• Most crafts have roots in the middle ages, when a
craftsman had a trade – potter, glassblower,
• The word “craft” alludes to expert work done by hand.
• “Craft” and “Art” originally had the same meaning.
During the Renaissance, painting, sculpture and
architecture were elevated to a different level.
– Thus much of art history before the Renaissance includes
Craft vs Art
• Western cultures (Europe & US) have Fine Art and
Craft in separate categories.
– Often the dividing line is function.
• Many other cultures around the world attribute
artistic meaning to craft objects.
– Often fine art objects like sculpture have a spiritual
• There is no definite division between art and
craft, nor should there be.
– Labels are a convenience for talking about art.
Traditional Materials of Craft
• Many kinds of clay
• Terra cotta ∙ Stoneware
• Earthenware ∙ Porcelain
• Greenware – Clay before it is fired
• Bisqueware – Clay that has been kiln-fired once.
After clay has been fired its chemical composition
changes, it can never be clay again
• Glazeware – Clay that has been glazed,
it can be fired multiple times,
not all ceramics are glazed
Ceramics Forming Techniques
• Wheel throwing
– Used in Egypt 6000 years ago
• Slab construction
– Maria Martinez used this method
• Hand-forming or pinching
Maria Martinez, Blackware
This type of blackware was only
Maria used a red clay.
Before firing she would burnish
the entire pot and then paint on
a design with a slip (liquid clay.)
The dull area is the slip.
The shinier area is the raw clay
that has been burnished.
The ware becomes black by
smothering the flames with dry
manure partway thru the firing.
The smoke reacts with the iron in
the clay to turn it black.
17th century Kütahya tiles in Hall of
the Ablution Fountain, Topkapı Palace,
• Made from silica (sand)
• Becomes molten as it is heated and hardens
as it cools
• Can be formed in many ways
– Blown glass
– Fused glass, fired in a kiln
– Various types of molds – pate de verre
• Can be decorated with sandblasting
• Stained glass is made by cutting sheets of
glass into pieces and fitting them together
The North Transept windows from
Chartres Cathedral, France, c. 1230
The Mucha window in Prague's St. Vitus
Cathedral was designed in the early 1930s
• Types of metals
– Copper - Silver
– Brass - Gold
– Bronze - Steel
– Nickel - Iron
• Can be shaped in many ways
– Casting - Forging
– Cutting - Hammering
• Can be decorated in many ways
– Chasing & Repoussé
– Vermail (a marriage of 2 metals)
• Easy to work with
• Readily available
• Subject to environmental effects (it rots,
– The Chair was developed about 2800 yrs ago
The Chair of Hetepheres, Egypt,
2575-2551 BCE, wood and gold leaf
Chair designed by Henry Van de Velde for
his house "Bloemenwerf" in Brussels
LCW (Lounge chair wood), Charles and Ray Eames
1946, molded plywood and rubber
• Almost endless design possibilities
• Some civilizations highly prize textiles
• Construction methods are unique to itself
– Weaving – the general method for all textiles
• Warp – held taut
• Weft – is interwoven through the warp
• Tapestry – a type of weaving wear the warp yarns
are manipulated to form a pattern or design
– The golden age of tapestry was in Europe from late
14th to 17th century, it was the art of choice.
The Hunt of the Unicorn, 1475-1500
Netherlands, wool, silk and metallic thread.
Bought for $1million in 1922 and donated to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1937.
• A series of 7 tapestry panels
• Depict a midieval story showing the unicorn
• When it lays its head in the lap of a virgin it is
captured and killed, then later restored to life
• A mixture of pagan and Christian symbolism
• Its an allegory to the Passion of Christ
In the Sterling Castle, Scotland, there are
replicas of the original Unicorn Tapestries
Gee’s Bend Quilts
• A rural community near Selma, Alabama
• Was once the site of cotton plantations
• After the Civil War, the freed slaves took the last name
Pettway and became tenant farmers
• The unique quilting style has been practiced for at least 6
• In 2002 there was an exhibition titled “The Quilts of Gee’s
Bend” featuring 70 masterpieces.
• There are still more than 50 women there who are part of the
Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective
• Their style is reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art
• In early years, the primary influence for the style was the
newspaper and magazine collages used for insulation on the
inside walls of homes
Annie Mae Young, Work-clothes quilt with
center medallion of strips, 1976; denim,
corduroy, synthetic blend; 108 by 76.5 inches.
Jessie T. Pettway, Bars and string-pieced
columns, 1950s; cotton; 95 by 76 inches.
Annie E. Pettway, Flying Geese variation,
ca. 1935; cotton, wool; 86 by 71 inches.
Blocks & Strips Quilt
by Mary Lee Bendolph, 2002
Jade and Lacquer
• Jade – a mineral stone of either nephrite or jadeite
– Color from white to brown to green
– Found mostly in the East, Central Asia & Central America
– Prized in China for 6000 yrs
• Lacquer – made from the sap of a tree that
originally only grew in China, it is brushed over
wood in very thin coats
– Hardens to a smooth glasslike finish
– Demands patience, can take 30 coats to build up a
substantial layer, must fully dry between coats
A jade Bi with dragons, Warring States
A Chinese Ming Dynasty mother of
pearl lacquer box, 16th century
Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Tray with
Blue Magpies and Camellias,
China, Yuan Dynasty, 14th century
Blurring the Boundaries between
Art and Craft
• Taking something functional and making it
nonfunctional gives it a whole new meaning
– Voulkos’s Pottery broke this barrier
• Using craft methods to make Fine Art elevates
the notion of craft
– Chicago’s The Dinner Party used traditional
“womens work” in multiple ways to create a fine
The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago, 1979
• The table has 39 place settings to honor
influential women in history.
• An additional 999 important women’s names
are written on the tile floor.
Mary Wollstonecraft and Sojourner
Truth place settings