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art vs. craft

by futurebird » May 10th 13 8:20 am

In the USA in particular, and the west in general there is a long standing debate about the place of crafts in the arts. The extremes of this debate would say:

"A teapot is not art because it is a useful object, art has no other purpose beyond being art."

or

"A teapot can be a work of art, it requires artistic vision to design, and the design, shape and materials all say something about how the artist thinks we should live. Even mass produced teapots can be art, they just are not very unique art, and can be less rich in their artistic vision."

I lean towards the latter argument, but I have another concern.

Is this whole art vs. craft debate even an issue in the East?

I'm most interested in how Chinese teapot makers view themselves and their work.

Image
裴石民款三足双耳壶 Pei Shiming (1892-1979) Double-circle tea pot. Art.

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Re: art vs. craft

by Tead Off » May 10th 13 8:43 am

It's a job, futurebird. :D

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Re: art vs. craft

by rdl » May 13th 13 1:54 am

futurebird,
i have met ceramic artists in japan and i think the term i would use (and i have a large, wide language barrier so i may not have fully understood) that best describes how they work is - living tradition. i can't remember hearing the words art or craft from them but it was as if they were telling me of the great tradition they inherited and how they themselves interpret it. i know there are many artists using clay to create art, but i can only tell you my impression from those i have met who are recognized for the teaware they produce.
interesting discussion, i hope others will add to it.tea ware

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Re: art vs. craft

by JBaymore » May 13th 13 4:03 am

Such a delineating and exclusionary definition entered Japan along with the arrival of the Westerners.

best,

.................john

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Re: art vs. craft

by futurebird » May 13th 13 4:15 am

Thanks for that observation rdl. I have noticed this concept of tradition reflected in the Chinese works as well-- it comes up in the matter of copying. Many yixing artists spend a lot of time copying master works, it considered to be a good way to learn, and if one has great talent one might even improve on the old design.

The designs are alive and revised even after their creators have passed on...

Like the famous "big peach pot" -- which had a tray added to it later by another artist of another generation.

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Re: art vs. craft

by theredbaron » May 13th 13 7:16 am

Art is what critics, collectors and gallery owners decide it is.

Would tea ware be "art" by how today's art world judges what is art and what not? Most decidedly not.
Can a performance of a tea session in the right gallery space be art? I guess so, as long as a recognized "artist" (and not necessarily a tea master or aficionado) does it, it could become performance art.

Underlying this whole discussion of "art" vs. "craft" not only in tea, but in many other fields is that it is somehow implied that "craft" may be inferior to "art". There is somehow this idea that "art" may be something etheral in which geniuses express their vision of the world. Quite far from it - art is as market driven as the stock market, and with even more complicated rules of the game. The art market consists of copying, ruthless pushing of people that other people see worth investing in, with the hope and expectation of returns. "Art" is often used by somewhat authoritarian states to give themselves a sheen of liberalism which they don't have by supporting docile "artists".

And then of course there are many different concepts of art - while, starting with impressionism, expressionism, cubism, dadaism, Polock, Beuys and Baselitz the western and then the international concept of what may be art has been expanded widely, in the more traditional Asia there still is the concept of art valid that has first been defined by Hinduism, in which art has to express beauty and is closely associated with religion and morals. Tea ware could maybe be considered art under this traditional Asian concept.

My point here is, that whatever you may define tea ware as (and i tend to put it more in the sphere of craft than art), craft is in no way inferior to what people define as art. In craft there is often more honesty and integrity than in art, and craft is also not lacking vision.

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Re: art vs. craft

by bagua7 » May 13th 13 10:23 am

Neither. :lol:

I would say it is more of a philosophy/religion. Yixing teaware is closely associated with the Chinese indigenous religion, Taoism, but has also been hugely influenced by Buddhist thought.

Yin and yang, masculine and feminine are quite visible in shui ping pots which represent the perfect harmony between both primeval forces:

Image

I see a lot of practicality, simplicity and wisdom in them (Tao, Buddha nature).

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Re: art vs. craft

by Evan Draper » May 13th 13 5:48 pm

I don't find this line of inquiry fruitful, but I thought I'd mention, I've heard several Chinese tea-enthusiasts complain that most teapot makers must not drink enough tea, because so many pots on the market have functionality problems. So much for craft.

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Re: art vs. craft

by ethan » May 13th 13 7:00 pm

& this comment might not be fruitful either, Evan, but is also true: I met a Chinese man who collected yixing pots who did not drink tea at all. lol

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Re: art vs. craft

by tenuki » May 13th 13 7:57 pm

art is the intersection of leisure, creativity and marketing.

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Re: art vs. craft

by futurebird » May 13th 13 8:00 pm

ethan wrote:& this comment might not be fruitful either, Evan, but is also true: I met a Chinese man who collected yixing pots who did not drink tea at all. lol
How could he know if his pots were any good? lol!

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Re: art vs. craft

by Chip » May 13th 13 8:22 pm

ethan wrote:& this comment might not be fruitful either, Evan, but is also true: I met a Chinese man who collected yixing pots who did not drink tea at all. lol
Actually this is the case of one of our TeaChat TeawareArtisans!

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Re: art vs. craft

by wyardley » May 13th 13 9:36 pm

I feel like with most crafts, you can have things that are utilitarian and well-executed, but not necessarily as "artistic", but at the highest levels, it's most definitely also "art".

For example, I'd consider cooking, certain types of musical pursuits, etc. crafts in that they can be learned, and you can execute them well without a lot of creativity.... at the same time, at the highest levels, it's hard to say that there's no art involved.

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Re: art vs. craft

by tecnanaut » May 13th 13 9:43 pm

theredbaron wrote: Underlying this whole discussion of "art" vs. "craft" not only in tea, but in many other fields is that it is somehow implied that "craft" may be inferior to "art". There is somehow this idea that "art" may be something etheral in which geniuses express their vision of the world.
You make interesting points. This tidbit reminded me of an essay by Walter Benjamin, a very handy summary of which is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Work_o ... on#Summary

I'm quite noobish when it comes to pots, but given that the particular pot is not mechanically mass produced, and can have a bit of the 'aura' in the sense that it is such a hands on process, I'd think it stands a much larger chance than most functional items.

Of course, there is a short cut. Art gives pleasure, be it through the tactile feel of the clay or the earthen smell. So why not :wink:

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Re: art vs. craft

by tst » May 13th 13 9:53 pm

Yeah, digging too deep into this line of thinking can quickly become semantics more than anything else. I think the question posed is very much personal and varies from person to person. For example, one of my wife's first comments upon seeing a recent yixing I unpacked was "It really is a piece of art!"

:lol: