Stained glass – art or craft?

Is stained glass an art, or a craft?

We’re art workers. No, we’re craft workers. Or are we?

We design images that will be realised in stained glass – a discipline that imposes a number of practical and mechanical constraints. The design has to be informed by those constraints, and those constraints often result in a design that has evolved some way from the original picture in the mind’s eye.
And then we make our design. But is it art?

Does that matter?
Well – to some it does. When we show our work at art shows we often find ourselves in conversation with other artists working in traditional media – painters, sculptors and so on.
It’s clear that some of them regard what we do as ‘beneath’ art – not real art.
Given the general level of strangeness and indefinability of much of modern art I’m frankly astonished that any real artist would presume to define art in such a preremptory manner!

But if we show our work at craft shows, it’s all too apparent that we don’t fit in.
Our fellow exhibitors (is that the right word, if it’s not an exhibition?) have made things – with their hands, on a lathe, on a potter’s wheel. But the element of design involved in making a wood turned bowl, or a handbag, beautiful though it may be, doesn’t really constitute art does it?

So to resolve this – let’s say that stained glass is an art form that requires some very specific and challenging crafting abilities. Just creating a design that can be made from glass is a skill, without getting to the stage where one cuts the glass or solders the piece together.

After all, if a sheep in formaldehyde is art, if an unmade bed is art, then a piece of stained glass that will infuse your room with colour whenever the sun shines is definitely art.

Champagne Bubbles, Vitreus Art
Champagne Bubbles, Vitreus Art

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