone cutting, plastering, masonry, and metalwork (forging, casting, fabricating), etc. Stained and possibly blown glass could be included.
The visual side of fine arts include drawing/painting, sculpture, etc.
Some say the difference between art and craft is that in craft, the process is dominant, and design, or the end result is the focus of art…process is not the focus.
In the example of craft, take for example the blacksmith. If the work is performed and completed in the traditionally accepted manner of the trade, and the smith is steeped in disciplined knowledge, applying years of practice to his work, coupled with an astute sense of design, proportion and style, likely the piece will be wonderful in function as well as appearance. This is what many would then refer to as craft, as the process reigns.
We then take for another example the painter, whose work is also enriched by years of discipline, visual proportion, and style, and likely it will be wonderful and highly regarded…..but here it is called art.
Is reinterpretation, or imitating of style, past or present, art or craft?
Looking again at the smith, who today uses many classic motifs, may focus on a specific style (Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau, etc.) in modern works, but reorganizing them to his/her own design….. Then we look at a stone sculpture, with the same characteristics as the above….which is art….which is craft?
With all that said, I then ask these questions:
“Is true art dependant on the fact that it is truly an original idea, especially based on what is popular for the day/period?”
“Is something functional automatically placed into the realm of craft?”
“Are art and craft equals, but different depending on the audience?”
On another, but similar note:
“Can a style of work be copyrighted?”
And there are obviously many more questions and directions this dialogue can take. I have no defined answers or conclusions to this debate, and recognize we will not settle anything in this dialogue. It will be interesting to hear from you, and that alone will give impetus to these questions. It may provide insite as to how ironwork is looked upon in today’s culture.
“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”……..Marilyn vos Savant, Columnist.
mark - March 6, 2010
“Art vs Craft” the endless conflict. Why can’t they just learn to get along?