Art Vs. Craft Debate: An In-depth Exploration

We look at artifacts at open-air markets and wonder about art and what craft is. We don’t question art, though, on a pedestal in galleries! We know this but still, question the difference between art and craft.

We find it easier to talk to crafters at markets. And get tongue-tied when speaking to an artist at exhibition openings.

Art differs from craft based on convention and our preconceptions. Art stands above craft as belonging to the mind of aesthetes. Craft is less precious and touched.

Art’s aesthetics is almost untouchable. Art and craft are collaborative artistic expressions.

We know we’re prejudiced when we value art above craft. We can’t pinpoint why there’s a distinction between art and craft. We question these artistic expressions and wonder what distinguishes art from crafts.

We look for the meaning of craft concerning art. We look for value in both and at what might bind these together.

Difference Between Art And Craft

difference between art and craft

What drives a distinction between art and craft? What is the essence of these artistic expressions? Can we speak of value when we say beauty or aesthetics?

These aspects pop up in thinking about the arts and doing crafts. There is an air of pretentiousness and snobbery associated with art.

Art appears singled out as beauty and based on philosophical ideals or values of beauty. Craft too can be the beautiful works of artisans. There is pretentiousness involved.

The talk about art and snobbery makes one think again about why there’s no craft snob. And, how come talk about art pushes craft into a back seat?

Art historians and critics (though not all) say craft is a lesser artistic expression. When considering art and the artists, the experience of a gallery is hard to ignore.

We’re taught how to stand and view art in a gallery-like an expert! We even doubt ourselves and think we don’t always get this right.

We also learn to think of art and craft in different ways. The difference is that artistic talent links to an artist’s name and where the exhibition is.

Art, Artefact, And Craft

difference between art and craft

Art has an emotional, philosophical, spiritual, and aesthetic value beyond skill. We tend to think of art differently than we do of craft. We distinguish based on value between craft and an artist’s work.

We place value on art. Sometimes we can’t put the same value on decorative and practical nomadic rugs, though these have intellectual and spiritual significance.

Art has intrinsic value. We value the artist as much as the artwork. Yet we seldom know the name of the craftsperson or artisan. So are the designs of the rugs mentioned above and carpets symbolic to those who created these. We know less about these symbols and their uses.

Early Stages Distinctions Between Art And Craft

what is the difference between art and craft

The distinction between art and craft became significant about 500 years ago. This was a distinction used in the western world.

Artisans – those who did the art and high-end craft – belonged to guilds then. They worked as apprentices and as a collective.

How we value art and craft is centuries old. We remain influenced in our attitude towards these.

Early Divisions: Art Versus Craft

craft vs art

There was a change at the time of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. This was as a group of artists valued their artistic talent. They wanted recognition for their individuality.

These artists decided to break with the tradition of guilds. They did not want to work as apprentices.

This group demanded recognition for their works and talents. This was on an individual basis, not as a collective. A social consciousness grew and pushed individuals away from the guild. Artists stopped working as a collection of artisans.

This was the beginning of divisions between art and crafts. Belonging or not to a guild led to this distinction between art and craft. It is interesting that craft lies within the compass of art and not the other way round.

The circle drawn around art either excludes craft or decides on the overlap.

This brings up many conversations on the value of the Mona Lisa painting to a vase, a quilt, or a violin. Are these art or craft? Not every painting or statue made has a practical function. We associate craft with such practical value, though.

Forerunners Of The Today’s Arts Grouping

difference between art and craft

Legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci and sculptor Michelangelo had talent. Art historians say they were also born at the right time. Shortly before, the idea of artists hardly existed.

Artists and craftspeople or artisans belonged to guilds (see above). Here they worked as apprentices or journeymen. They were not recognized for their individual talents but as a collective only.

Around 1400, people started to draw a line between art and craft. This was in Florence with the Renaissance humanism movement. They rethought classical Greek and Roman works.

Their works were symbolic of an era rather than them as individuals. Now, an individual’s creativity became valued. This was rather than collective production customary in guilds.

This shift meant that painters or artists got recognition for their artistic talents. This move solidified a distinction between artists and artisans. This distinction became based on status and even elevated the arts over crafts.

The individual talents of artists like Da Vinci and Michelangelo mattered. This was more than those of artisans who remained in guilds. They produced candelabras, vases, gold jewelry, and other decorative pieces.

But their position, despite making high-ranking artifacts, was inferior to that of artists.

This kind of division between art and craft has continued for centuries. Art historians now are looking deeper into this division. This is especially how the western world thinks of art versus craft.

Historians say that on a philosophical level art is elevated above craft.

Crafting Art And Craft’s Relation To Art

difference between art and craft

A craftsperson makes artistic artifacts with functional or practical uses. These can be ceramics, glass, wood, or stone. Most of it is textiles, flower crafts, leather, clothing, needlework, and paper crafts.

The items are done as a collective. Still, the artistic value is not that of a production line of mass-produced items.

Art and an artist’s work is a profession. We give status to the artist, whereas a craftsperson is an artisan or skilled worker. Though we value the craft person’s work, art carries a higher value (even if it’s in monetary value).

Art also stands out through its aesthetic value or beauty. We argue that art shouldn’t be reproduced. Not even by the artist. Artworks are numbered in a series but are not duplicated.

This is as a matter of authenticity. Craft is copied, even replicated, and this is the case for money in many instances. The value of art is superior to craft.

difference between art and craft

Art stands out as a creative skill that involves a person’s imagination. Whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, or architecture, we speak of the emotional power of artwork. We are keen to look for personal meanings in artworks.

Craft is what’s made by hand and can be reproduced. It is the nature of craft versus art and the known artist. Two or more people can work on the same project, and making items carry anonymity, not out of choice, though.

The way to think about craft is to look at this artistic expression’s relation to art. As craft falls into a definition of art, this implies that craft is not out-rightly art.

This narrow thinking has been shifting, especially in folk art. Specific reference is made to an exhibition at the Tate Gallery entitled Folk Art.

Narrowing In On Art And Craft

difference between art and craft

We do know what art is from many definitions. Art is unstructured and open-ended. Art expresses emotions, feelings, and sometimes an artist’s vision.

We also think of craft as a form of work, making objects by hand. Yet the artistic merit given to art is aesthetic, whereas craft remains a skill anyone can learn.

Craft is the creation of goods. Craft is a product of the mind and is often duplicated. A flow of emotion is part of art, and ideas and feelings are thought to be from the heart and soul.

From an ordinary or layman’s perspective, we know that artists have their names tied to their works. Their works stand for them, and sometimes the artist is better known by their names than their works or vice versa.

This might not be the case with crafters or artisans, though. What appears is that most crafters are faceless (and nameless).

There are instances now when the distinctions between craft and art seem to be narrowing. One hears art historians say, pointing to a beaded skirt, a headdress, a totem pole, or a sculptural vase, that’s art!

A movement in the late 1890s, the arts, and craft movement worked for the recognition of crafts. The group rebelled against the industrialization of goods. This put crafts in focus.

They drew attention to the artistic value of crafts. The work of William Morris, his furniture designs, and wallpaper designs have influenced artists.

Art Architecture & Craft Collaboration

difference between art and craft

Between the Arts and Craft Movement and modernism, Bauhaus headed out as a craft guild in 1919. Architect Walter Gropius took a craft-based approach to make beautiful and functional pieces.

He saw artisans and designers work together. Visual artists Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, and Josef Albers taught at Bauhaus.

By 1923, Gropius realized his vision did not make financial sense. In an era of industrialization, Gropius punted the slogan ‘Art into Industry’. Art and craft stayed combined, but new directions evolved.

Studios for metalworking, cabinetry, weaving, pottery, typography and wall painting started. Designs like Marcel Breuer’s chair and Anni Albers’ textiles and weavings hit the public eye.

The Bauhaus movement merged art, craft, and technology and influenced modernism. Lighting fixtures and tableware became accents in interior design.

This period was also the height of typography which led to today’s corporate advertising.

difference between art and craft


The tendency to want to debunk a sharp division between what is an art and what’s craft is ongoing. It is a conversation worth having for craft to have a rightful position.

Follow Proactive Creative on Pinterest for more arty tips, reviews, and tutorials! 


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.

You may also like these articles

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.