Down the centuries, craftsmen have been held to be distinct from artists. Craftsmen, such as woodworkers and plasterers, belonged to their own guild, whilst the artist was regarded as a more solitary being confined to an existence in a studio or attic. In addition, whilst craftsmen could rely on a reasonably steady income, artists were often living such a hand-to-mouth existence that the term 'starving artist' became a byword to describe the impoverished existence of artists generally. Even today, the lifestyles of the craftsman and the artist could not be more different. However, what exactly separates craft from art from both a practical and a philosophical view?
One of the main distinctions between art and craft resides in the nature of the finished product or piece. Essentially, the concept of craft is historically associated with the production of useful or practical products. Art, on the other hand, is not restricted by the confines of practicality. The craftsman's teapot or vase should normally be able to hold tea or flowers while the artist's work is typically without utilitarian function. In fact, the very reason for art and its existence is purely to 'be', hence the furlined teacup created by Dada artist, Meret Oppenheim. The 'cup' as such was quite obviously never intended for practical use any more than a chocolate teapot might have been.
Artistry in craftsmanship is therefore merely a byproduct, since the primary focus is on what something does, not what it is. The reverse is true for art. Artistic products appeal purely at the level of the imagination. As the celebrated philosopher, Kant, stated, 'At its best, art cultivates and expands the human spirit.' Whether the artist responsible for a piece of art has sufficient talent to achieve this is another matter. The goal of all artists nevertheless remains the same: to produce a work that simultaneously transcends the mundane and uplifts the viewer. In contrast, the world of the craftsman and his work remain lodged firmly in the practicality of the everyday world. An object produced by an artist is therefore fundamentally different from the one produced by a craftsman.
Complete the table below.
Choose 10 answers from the box and write the correct letter, A-L, next to questions 1-10.
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