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         Art, Folk Art, or Craft? --  My take on this age old discussion.
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Is whittling, woodcarving, wood sculpting an art, a craft, or is is it folk art? This is another age-old question that bounces back and forth among wood reduction techicians.

My sense is that it depends upon the perspective of the person making the determination. Over the years, I have observed the following:

ball-4.gif (1096 bytes) Sculpting large figures is considered an art.
ball-4.gif (1096 bytes) Whittling small figures is considered craft or folk art.

Then there is the question of what is fine art vs. folk art. I will leave this one to you for resolution.

In 2000 a commercial photographer made the conversion to photographic artist. He took a picture of a hairy arm pit and submitted it to an international art competition. His picture was judged best of show. He won international acclaim and $60,000.

His work is art. My work is folk art or craft. Go figure!

The following article addresses this issue.

The Art of Being Different
by: Stephen H. Prescott

Recently, I have read several articles discussing whether woodcarving is a craft or an art from. While I prefer to think of it as an art from, one thing struck me at the last carving show I attended. I saw a table after table, of very similar carvings; the same patterns, the same posses, the same subjects. Must of it was not what I consider art. While copying a basic project or pattern is very necessary for all of us as novices, we should try to develop new ideas in carving as our skills group. I guess what I'm trying to say is that woodcarvers, as a whole, lack originality and creativity which are basic to any type of art. If you need some help developing new ideas, re-read Stewart E. Bakkon's article in the March '87 Mallet. It contains some excellent suggestion to help you with new subjects. Don't be afraid to experiment!  The only thing you have to lose is some time and wood. You can learn from each failure as well as successes. When you use another's pattern, modify it slightly. Put your own unique touch on each carving you make. Those small changes will give you confidence to try more new things to develop your own style. I hear many of my fellow carvers complain that they have little artistic talent or that the can't carve like other carvers. Thank God for that! We are not dupli-carvers. Each of us is different and unique. We all bring a lifetime of experience into carving. Draw from that experience to create something from your own point of view. It should be different because we are all different. Yes, woodcarving is an art. Not all woodcarvers are artists just as all artists, painters, and sculptors are not artists. The medium used has little to do with judging it — whether an art or craft.

The Mallet,
July 1986

Note: The Mallet was the magazine of the National Carvers Museum headquartered in Monument, Colorado. The NCM went under in 1987--another idea before its time.

 Another question for discussion...

Whittling or Carving ?