The Alberta Craft Council works with a definition of CRAFT (both verb and noun) that entails:
- the creative mind-hand making of unique objects
- primarily in a range traditional craft materials such as clay, glass, wood, metal, fabric and fibre, and natural materials (also, more recently involving new materials and processes such as creative recycling of plastics)
- primarily in small quantities
- primarily by one accomplished person or a small cluster of skilled individuals
- working primarily in a studio setting
- with a focus on both intellectual and technical innovation and mastery
- often with a strong emphasis on personal expression and/or cultural content
- in a wide range of object forms that can be functional, ceremonial or religious, expressive, visual, sculptural, or some combination
- primarily for appreciation by, and for sale to, quite sophisticated customers, collectors and institutions
- primarily motivated by cultural values
The Alberta Craft Council assumes that CRAFT does not generally involve:
- common or derivative processes and ideas (such as hobby patterns or kits)
- manufacturing (such as products by industrial or fashion designers that are produced industrially)
- unskilled labour (such as might be found in factories which still employ hand production)
- high-volume production or mass marketing, primarily with commercial motivations.
Individual craft artists, as well as craft organizations such as the Alberta Craft Council, continuously contribute to the “definition”, meaning and intent of craft arts. And, customers and collectors, funders and government agencies, museums and public galleries, international, national and local single media organizations or guilds; exhibitions, special events, websites, magazines, on-line journals and virtual galleries, conferences, books, courses, educational projects, schools and universities, commercial galleries and retail outlets, authors and journalists, curators and jurors, festivals, competitions, grants and awards, all play a role in defining the word, the language, and the practice of craft.
There are probably 50 to 100 words or phrases in regular use in Canada in both official languages that describe craft forms and careers. Some of the most commonly used terms about the creation and making of fine craft include:
- Ceramics: pottery, porcelain, sculpture, slab, thrown, etc.
- Jewellery & Metal: jewellery, goldsmithing, metalsmithing, silversmithing, blacksmithing, sculpture, etc.
- Fibre & Textiles: needlework, embroidery, tapestry, silk & silk painting, weaving, rug hooking, quilting, felting, etc.
- Books: bookmaking & bookbinding, paper, printmaking, etc.
- Glass: sculpture, blown glass, kiln fired glass, flame-worked glass, architectural installation, etc.
- Wood: woodturning, woodcarving, sculpture, boat building, etc.
- Leather: wearable leathers, saddlemaking, etc.
- Basketry: historical & traditional, wood, fibre, etc.
- Furniture: wood, metal, glass, historical, architectural installation, etc.
- Musical Instruments: wood, metal, glass, leather, historical, etc.
- Sculpture: wood, metal, glass, ceramic, etc.
- Mixed media: this category can cover the many mixed-media artists and techniques found in craft. There is a highly active contemporary scene in craft dealing with mixed media that include a selection of the craft media listed above, or have borrowed from other areas of visual art including photography, printmaking, sculpture, painting, plastics, digital media, etc.
- Culturally defined craft: including Aboriginal and Ethnic craft, as well as craft that is intrinsically Canadian through location and history, such as Cree beadwork, Ukrainian egg drawing, western saddlemaking, traditional rug hooking, etc.
Images: wood box by Robert Holland (Edmonton, AB) and ceramic plate by Stephen Evans (High River, AB)