Kinetic Art: Dream to Reality: Is it Art or Craft?

This is the fourth in a series of blogs about my history in the craft industry. If you missed the other posts start here.

The debate about art versus craft has been raging for years and it is definitely bigger than my kinetic sculptures. I have no intention of debating it from a philisophical direction here although I encourage opinions in the comments area. It did figure hugely in an early and vital business decision and one that any beginning artist needs to address. Should I market through the craft world or the art world?  

I choose the craft world. Granted, it is easier to choose when creating sculpture because the line is decidedly blurry, not so fuzzy for painting. But I had strong reasons for the choice and, because we expect many fellow dreamers might bereading this to garner clues, Marji thought it important to share our reasons.

Like so many things in life, it came down to money. In the mid 70's the craft movement was emerging. Organizations like the American Craft Council, and Buyers Market were busily creating venues (just a fancy word for trade shows) that made professional and national exposure a possibility. These events brought us together with craft gallery owners from around the nation. The art side had no similar possibilities . In the art world, you lugged your portfolio from gallery to gallery searching for interest. While I would have loved to travel and show my work in Hawaii, Texas, and California, reality kept me firmly in New England. Take a moment and picture me on such an adventure with kinetic sculptures.

As impossible an endeavor as that might have been, the answer to this question for us came more from the financial organization of each industry. In the art world the norm is for an artist to provide work to the gallery on aconsignment basis. The artist gets paid a negotiated amount after a sale. In the craft industry many more galleries buy creative work outright. This meant I got paid up front or, if credit was granted, in 30 days. It was a clear illustration of the old bird-in-hand saying.

We did a little trial and error to define the best method for Wood That Works. We did test the policy of consignment at a high end gallery. Two things caused us to stop consignment arrangements. The first was that unless the gallery was local, keeping an eye on what had sold, what was being actively shown, and what was collecting dust in the storage area was impossible. It was wonderful having my work displayed and attracting attention for both me and the gallery. The galleries that had already paid for the sculptures sold far more than the ones who had them on consignment.

So, whether it is art or craft doesn't matter when it is your living. The craft world has been a wonderful place for me to show and sell my work.  

To continue to part 5: Click Here