JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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Art vs. craft: what's what and what am I?

A little while back, I posted a comment on Bobby Owsinki’s blog in response to a post titled Being an Artist vs. a Craftsman. Bobby posits that “Art is something you do for yourself. A craft is something you do for someone else."

I don’t see it this way at all. To me, irrespective of whether or not you have an audience, art is when you try to do something that hasn’t been done before, whereas craft is when you seek to match or improve on what already exists. 

When I posted this definition on Bobby’s blog, he commented back, asking “hasn’t everything already been done?” I don’t think so. There are too many variables, especially in music (voice, instruments, digital wizardry), for everything to already have been happened upon. But more important, intent matters. To me, creating art by accident doesn’t quite cut it (although, I confess, I’m on thin ice here); you have to be acting intentionally. You need to be saying to yourself stuff like “I am going to put paint down in ways it’s never been put down before” or “I am going to create a fundamentally new song structure” etc.

So which am I, artist or craftsman? By my definition, I am definitely a craftsman. I am trying to hone something that already exists, the pop/rock song. I am in no way trying to break the mold, challenge the form or waltz down unexplored paths. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that.

One more thing: I do not pretend for a moment to have ended the art vs craft debate, much less to have come up with a fundamentally correct definition of art! I know it’s all pretty subjective, so I’d love to hear your opinion.