What should we call it?

by atinuj on July 20, 2009

What do you think of when you talk about “craft”? 

What comes to your mind when you think of the word “art”?


I saw an interview of a young and emerging studio jewelry brand in the local newspaper last week (in Thai).  The jewelry looked quite modern and artsy.  As I was reading the interview, I was bothered by one word that a jewelry maker/designer used to describe her jewelry–craft.  For some reasons, from the first look at the photos of jewelry displayed in the paper, I was actually thinking of the words “art and design” and “wearable art” rather than “craft”.




At one point, the designers (there are two designers working together here) described their jewelry work as miniature art–which to me conflicted with the idea of craft that I pointed out earlier.


Is it just me that feels that the word “craft” is not the best choice of word here? At least in Thailand…



What is craft?


Handicraft, also known as craftwork or simply craft, is a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or using only simple tools. Usually the term is applied to traditional means of making goods. The individual artisanship of the items is a paramount criterion, such items often have cultural and/or religious significance. Items made by mass production or machines are not handicrafts.

Usually, what distinguishes the term handicraft from the frequently used category arts and crafts is a matter of intent: handicraft items are intended to be used, worn, etc, having a purpose beyond simple decoration. Handicrafts are generally considered more traditional work, created as a necessary part of daily life, while arts and crafts implies more of a hobby pursuit and a demonstration/perfection of a creative technique. In practical terms, the categories have a great deal of overlap.



I think the distinction between “handicraft or craft” and “arts and crafts” is the word “creative technique”. 



Thailand’s craft


In Thailand, when people talk about craft, they mainly think of simple woven baskets, local and traditional pottery, etc.  These objects are meant to be used so the purpose of their designs is the practicality.  If one goes to a craft fair in Thailand, one will not find studio jewelry like the jewelry we are discussing here. One will find jewelry made with traditional techniques and styles that has been made in the same manner for many decades.





To me, if the designer have had used the word “hand-made”, I would not have thought twice about it.  “Hand-made” is a more neutral word that doesn’t alienate the concept of creativity. It also stresses that fact that the jewelry is not made by machines in large numbers.  I think it’s a better word to use if one wants to promote studio jewelry in Thailand.






{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

atinuj July 31, 2009 at 8:37 am

Point taken. And I agree with you on that.

I guess my point is not the separation between art and craft but I was just thinking of a better word to describe the works that I saw in the paper.

twahc July 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

while questioning what is craft, sometimes i question myself what is art. sometimes the term ‘art’ is used in an irresponsible way and it is also an over-rated word to use to describe some of the jewelry as ‘art’.

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