Art or Craft?

Tuesday July 20th 2010

I spent Saturday at Art in Action, the local shindig at Waterperry Gardens here in Oxfordshire. It’s a hugely enjoyable event. Artists and craftspeople come from all over the country and there are always a few from much further afield too. As a visitor, the thing that really sets it apart is the fact that you can do taster sessions. This year I sculpted a human head in clay and last year I learned how to mix and use tempera paint. Both of which were very cool.

It set me thinking though. When does a craft become an art – and when is an art a craft? Clearly, you can be a brilliantly talented potter and yet be a craftsperson rather than an artist – or you can be Grayson Perry, the ceramicist/artist/quilt designer. I’m not making value judgements here, since both activities are excellent.

In other cultures, great value is set on being able to make a work of art in exactly the correct way; in India, for example, this may have been the same for a thousand years.  In our culture, we think art means putting your individual stamp on an object – even if you don’t actually make it with your own hands (Damien Hirst and Rubens both used workshops of people). We think it’s the vision thing.

Not so long ago – the central purpose of art in the West was the glorification of God. That all changed a couple of hundred years ago when the Romantics invented the idea of  “artists” as geniuses. I’ll do a blog at a later date on the astrology of the Romantic movement.

Here’s a self-portrait (1821) of arch-romantic Delacroix (Taurus). He painted himself in the character of Ravenswood – from Sir Walter Scott’s madly romantic novel The Bride of Lammermoor. (Turned into the insanely great opera Lucia di Lammermoor in 1835 by Donizetti (Sagittarius. Listen to it by following this link.)

As an aside, I used to work with a lot of graphic designers and its remarkable how many have a Taurus or Libra Sun – both signs ruled by Venus, planet of art and harmony, of course. Sometimes, astrology is quite simple.

None of this though really answers my first question: what’s the difference between an artist and a craftsperson? And can you see it in the natal chart? I’ll save some chart comparisons for a later post, although I think I’ll end up having to look at an awful lot. My suspicion is that any Sun sign can turn out to be an artist, but some Sun signs are more likely to be craftspeople – at a guess Taurus, Virgo and Libra. If you have any ideas, do tell me…

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  1. Veda.Moon says:

    From personal experience I noticed that Libra artists tend to commit to their art while Tauruses more often than not give up their art for creature comforts. I’ve yet to figure out who’s the artist and who’s the craftsman.

    As an art professional I would say artist would specialize in painting, music, sculpting while craftsmen would be jewelers, wood carvers, silversmiths, gunsmiths, glass working, potters, weavers, furniture makers.

    I have found that Virgo artists tend to be craftsmen. I think Wes Anderson is a perfect example of a Virgo artist.