Monday, August 4, 2014

The Line Between Fine Art and Fine Crafts

I did my first outside show of the season on Aug. 2 in Goffstown. There was light rain during set up and a couple people questioned whether to continue or pack it in. I opted to keep going and by the time we were set up, the rain had stopped. Rte. 114 through the center of town sees heavy traffic and lots of people stopped by to admire the art work. We enjoyed some great conversations.

I shared my canopy with Nan McCarthy who does “impeccably detailed fine art;” ie: very detailed small and miniature, photo realist, acrylic paintings. I do charcoal landscape drawings and photography and we both had cards. I love giving customers a variety from which to choose. I love seeing the variety of art styles and products, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s too much of a variety.

I enjoy sharing the canopy because the set up and take down work is halved when shared. The conversations to and from the shows are inspiring. It’s also nice having someone in the booth so we can take turns visiting the other artists. It’s hard not to have self doubts when sales are slow. Questions abound. Is it either one of our faults? No, we are both very good at what we do.

Cyndi Hurlbut, who had the canopy next to ours, shared some ideas she’d been contemplating. It’s an old topic of the differences between fine art and fine crafts. Many “fine artists” don’t want to participate in shows where there are crafts. Her work is more along the line of fine art crafts. She said that recently she was put amongst flea market vendors during a show that mixed art and flea market. She didn’t make any sales as customers who visited that area were after the cheap “deals.”

The first year that the Center for the Arts in New London held their Art on the Green summer show, Nan and I shared a canopy. The next year we were told there would be no sharing AND I was told that I could not have my charcoal drawings and photographs under the same canopy. They were separating the “fine art” from the “crafts” and they considered photography a craft and not an art. Needless to say, I’ve not participated since. I could not imagine choosing between my drawings and my photographs. It’s what I do!

It’s been a couple years since then and although I don’t do a lot of shows, I think I’m beginning to understand. I’ve always considered any kind of creativity as art, but from a selling point of view, there does seem to be a difference. Certain types of customers are looking for that fine art and not the other and vice versa. Does this mean that the true “art collector” will not visit the booths or areas where there are crafters? And where is that line?

There also seems to be some kind of prestige at being able to say, “I’m a member of this, this, and that.” I, personally, have never been impressed by that and I tend to be bored by seeing these lists of memberships and where people have exhibited. I am more interested in the art work. I don’t care about their long lists of bragging. Maybe I’m wrong and it is important.

And speaking of memberships that brings me back to Cyndi’s subject. We’ve been members of the Hillsborough Area Artisans and Cyndi also belongs to the Monadnock artisans group. Both groups are going through some transitions. Both groups have fine artists and fine crafters and Cyndi is wondering that instead of mixing the artists and crafters, would it be more beneficial to the members to have two shows; one for the fine artists and one for the crafters.

This is a subject that will require some thought and conversation. In the past, I would have been against it, but now…

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