Friday, August 22, 2014

Art Vs. Craft

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "art" and the concept of "craft" lately. While I was watching MasterChef (yes, of course I watch that), there was an episode where one of the judges talked about how cooking isn't an ART—it is a CRAFT and there are rules and training and a right way and a wrong way. This really hit home to me. I thought this likely also applied to writing in some ways. So I hunted down some definitions.

ART: noun: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

: works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings

CRAFT: noun: an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands

: a job or activity that requires special skill

verb: to make or produce (something) with care or skill

I find these definitions really fascinating. They are somewhat similar, but the small differences say a lot to me. ART is something of the imagination, meant to be beautiful and thoughtful and emotional. CRAFT is something skillfully made with your hands, to make something with care and skill. So where does WRITING fall? Is it an art? A craft?

Probably something in the middle. Or perhaps what writing is changes based on what you intend that writing for. I think as a hobbyist, a writer has the liberty to focus more on ART, but when you are seeking commercial publishing a writer need to focus on CRAFT just as much. The drafting process I would say is a more creative, imaginative process that I would liken to making ART. The editing process is a skillful, intense activity that certainly feels more like a CRAFT.

I'm starting to think that realizing this duality of writing is key to improvement. Because I've seen some writers focus entirely on their ART, and they stay in this world where they put the creative process first and don't think they need the CRAFT part because feelings and passion will carry them through. And I've seen some writers obsess over CRAFT and strangle their ART to the point that their worlds have no life because they think if the words are perfect then the story is.

In reality, CRAFT augments ART. It facilitates its understanding, provides a filter that helps people see the imagination and creativity and passion in the creator. And ART illuminates CRAFT, providing the spark that takes a good "product" and makes it something bigger.

ART and CRAFT are both essential in creative professions, and striking that balance between the two is, I believe, when the magic happens.


  1. Natalie, how are you always so wise and eloquent? :) I've noticed this same push-and-pull between the two in writing. Definitely a balancing act.

    I think there is art in cooking as well!

  2. Well said Natalie! Not only do we strive to achieve the balance of art and craft in our own writing, but it's a challenge also when we try to critique the work of other writers. We want to give feedback that encourages this balance. It's not easy!

  3. This never occurred to me before. Thanks for your insight!

  4. I think you're right- it does fall in the middle. The same does apply to cooking.

  5. Yes! I think about this all the time…while watching MasterChef! I'm not even kidding! It was Graham talking about Francis B, right? I think a lot of artists recoil in horror (and denial) when people tell them there's any sort of right or wrong when creating. I was reminded of the saying, "You have to know the rules before you can break them." Francis claimed he loved gastronomy and food chemistry, but it became really obvious really fast that those were just his fancy words for random experimentation. There was absolutely no understanding of the science behind what he did. He didn't know what rules enough to break them, and he didn't even know what rules he was breaking while he broke them. Deviation is brilliant when it's intentional, committed, and self-aware. That's when it end up looking easy. That's when it looks like art.

  6. Sorry for my spelling errors, haha, I was excited.

  7. I think that all ART is CRAFT, as long as there is thought and intent behind it, whether that intent is to be commercially successful or not.

  8. I agree with JeffO in that it is the intent. Art without craftsmanship cannot reach its full potential.

  9. I think the real difference comes when we emphasize that crafts are made with the hands. I believe art can sometimes transcend the senses and does not have to be created through hands. I am not saying that one is better than the other; they come from different realms and while they intermingle in lots of ways, they can be very different. Do you agree that art can transcend and be made without the senses?