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Pottery — Art or Craft?

By November 30, 2008

It is a question that has plagued the potting community for decades. Are we indulging in craft or in art? Is pottery an art form? What distinguishes craft from art?

Pretty much across the board, production potters are considered as craftsman, not artists. Production pottery is all about making hundreds or even thousands of the same form over and over again. Consistency is the name of the production pottery game.

Potters who create one-of-a-kind (also known as one-off) pieces tend to be much more difficult to classify, especially if their one-offs are functional, such as vases or even one-off mugs.

Then there are the pieces that are obviously sculptural. These are pretty easy to classify as art. But even then, there is a huge amount of technical know-how that is needed to bring that sculpture through its creation and firing.

How do you see yourself? Do you think of yourself as an artist? Do you see yourself as a craftsman? Or do you not think of the distinction at all? I'd love to hear your take on this question!


December 5, 2008 at 12:29 pm
(1) Sherryl says:

Being a calligrapher first and a newbie potter second, the art or craft question is always raised. I think you are right about the production aspect. In either medium, there is the initial creation of the original work. If it is very basic, utilitarian, and reproduced a number of times, then I agree that is is more craft. However, when it is a one of a kind piece, even if useful, I think it can be very artistic and will reflect the creativeness of the artist at work.

December 6, 2008 at 9:14 pm
(2) Noel Christie says:

I have been thinking about this question since I decided to major in Ceramics at my university. I have been spending hours and hours this semester throwing on the wheel. I can say that that part is definitely craft. To be able to turn out piece after piece that are similar takes a bit of craftsmanship. The Artistry is what happens after the piece is made. Even though the pottery is functional, the piece can be an individual artwork every time if I want it to be. They don’t ever have to be the same. I hope that I am able to put the two together without worrying about it being a choice to make. I like being able to make functional as well as sculptural pottery.

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