One of my favorite art projects as a kid was that God's Eye project. Remember that? The Ojo de Dios?
You took two popsicle sticks and held them crosswise to each other. Then you wound a piece of yarn around them, weaving the strand up and over then over again. You added another color, and another, lining those strands up perfectly, so that nothing was out of place. That knot at the end was the hardest part--you had to make sure it was sturdy enough to stay in place, but if it was too tight, the yarn pulled, and if it was too loose, the yarn sagged. (Sure, there were signs that this was more important, somehow, and I'm sure we talked about how the four points stood for earth, air, fire, and water, but IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE YARN for me.)
I was a master God's Eye maker. I'm just saying. I know my strengths, and if it involves yarn, I'm your girl. But somewhere along the line, God's Eyes got mixed up in my personal dictionary with dream catchers. But both, I learned along the way somewhere, were childish projects. They weren't something babies made, even though they'd been called Art when I'd learned how to make them. (My dream catchers didn't look like this one; they looked like twigs and twisted string, a forest macrame.)
[Aside: Boy, I loved me some macrame, too.]
Art Projects. We filed the popsicle sticks in the bins next to the dyed macaroni (remember that dry paste smell of the pasta? The way some broke and poked your fingers unexpectedly?) and dried peas (oh, the clatter of dessicated legumes rolling off the table to the tiled first-grade floor). Toothpicks and Elmer's Glue. Glitter and left-handed scissors that drove you crazy because you were a righty but no one could find the right-handed ones (that's still a mystery to me, one that jolts me awake in the middle of the night sometimes and I AM NOT KIDDING HERE--why don't they work the same way? Spatially, I cannot figure this out).
At some point, Art turned to Craft. And craft turned to something that was less than art, while art became more than. Better than. More difficult and more nebulous.
I taught (very) briefly at the California College for Arts and Crafts. I loved that the c-word was in their title, but in 2003, they took it out, and now they are simply College for the Arts. It made me sad: they'd started as part of the Arts and Crafts movement, and I thought it was a shame to lose a reference to that. It was always school for the "practical arts" as well as decorative ones but aren't those, by definition, crafts? Why do we need to feel shame about the word?
Craft can be defined as functional art. And God knows, the arts I love best are functional:
Writing delivers information, meaning and emotion.
Knitting delivers warmth and protection.
Functional. Utilitarian. I hone the craft of my writing every time I sit at my computer, and my knitting is a crafted art. The words blend together like my childish ideas of God's Eyes and dream catchers. All guard the weaver/writer (or the bearer/wearer) and it comes down to this: art IS craft, and craft IS art, and the combination of both? Sublime.