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Is Woodworking A Visual Art Or Carpentry

Is Woodworking A Visual Art?

A visual art is defined as any object which is created for visual aesthetics with artistic qualities.  Thus, woodworking is a visual art, or it can be.

The issue many take with wood art is that it is not among the “official canonized” fine arts.  It was not until very recently that new media digital arts were accepted into this official category.

The fact is that woodworking as an art has existed longer than any other art form within the world.  The only other art which may date to its same beginning would be maybe cave drawings.

Is Woodworking The Same As Wood Art?

There is a clear separation between woodworking and wood art.  In other words there are craftsmen and then there are artists.  How does this work?

Those who produce a canvas are not artists, although a canvas will eventually become a part of the artwork.

song bird box art

A dining table which is built for function with no art inlay is merely a table made by a craftsman.  A wood artist can add art carving in order to make the table become art.

Within the world of art a similar attempt is made to call crafts art.  Arts and crafts are merely objects made for decoration, but these are not art.

With this we find a clear distinction between what is a craft, the craftsman, an artist, and the artwork.  Each have their unique place but too often one category claims to be of another.

Where Does Carpentry Fit Into Woodworking?

Carpentry has historically been classified as general woodworking.  This can encompass anything from applying trim to a house or building cabinets for kitchens.

It is the most basic and entry level form of woodworking.  Beyond this would be the next step of furniture making or wood art.

Carpentry requires the least amount of knowledge in order to achieve an end result.  At the very least a carpenter must be able to take measurements, cut the wood, and apply the pieces for construction.

With cabinet making modern tools do much of the work for the industry.  There are still those who hand make cabinetry in the old school ways.  These individuals are certainly craftsmen that apply their trade.

What Is The Highest Form Of Woodworking?

The highest and most prestigious form of woodworking are those who can do the work of a craftsman and also the wood artist.  What does this require?

Extensive knowledge and experience with hand tools such as wood chisels, hand planes, and hand saws is required.  The ability to hand carve art into the wood is a must.

intarsia box top

To better understand this point consider woodworking from history.  Whether it was furniture making or ornate molding the boards were formed, sized, cut and carved with decoration in order to be used.

The craftsmen from this era would know every step of the process having learned this art as an apprentice.  It is unfortunate that very few people remain which qualify in woodworking to this degree.

In our modern era it is more common to have two classifications.  The craftsman is more common and will utilize modern tools like a cnc to apply art, and the wood artist who focuses on hand carved work.

These two can blend together with a mixture of different styles of woodworking and art.  Nevertheless, the individual will always lean to one direction or the other as an expert.

When Does Woodworking Become A Visual Art?

The difficulty in defining when woodworking becomes a visual art depends more on what is seen.  Our focus here will go into how it is made.

For example, an ornate chair or table made within a factory by machines we would never consider to be an art.  Keep in mind the qualifications for these items being a visual art are present irrespective of how its made.

It can have visual appeal and aesthetics, but it is not made by an artist.  In our modern world of art the same issue applies to drawing and painting. AI and robotics have the capacity to create “art”.

The problem with these creations is that more is required for an object to be quantified as art.  Art is the expressions of an individual, their emotions and vision through labor into a creation by their perspective.

This definition reaches into the purpose of art more than the item itself.

Machines lack this capability as they are not sentient.  Having said this, can using tools like a cnc mill still allow woodworking to qualify as artwork?

The answer to this question is highly debated but I will give you my take on the matter.

Can A Woodworker Use Machines To Create Wood Art Within Woodworking?

If a craftsman submitted an application to display their woodworking at a show a common requirement is that the work be handmade.  The term handmade today is very loosely used and most often abused.

Within woodworking near every artist and craftsman uses machinery to some degree, even if it is only a table saw.  Yet a table saw is a very different beast than a cnc mill which can mechanically carve artwork.

wood eye of ra

My position on this issue is rather simple.  If the artist or craftsman is the one who begins the process, and finishes the process with his or her tools, then it can be qualified as art.  Why?

I did not always believe this way, yet my education and research into digital media arts radically changed my views.  It can still require exceptional skill to take a concept from an idea and place it into production for an outcome in art.

The greater point behind this is that an individual is still behind the creation process that is sentient, can input emotion, and impart their perspective into the art.

How To Tell The Difference Between Hand Carved And Automated Wood Art?

There are clear physical distinctions between hand carved art and an automated process.  Tool marks are the key to seeing these differences.

If you are online looking at woodworking art then it may be more difficult.  An easy way to know is the price point.  Hand carved art is not cheap.

If the price is too low then it is likely a machined process, or half and half.  Many wood artists will use some machining and some hand finishing.

When Is Woodworking No Longer Art?

Woodworking is no longer art when automated processes take full control, especially on a mass production level.  This would be comparable to taking a painting and making prints.

This is the cheapest form of woodworking “art” which is nothing but mass produced decor.  Most often these pieces are made with boards that are precut to size and form for the projects.

Wood artists rarely will use these kinds of boards within their woodworking.  Rather the artist will take rough sawn timbers and break them down to size.

The artist will then select the premium portions for their artwork. Rarely do wood artists use sub par materials as the wood is a part of the art.

These elements of the process also play a critical role in the price point of woodworking art.  Beyond the hand crafted nature of the woodworking is the process of selecting the material or “canvas” they work with.

Why Is Woodworking Not Perceived By Some As Art?

The reason why many within the art community may not consider woodworking as art is in part due to the educational community.  Nevertheless, the reasons for these standards reach beyond that point.

Stained glass art was once not considered a fine art nor a visual art.  These were trades that eventually devolved into the regular working class.

The art behind this today has been revived by artists and historical preservation.

Through the 20th century two key issues altered how woodworking was seen.  First was the economy of two world wars.  Secondly was seeing industrialization rise within the same period of time.

The art of woodworking nearly disappeared from history.  It was later revived and preserved through the efforts of traditional woodworkers and guild systems.

Despite the fact that woodworking is among the first original arts that humans employed, it took less than 100 years to nearly remove it from our minds.  Today it is seeing a revival as it should.

An art which has existed for so long is not easily put into the past.  It will always be with us and continue to serve wood artists in their endeavors.