Am I An Artist Making Crafts Or A Crafter Making Art?

I’m this mom who loves making art and loves making crafts and who one day decided she was an artist.  Seriously, one day I looked in the mirror and declared myself a painter. I said, “Self, from now on you will introduce yourself as an artist.” So, I did. I became an artist with one bold move. I don’t have a degree in art. I don’t have much formal training in art beyond a couple of college courses I took a lifetime ago. There are a lot of people in the art world who would call me a crafter. I don’t blame them really because they probably have studied art for years and struggled to find jobs and really put in the time to earn the title of artist. Not to mention, I do use a lot of craft supplies in my art making. I mean, scrapbook paper and even alcohol inks are things you purchase in a craft store. Fine art stores don’t even sell alcohol inks, at least not any that I have visited online.

There are so many rules around being an artist. I find this more than a little curious. I thought artists were rule breakers, deep thinkers and mad scientists, all rolled into one. Instead,  I see a lot of people spending their time trying to define people or list them on some sort of invisible hierarchy. They say, “I am this, but you are not.” Usually they just want to make sure you know that they are superior to you. I say let them feel superior. Who cares, right? They place people on lists claiming who is real and who isn’t based on their perception of skills or talents or even fame. As if that defines who anyone is or what they are capable of doing. Anyway, while they are busy defining things, you and I can keep practicing our crafts or “arts and crafts” because in the big scheme of things actually doing something is more impressive than categorizing it.

Am I an artist making crafts or a crafter making art?

In the world of creativity there are many lines drawn in the sand. People are categorized by the mediums they work in, by the style they work in, whether they are professional artists or amateurs and, of course, whether or not they are crafters or fine artists. I don’t know where I fit into all of these labels and structures. Am I an artist making crafts or a crafter making art? Am I an “outside” artist because I lack formal training? I have no idea how to describe myself. What’s so great about a one-dimensional category invented by a culture that loves to narrow people, professions, and even things down so finely that they barely exist at all anyway?

I don’t really fit into one category or another very neatly. I don’t really fit into anything very neatly, but do any of us? I don’t think so. We all have  many talents and interests that make up who we are as people. We are human beings who sometimes love and hate the exact same thing at the exact same time and who can both dance and make pasta well. We like sky diving and gardening and can work in an office all day and then go home and milk our goats. I find myself constantly shrugging off the idea that I have to be exceptional at only one thing. That I am only one thing. That’s just not true. It’s not true of any of the people I know and that is just the plain truth.

Everything I read about how to succeed in art, and even in blogging, says to find your niche and do that one thing over and over again until you master it. Write about one topic. Paint everything one way until the cows come home. “Strive to be one-dimensional!” all of the experts yell. You are never supposed to mix family with art and art with chickens and marriage with a visit to the dentist. According to all of the Internet business gurus, if you mix things together too much people just won’t understand who you are. People will be confused. People will lose interest!

I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of insulting. People are smarter than that. People know you are more than one thing because they are more than one thing too. Sometimes the dentist visit impacts your art, sometimes art impacts your crafts. Sometimes art and family collide. It says so right there in my tagline. Sometimes people want to know who you are as a real person. They want to know you share similar fears or like similar foods or dream similar dreams. They want to know it is OK to feel two seemingly opposing emotions at the same time or that smart people change their minds too or that your marriage isn’t perfect even though you can paint a gladiolus flower so beautifully it makes some people cry (that hasn’t happened to me yet, but I am keeping my dream alive that someday it will). They want to know you don’t always use the correct punctuation or have a small obsession with creating run-on sentences because that’s the way you talk when you get excited. They want to know the multifaceted you.

So, I guess I am just saying I don’t want to be defined as just an artist or just a crafter or just a mother or just someone with way too many formally stray animals roaming around her living room. I want people to say this is a real person, with a real life and she is an artist and a crafter and a spaghetti maker who sometimes fixes things with screw drivers…badly. She has strengths and flaws and weaknesses and triumphs. She has good days and bad days and celebrations and grief. I don’t want to be a niche or just one thing. I’d rather be alive, experimenting and failing, and winning while, hopefully, being interesting. I am committed to being a real person. This is my life. I make art. I make crafts. I mingle them together and make big, sloppy messes and sometimes I talk about my chickens. My life is whole. My “brand” is my whole life. It doesn’t fit into a niche. It doesn’t fit into a box. It can’t be categorized, labeled and put on a shelf.

Thank goodness!


4 thoughts on “Am I An Artist Making Crafts Or A Crafter Making Art?”

  1. As much as I love and appreciate the Fine Arts (and I do), I have always had an incredible admiration for the Decorative Arts or Folk Arts. (Do you like how I capitalized all those to make them sound official?) There is something amazing to me about the person who first looked at her husband’s old socks and thought, “I could make a monkey out of those!” or the people worldwide who only owned one wooden chest for all their belongings, but painted it to be an object of beauty. That universal desire to create and to make our worlds beautiful and meaningful – I love it. I love it just as much as I love the work of Vermeer or Van Gogh or Caravaggio. It is not the same, but it is not less. Not to me.

    1. I feel the same way. I think that’s why it irritates me so much when I see artists sort of putting down other creative people. I love Folk Art too. I think I love it because it is so accessible. It’s amazing how talented and creative people can be when they are busy turning “nothing” into something quite beautiful. I recently received a newsletter from an artist that works primarily in patterns and decorative art. She told a story of how one of her art professors said her work wasn’t very good because it was just pretty and didn’t mean anything. Luckily, she did it anyway and now her work is used in textiles and all kinds of home interior items. I am in awe of people who can make their surroundings so beautiful. It’s not something I am very good at. It’s a really important talent to have because we all want beauty in our lives.

  2. I am not well versed enough in art to know much of anything – but I agree with the sentiment of Ginger’s comment. My sister is an art enthusiast and she once bought me a painting that looked like it was done by a deranged 4-year-old – I couldn’t even hang it because it creeped me out too much – so I tend to think art is in the eye of the beholder. Labels are always so limiting.

    1. I was just talking with some friends about this the other day. So often “serious” art is just not something we want to look at. I think sometimes I feel like I am outside of the joke. Everyone is raving about an artist or a painting and I just don’t get why it’s so great. I find myself looking around and wondering if I am on one of those Punked shows.

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