Craftwork vs Artwork

My daughter loves to create things. She has a bead set to make necklaces, she staples papers together to make books, and when she was 4 she tried to staple together a pair of pants for her little sister. When she’s at home, she has her art supplies and carte blanche to create whatever she wants to. Some of it’s good, some is interesting, but it all is from her creative self.

School, however, is a different story. Once every six days, she has art class. It’s really more craft class. In her take-home folder are projects where her hands have been traced, cut out, and glued to make a reindeer, or her hand-print is now a ghost. It turns out her hand-prints can be turned into a holiday appropriate craft project no matter what we’re celebrating. When she does get to draw freehand, it’s with a step by step instruction at the top of the page on ‘how to properly draw a car in 4 steps.’ She doesn’t do artwork at school – her project looks the same as every other kid in her class. She, instead, does craftwork.

School, in a perfect world, would teach creativity. It would teach her that not everyone will draw the same car and that’s OK. Instead, she got a smiley face because the car (which was a VW Bug) looked just like the instructions. She makes cookie cutter crafts at the expense of seeing what awesome thing she could do. When she gets the chance, amazing things can happen. But she and all the other kindergartners need, heck they crave, that chance.

I remember being that age and just being handed some clay with the instructions, “Create.” Not make a pot. Not make a snake. Not even don’t make a mess. When kids are being creative, it’s going to be messy. In that mess, though, they can find wonder and imagination and beauty. When they become adults, they’re also going to need to find wonder and imagination and beauty in the face of mess – why not teach them how now when the aftermath can be easily cleaned?

Tonight, as I kissed her head and told her to sleep well, she said, “Mom, tomorrow when I get home from school, can we do art together. But not crafts, only art. I want to try to make pants and a shirt, so can you find me fabric. But don’t cut it, I need to figure out how to make pants bigger than last time. That’ll be something fun to do together. I can’t learn to make pants if I don’t try.”

I love that she differentiates between crafts and art. Tomorrow afternoon, let the creativity commence.


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