Diablo

Are woodworkers artists?

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People consider things like Clay pots works of art. And I don't think you would get much disagreement that those who make such pots are artists. It also could be said of works in wood.

I would consider a lot people who paint things on canvas are not creating works of art are therefore not artists. The same could be said of any "artistic medium"

Art is in the eye of the beholder. I may do things with wood, attaching pieces together for various reasons but nothing I do is art.

A truly good woodworker might build a masterfully crafted piece of furniture that is a work of art. He is an artists, I am not.

Just because you make something with materials that an artist might use does not make you an artist. Art is a skilled expression of an artist.

It is the skill and artistry that makes it art, not the medium itself.

Well, that's my opinion.

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Well this has gotten the philosophical juices flowing.

I come from a lineage of artists. My mother is a potter and sculptor. My Aunt is a painter, my sister is an actress and....my father has built a house, 3 barns, 4 boats and an airplane all out of wood. They are all artists in my mind, and here's why. Art requires 2 things to exist. The eye to create and the eye to behold. Without those 2 there is no art. Regardless of whether you appreciate the art.

The skill of the artisan comes from the journey that he takes to create his work. For example, My father built the barn so he could build the house so he could build the boat so he could build the airplane.

Is this not the journey of an artist?

The objects my not hang in a gallery or be revered by critics but the intrinsic value of process, both of the piece and the artist are there.

Oh and one other thing. The only plans he used were for the plane and the house, because it's law.

Great topic

Stampy

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I think of myself as much an artist as I do craftsman. You have to have the craftsman ability to make the pieces but have the artists eye to make it not only functional but beautiful.

Do you think the Sam Maloof chairs, rockers, ect would have sold for the prices they did if the purchasers did not think of them as art as well as pieces of furniture.

Was Michalengo (sp) just a craftsman when he designed St. Peter's. He had to have the engineering in order to construct it but do most people think of the engineering when they look at it? I think not. They think of the beauty.

Gustov Stickley, Green and Green, Frank Loyd Wright, etc are all also considered artists. Their work is still admired long after they are gone and hopefully will still be admired long after we are gone as well.

Obviouosly, I am not in the same category as either one of these but I spend a great deal of time designing the furniture and other things I make. I want it to be functional but beauty is also important.

So I do think artistry is an important component of what we do as woodworkers.

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Truly great works of art are timeless. In the woodworking realm once such work of art would be the Windsor chair. How often has it been copied. But one woodworker somewhere, sometime was the first to produce one.

It has stood the test of time to be what it is, a work of art. Everyone who has made or will make one is simply copying that work of art like someone might copy the Mona Lisa or ming vase.

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I'm late to the conversation, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

I think there are four different types of people that create things: artists, artisans, craftsman, tradesman.

There are many elements that go into the purpose of the creator's objects.While the best of each type of people that create things have can be high in each element, it's not necessary:

creator's emotion

audience's emotion

creator's aesthetics

audience's aesthetics

pre-existing requirements

skill required

efficiency

money

An artist creates something for his own emotional or mental expression or release, or to evoke an emotional or mental expression or release from their audience. The object stands on it's own:

creator's emotion = very high or very low (the artist might not care about his own emotions, but only about the audience's)

audience's emotion = very high or very low (the artist might not care about his audience's emotions, but only his own)

creator's aesthetics = very high

audience's aesthetics = very low

pre-existing requirements = very low

skill required = low

efficiency = very low

money = very low

An artisan creates an object that generates emotional or mental expression or release, or to evoke an emotional or mental expression or release from their audience, but the object's everyday usefulness is still a consideration. The object stands on it's own, but it's surroundings may be considered:

creator's emotion = high or low (the artisan might not care about his own emotions, but only about the audience's)

audience's emotion = high or low (the artisan might not care about his audience's emotions, but only his own)

creator's aesthetics = very high

audience's aesthetics = medium

pre-existing requirements = low

skill required = very high

efficiency = very low

money = medium

A craftsman creates an object with a specific purpose or use. The object mostly works or is viewed in conjunction with other objects or it's environment, but may also stand on it's own:

creator's emotion = low

audience's emotion = low

creator's aesthetics = medium

audience's aesthetics = very high

pre-existing requirements = high

skill required = very high

efficiency = medium

money = high

A tradesman creates an object that is one piece of a whole. The object does not stand on it's own:

creator's emotion = very low

audience's emotion = very low

creator's aesthetics = low

audience's aesthetics = low

pre-existing requirements = very high

skill = medium

efficiency = high

money = very high

Jonathan

=====================================================

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Wow, I am truly impressed with the depth of the conversation. I'm moved to toss in my $.02.

I think the one fundamental element about art that has been overlooked is the aspect of "truth". Art must aim to express some truth. It can be truth in the human condition, truth in materiality, truth in emotion, truth in desire, ect. ect.

If you can accept this idea, you will see that the finest wood box can easily be art by expressing its own materiality or even by transcending it. By that same token, the most intricate carving can undeniably NOT be art if it does not seek some truth.

I think the aspect of functionality is important and I have not quite come to grips with it. As an architect, I do not feel that a stud wall is art, nor is a web of wiring. However, the completed building starts to fulfill the definition of whatever sculpture is. Form is manipulated by light (or vice versa), space is created by mass and void, and it is obviously 3 dimensional. Still, even after doing those things, like it has been previously stated, the building isn't the end game, it is the action to be housed within it.

Now, if we go back to the "truth" idea, the piece of art is fulfilling the function of seeking truth. It is a function that is fundamental to being human and extremely important. So important, every civilization in the history of mankind has dedicated massive efforts to produce, manipulate, and preserve it.

At the end of the day, "art" is on a sliding scale. On one end is the truly esoteric and the other complete utilitarian. EVERYTHING we produce falls somewhere on that scale. The viewer (and the viewer is also artist) is the only person that can locate where on that scale the piece exists....i.e. beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

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John is onto it: Art is the exaltation of something mundane. My favorite example is the Japanese tea ceremony; really nothing more than the preparation and consumption of a beverage. But it elevates the means to a sublime end in its own right. Personally, I can stand tea; but the grace of the ceremony is an act of beauty in its own right. Such mundane roots can be found in any artistic pursuit: Music, poetry, painting, etc.

As for woodworking, when is a box more than a box? When Paul Nunya pulls out a sexy, curved thing that makes us all drool. Whether or not the box is actually functional or big enough to hold what we want to store is irrelevant. The box is exalted far beyond its mundane purpose of holding things.

Very well put Rob. The way I usually look at the the art/craft question is:

Is what I am making a recreation of someone's work or is my design merely to serve a need or am I creating something new of beauty to satisfy my aesthetic sensibilities? My take is making the perfect reproduction of a Morris chair or maybe executing it in a different wood species is application of craft. But if the basic design of the Morris chair inspires me express my own take on it then I am applying artistic touches. For example this chair I would say that the maker was both artist and craftsman. I cant remember where I clipped it but was in my inspiration folder.

post-2639-0-22338400-1298051650_thumb.gi

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I'm late to the conversation, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

I think there are four different types of people that create things: artists, artisans, craftsman, tradesman.

There are many elements that go into the purpose of the creator's objects.While the best of each type of people that create things have can be high in each element, it's not necessary:

creator's emotion

audience's emotion

creator's aesthetics

audience's aesthetics

pre-existing requirements

skill required

efficiency

money

An artist creates something for his own emotional or mental expression or release, or to evoke an emotional or mental expression or release from their audience. The object stands on it's own:

creator's emotion = very high or very low (the artist might not care about his own emotions, but only about the audience's)

audience's emotion = very high or very low (the artist might not care about his audience's emotions, but only his own)

creator's aesthetics = very high

audience's aesthetics = very low

pre-existing requirements = very low

skill required = low

efficiency = very low

money = very low

An artisan creates an object that generates emotional or mental expression or release, or to evoke an emotional or mental expression or release from their audience, but the object's everyday usefulness is still a consideration. The object stands on it's own, but it's surroundings may be considered:

creator's emotion = high or low (the artisan might not care about his own emotions, but only about the audience's)

audience's emotion = high or low (the artisan might not care about his audience's emotions, but only his own)

creator's aesthetics = very high

audience's aesthetics = medium

pre-existing requirements = low

skill required = very high

efficiency = very low

money = medium

A craftsman creates an object with a specific purpose or use. The object mostly works or is viewed in conjunction with other objects or it's environment, but may also stand on it's own:

creator's emotion = low

audience's emotion = low

creator's aesthetics = medium

audience's aesthetics = very high

pre-existing requirements = high

skill required = very high

efficiency = medium

money = high

A tradesman creates an object that is one piece of a whole. The object does not stand on it's own:

creator's emotion = very low

audience's emotion = very low

creator's aesthetics = low

audience's aesthetics = low

pre-existing requirements = very high

skill = medium

efficiency = high

money = very high

Jonathan

=====================================================

I really like this application of logic to discussion, well done

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Wadding into this discussion a little late I would like to add a story that happened to me the other day.

A friend called into my workshop last week and looked at the latest work I am currently undertaking.

How much is that one? he asked.

I took up the worksheet and added the labour and material costs did a few more

calculations and came up with a figure.

Sadly shaking his head, he looked at me and asked "When are you going to stop thinking like a woodworker and start thinking as an artist?

Seeing my bemused expression he then went on to explain his reasoning for the above statement.

"You make individual pieces that are of your own creation and execution, you employ skills that are no longer in regular use you have an eye for detail. And you are passionate about what you do, which shows in your work.

Your pieces are not only functional, in as much as they serve a purpose, but they display beauty and create wonder in those that look at or own what you have made.

So if it's unique, has beauty and can create an emotional response in people it's ART! and Art can only be made by an Artist!

So stop thinking like a woodworker.

Okkkkkkkkk? I guess, but maybe he has a point.

Cheers

Steve

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I got to admit my stance on this topic is based on the fact I really dislike the idea of being called an "artist" as to me my view on art is it has no real purpose other than "eye candy" and the thought of me spending days/weeks even months on a project only for it to be put in the same light as something that basically sits on a shelf or a wall/floor and has no real purpose (IMO) really does not appeal to me.

Granted my response on this topic is heavily based purely on my opinion but I would much rather be classed as a Craftsman or simply a Woodworker.

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I am speaking as a hobbyist/weekend warrior woodworker. My skill level is growing, but is still limited. I am not willing to call anything I have made 'art' and do not feel I am an artist. My background is IT and is very analytical, and I tend to take the same approach to my woodworking. I do believe that there are woodworkers who are artists, and most definitely produce art. However, I think that there is definitely a separation and the title 'artist' or 'art' is not just given to someone, but rather it is earned by someone who has proven that they can take a skill to the next level of art.

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Yes and no. The more I think about this my opinion (not humble) is yes. When we design whether is joinery, type of woods, finish, shape, proportions, etc. ... .Yes

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Most of us consider Photography as an art. At the same time photography is very technical (lenses, lighting, depth of field, etc), then comes the artistic part (composition, colors, filters).

In woodworking we have a lot of technical aspects as joinery tools, how to or not to sand. Then we have the artistic aspects of shape and proportions (to keep this simple).

Yes. Woodworking is an art.

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Fantastic discussion on this!

I would fall into the hobbyist (hack) category who tends to appreciate the work of others as art. It's funny how those who work with their hands are eager to appreciate the work of others more than their own. Perhaps its because we understand the skill, focus and attention to detail required to execute the pieces...yet, at the same time we see all of the mistakes in our own work, so we're less likely to appreciate our own efforts. Not that we don't feel proud of what we've done. We just judge ourselves a bit more harshly than we would others.

I think there is some merit to the comments that have indicated that it's the response of others that deems someone an artist. We're less likely to claim the title for ourselves. :)

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