Artists & Craftsmen
“There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, transcending the consciousness of his will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in a craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the prime source of creative imagination. Let us the create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist!”
Walter Gropius, “Programme of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar,” from Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-century Architecture, edited by Ulrich Conrads
I never formally studied any kind of design history, so my knowledge about the Bauhaus is rudimentary. I intend to read up on the subject in the future, but this document by one of its founders outlining the aims and goals of the Bauhaus is a good place to start. Gropius wrote this manifesto in 1919 when he was made director of the school in Weimar.
The core of the manifesto is a call for the integration of painting, sculpture, design, architecture, and other crafts into a single complete practice. Gropius sets a primary aim of the Bauhaus as the dissolution of the division between craft and “high” art. The relationship between craft and art seems to have been a complex topic for the times.
The same basic discussion seems to have taken different forms over time: art vs. craft, fine art vs. commercial/applied art, thinking vs. making, design thinking vs. design everything else. These divisions are useful as boundary objects, concepts to help us think about our practices and work. But like any concept, it becomes counter-productive if inflexibly enforced as dogma.
I tend to believe in the integration of craft and art, that one leads into the other. I especially embrace the idea that making things is integral to designing for the world because it is the act of making that connects someone to a shared reality.