My mind is swirling. Oh! How I wish I could type as fast as I think, or even talk as fast as I think. So much gets lost in the translation.

Jude posted her definition of Art which led to a lively discussion. Marti included a link to a similar long-ago discussion and I read that all too. I looked up the dictionary definition of art. I like Jude’s better. It’s clearer to me. I also liked Nancy D’s definition of art as an “ever-evolving dance between the doer and the perceiver”

What is art? Why is art? How is art? Art vs Craft. Art and Business. Anyone’s head would be spinning!

It all reminded me of an aesthetics class I took fifty years ago. Fifty?!! Hmmm . . .  I still have one or two of the books (unless I gave them to Alex). Maybe I’ll look for them and read a bit.

I don’t consider myself an artist. My mother always insisted I should  (not that she did, and she was) as does my sister, still. I think I’m too much a dilettante. I like to try everything and never stick with one thing enough to master it. Some consider that a fault. I don’t. It’s my strength.

Most of the art I make has been because I couldn’t afford to buy what I liked. Or I made it for practical purposes. Or, often, both. Of course there’s also the “I just like to make stuff” element. Mostly, I make “stuff.” Sometimes, I make “art.” Rarely, I make “Art.” But all of that is determined my me as the perceiver. “Stuff” is stuff. “art” is stuff with more than literal meaning in it for me.  “Art” is stuff with more universal meaning than “art.”  This is where I see Nancy D’s definition come into play, except this “artist” isn’t dancing every time. By not dancing I mean that I am not trying to create a universal meaning.

Take making a chair, for example.  I need to sit. I can put a board over two cement blocks or get “fancy” and hammer some 2×2’s to a piece of plywood and maybe add slats to 2x2s to make a back. However it was done it was making. It’s a functional chair. No more. But I want a chair that’s also comfortable and pretty. I’d make the back slant a bit, maybe also curve. The slats would be attached with care, not simply nailed on. I might replace the plywood seat with wood framed woven cord of some kind. I might prefer to cushion the seat and back. Pillows would work, but I want tufted cushions. And I love embroidery. I’d embroider (or maybe applique and embroider) maybe an owl on the whole front of the back cushion, maybe a moon behind her, and have leaves around her and on the seat. Before putting on the cushions I’d sand and paint the chair, maybe paint leaves and vines on it. I would decide what colors and designs (I’m thinking seasonal right now). I can’t think of anything else at the moment. This would be “art.” Every element I’ve mentioned means something to me. (I think that constitutes “story” — another word whose meaning has become unclear to me as it’s now commonly used), It would be pleasing to my eye. And if my skills are adequate, it’d be comfortable. Functional art. It could possibly be Art, but I don’t know what other people would see/feel.

My sense of perspective is a bit off. I need to work on that.

“Art” is the definition I find difficult. To be this lofty art, to which I do not aspire, I think more than just me and my friends have to appreciate the chair. It has to “speak” to a lot of people. And it needn’t necessarily be either comfortable or pretty, but should be pleasing to the eye in some way (which is vague to me). For instance I could paint it red, or black and red, or use charred wood, with flames painted on the legs and horns atop the back side posts. The cushion could be that plywood with points-up tacks (lol I almost wrote tax–that might work too) as the “cushion.” All the details should reinforce it’s meaning (which could even be lack of meaning). It should mean something to the viewer. It needn’t be what I planned. In fact the more meanings I didn’t plan possibly make it more Art-full. And even if there are those who see nothing more than a waste of a potentially good chair (function), it could be Art if it speaks to any others.

Regarding those who “don’t get it”: I used to be one who did not understand modern (painting) art. To me it simply looked like a lot (or a little) paint splashed or streaked onto canvas, or it was “just” a geometric arrangement [which is odd because I’ve always liked quilts and though I seem to prefer crazy and appliqued, or unique (how I categorize Jude’s quilts) I’ve also always liked traditional geometric quilts].Fast forward to the twenty-aughts and -tens when I took a lot of classes (embroidering, quilting, art journaling) based in art as much as technique and lo and behold I discovered that I REALLY like Kandinsky’s splashes and streaks and I’ve made the connection with art and geometry and quilts. (Well, I always knew I needed geometry to make a quilt, just not beyond that.) Education is powerful.

. . .

My brain wandered off (like it wasn’t wandering anyway?) to look at the nature of rusting metal, worn paint and the like, which don’t seem that far from modern art, and to archeological finds like fertility goddesses, which I personally do not perceive as art, though I do appreciate their meanings and the  understandings they provide. Then I wondered if the ancients who made them perceived them as art. I don’t really think so. I think art, especially Art, is a relatively new concept. They were simply objects created for a purpose, just like quilts before the mid twentieth century. Meaning that they were art, but the makers put themselves into the making not for art, but for someone’s fertility or a warm bed.

All Art is art. The Capital A is just the elitist and the romantic views (and maybe others I can’t think of right now). Art is art is art, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein (Maybe that’s what she meant.} Craft is also art.

Tools are tools are tools, too. There are those who think if one uses a machine or a pattern, it’s not art. I disagree. It’s all about how one uses them. Are those bear carvings in tree stumps less art because they’re done with a chainsaw rather than a chisel? I couldn’t make anything that even vaguely resembles a bear with either. If  you are thoughtfully making something and not copying exactly, but adding or changing even a small thing (probably even unintentional changes), you are creating art. How you create it is just method. There’s a skill needed for machines as well as for hand tools. And for many patterns, too, as anyone who’s tried to figure one out knows.

Some Definitions


a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty


 the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects  (I’m a bit surprised that the definitions of art did not include some reference to social commentary. If art is only about beauty and creating, it is totally and only in the eye of the beholder.)


a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.


 a person who creates art (such as painting, sculpture, music, or writing) using conscious skill and creative imagination


an occupation, trade, or activity requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill. (Not all dictionaries had this definitions, though. One acknowledged neither art nor skill for crafter–only making decorative items, often as a hobby.)


  • 1: to bring into existence
  • … God created the heaven and the earth.
  • — Genesis 1:1 (King James Version)
  • 4a: to produce through imaginative skill
  • create a painting
  • b: DESIGN
  • creates dresses


Sometimes I take things very literally. At least, I think that’s the problem. I seem to miss some of the subtle meanings of things. That’s why I often look up definitions of words I know. In this case it seems even more confusing because one word depends on the next (or previous) word and it seems to go in a circle. Maybe I should see if I can find those aesthetics books. I don’t believe that will solve the confusion because I suspect that the confusion is actually part of what art is. Or maybe just what Art is. Who knows?

Anyway . . .  I don’t consider myself an artist because I don’t make things for art’s sake. I make a) gifts to give, b) something I want and c) because I like making things. Others can decide if what I make is art.

This is maybe a third of the thoughts I’ve has in the last six hours. And I spent way too much time making those chairs (adding another six hours!). Oh! The ADD brain.

2 thoughts on “Art

  1. I very much like your chairs just as they are (and I hope you don’t mind me saying they made me think of Maira Kalman)

    I’ve run circles around the art/craft, maker/creator mind puzzles and have come to the conclusion that the labels don’t really matter to me any more … I know what I like to do and what I like to see … that said, I do love looking up known words as there is always more to know

    1. Thank you! I had to look up Maria Kalman, and definitely consider a comparison as a complement. I tend to have a predilection for chairs (probably why I chose it as an example) and I found “The Lucky, Plucky Chairs” which definitely tickles my fancy. 😊

      “I know what I like to do and what I like to see ” Me, too, but I’m a curious cat.

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.