What Do You Consider “Art”?

Which one is really art?
Which one is really art? Of course, only one of these was in Art of the State

Lately, I’ve been asked a lot about my painting. You’re probably sitting there thinking, “I thought she was a metalsmith?” Yes, yes I am. But I am an artist and before finding the fabulousness of pounding metal with a hammer, I did a variety of other art forms – drawing, painting, ceramics, photography. This, of course, was mostly in high school and college.

I never considered myself a painter and yet I still consider myself an artist. Is it possible to be an artist who doesn’t paint? Or one who doesn’t draw? What exactly IS art?


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (here, here, and here for example) there is this (false) notion that art only involves certain media. Strangely some people consider performing arts (like dance, theater, or music) more of an art form than the practical/decorative arts of many craftspeople. Others think that writing is an art, but ceramics is something that retired people do to fill their time.

What is it about making with your hands a tangible object that is beautiful, but perhaps functional that moves this practice out of the realms of “art” and into some other, lesser realm.

No one form of art is any more or less than any other. Metalsmithing is just as valid (and “art worthy”) as improvisational jazz, expressionistic painting, or “high literature.” Even within the categories of kinds of art there are further, smaller categories that are looked down on (can you say sci-fi or metal-core?) Why are we so judgmental of this? Is it because it’s so subjective? Or do we just want to feel like what we like is all that matters?

I guess it’s probably a little of both.

What do YOU think constitutes art? Are any particular media less “art worthy” than others? Give us YOUR opinion in the comments.


Ebb & Flow ©2013 bronze, nickel, brass
Ebb & Flow ©2013 bronze, nickel, brass – Is every part of this bowl perfect? No, but it received all the attention it deserved to finish it.

I used to want my work to be clean and precise. No scratches, symmetrical, smooth, geometric(ish). Then I started foldforming and freed myself. I began to embrace elements of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. – from Wikipedia

I began to revel in roughness, relish dirty, dark metal. I strove to design work that was balanced, but asymmetrical. This now defines my work.

Great dynamic edge. Now I need to start layering.
Even without planishing I worked to smooth out the lumps and bumps in this bowl, but left the fabulous texture.

What I didn’t become was sloppy. Each scratch, bump, or wonky line is there because I chose to keep it. I still file and sand my work. Planishing my formed bowls is the most important step.

Wabi-sabi isn’t about leaving things sloppy, not finishing properly, and using inexperience as an excuse for laziness. The beauty of imperfection is realizing that a human can’t reach the ideal. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be better. The journey is the important part.

Stealing Content

There has been a recent fervor involving my last post here on Hammermarks – 5 Things About Me. It wasn’t about what I wrote about myself, but basically just one word I used – “stole.” There was a whole conversation on Facebook and it was even posted on the blog of the woman who took offense to my language.

I pointed out (as did Ken Mueller, the person I “stole” from) on the FB post and at her blog that I know Ken, I didn’t really steal anything (it was a meme type post after all), and that the word was used playfully. This woman has blogged extensively recently about stealing in the context of intellectual property such as workshop curriculum, trade techniques, and design. I am opposed to these things as well. It isn’t right to steal someone else’s idea and pass it off as your own.

But that’s not what I did. I attributed the post (and linked to it) and the only content that was copied were the five questions. All the answers were my own. It all came down to the use of one word – “STOLE.” Plus Ken is my friend. He isn’t upset about what I did.

So is one word enough to to talk like this about someone online? To put their name up there as someone who is akin to people who appropriate other’s designs and workshops for their own profit? Is it really like stealing a puppy from a pet shop because I think it is cute? (This is an actual comparison from the FB comments.)

What are your thoughts on this? I’m not asking you to pick a side, but where do you stand on the issue of appropriating content? What about memes? What about stealing puppies?