BY LENNIE BENNETT
Times Art Critic
CraftArt, an outdoor festival organized by Florida Craftsmen in downtown St. Petersburg this weekend, gives us a good excuse to ponder craft in general.
The little word just five letters long is weighted with lots of definitions and opinions. Some people think craft's better examples should be considered art. Some think craft is just fine being considered craft. Some people are confused by art vs. craft. Some people (me) don't care; I like something good whether it's called toMAto or toMAHto.
Florida Craftsmen has been an advocate of craft for 53 years, promoting the work of creative professionals and educating us on the differences between art and craft. The basic thing we need to remember is that some art is better than others and so is some craft. But in the end it's what you love that matters most.
That said, when you're looking at an object, any object, study how it's made. Judging the skill level in a typical example of fine art such as a painting and fine craft such as a basket is pretty much the same process. Ask any juror who hands out the awards at outdoor festivals.
Traditionally, the distinguishing elements of craft have been its utilitarianism and its materials. Woven fabric was meant to cover something or someone. Wood was turned or carved to become a chair, table or bed. Clay was shaped, glazed and fired to hold liquids or feed. Elaboration was fine but not the central point.
More recently, the beauty of many craft objects through the centuries has inspired interpretations of functional objects that became less about function and more about form. Art schools have become less rigid about materials. Lines have blurred.
You can regard the result as confusing or, as I do, a delightful profusion of creativity and variety.
That's what you'll find at CraftArt — objects that can be valued for many reasons and on several levels.
And did I mention that Christmas is 36 days away?
Lennie Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8293.