Friday, July 31, 2015

Art vs Craft

A recent day trip out to an artist in residence village in the mountains has got me thinking…when is art, actually art and when is it a craft?  I mean knitting is a craft, but I think of my friend Jackie creating intricate patterns, putting these on paper then making them up into garments, I think that there is a real ‘art’ to that.

So, I looked it up:



the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.


the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art;

an art collection.


noun, plural


an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill:

the craft of a mason.


skill; dexterity:

The silversmith worked with great craft.

 OK so an craft is an art, but related to a special skill….hmm I am still none the wiser really.  I should know, I work for an art gallery and museum, but sometimes what is deemed as art is not what I consider ‘beautiful and appealing’ as per the description above - so who decides?

What promoted this question was a visit to ‘Art Meets Nature’ an artist in residence village in the mountains close to us.  Cirdeira Village is where artists can go to get inspiration and develop their skills.   


Visitors walk around the village and go into the renovated stone buildings to tour the arts and crafts on display and to watch artists work. 


It’s a fascinating place to visit mixing art and crafts together, in one room an old man shaved reeds to make baskets (surely a craft) while a young man was working on engraving a piece of wood (art). 

They are fundraising to build a kiln on site at the moment, so please do go along to the village if you live in central Portugal and make a donation.


In our village, every month there is an art and craft fair, where local artists display and sell their work along-side craftspeople who sell home-made soaps or make items from vintage fabrics.


I am amazing by the amount of arty/crafty people in the world, maybe us ex-pats coming to live in rural Portugal are a breeding ground for developing our arty/crafty side, maybe we have more spare time than most, maybe it’s a certain sort of person that moves here who wants to develop their skills – I have no idea.  But amongst people I know, I’d say the vast majority dabble in art and crafts.   From Peter, who has made tables and chairs and takes amazing photographs, to Jackie who creates patterns and knits, to Quinta da Fonte & Quinta Do Herio that make home-made soaps  to Anka who paints bold and
strong images to Laurel who is a sculptor.

I still don’t know what the difference between art and craft is…..

But I am not sure it matters, just so long as people continue to create then that’s OK with me.

The next art show in Pera is in the afternoon of 9 August, so please come along to visit if you live in Portugal and take a look for yourself…may-be you can tell me the difference between art and craft!


  1. I went to an Exhibition of Quilts and thought that quilt making had turned into an art form. In the American Museum in Claverton, near Bath, you can see some fabulous old quilts which were made to use on beds in the cold winters of the USA. The quilts I saw were never meant to be used they were for wall hanging to show off their inticate beauty. Yes Helen, I too have a problem with "Is it Art or Craft"?? Regards

  2. Interesting question! For me, at the most basic level, I think art is something that is made to be looked at, whereas a craft is something to be used. The wood engravers mask goes on the wall but the baskets have a practical use. It's possible here in Portugal to see huge woven tapestries hung on museum walls, beautifully made and designed, a real combination of art and craft.