On Thanksgiving Monday, I wrote a blog post where I shared some of my evolving thinking on “art” versus “crafts.” The post led to some interesting conversations both in the comments and on Twitter. One of the Twitter discussions really got me thinking about the definition of “crafts.”
This topic was further addressed today when I got an email from a parent in our class. (I always share my professional blog posts with parents, and I welcome their feedback. I’m so glad that this mom shared her thinking and agreed to let me share it in this post.)
Sarah’s comment about “tool development” really made me think about Mary-Kay‘s point about “tinkering,” and how crafters “design and experiment while creating.”
- To really communicate artistically, are there certain skills that students need to learn first? What might they be?
- What kinds of crafts might help students develop their artistic skills?
- Does this definition of “crafts” vary from the one that we may currently have?
Sarah’s email today and the questions that I shared above formed the basis for a great conversation that my teaching partner and I had this afternoon. While we both have questions about your stereotypical holiday crafts, we started to wonder what kinds of skills our students may need to develop to better communicate artistically. What kinds of activities might help them with this? We began to speak about the “elements of design,” which are also discussed in the new Kindergarten Program Document, and if some explicit instruction around these elements may help students as they create using them. We broadened our definition of “crafts,” and looked at some of the ideas that Sarah mentioned, as even just that important reminder that an artistic voice can be shared in many different ways. The Twitter discussion, Sarah’s email, and our conversation led to our decision to focus on a specific skill tomorrow, but also provide some varied, open-ended artistic opportunities — possibly both inside and outside — to allow children to practice this skill, but also make it their own.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reminded about the power of language. For me, the term “craft” means carbon copies of final products that allow for limited artistic expression, thought, or application of skill. But maybe my definition is too narrow. Maybe my views are too negative. And maybe under the umbrella of a Maker culture — an umbrella that I see both through the Twitter conversation and Sarah’s email — an intentional use of certain crafts, or at least “skill development,” can make art even more powerful. What do you think? How do we make “crafts” purposeful, and what “craft options” might we consider? What value might this have for “art?” I would love to continue this important conversation.