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[Detail] Chilkat dancers, Alaska, 1895


The wealth of photographs depicting various Native-American crafts provides an opportunity to discuss craft and the distinction often made between art and craft. Access these photographs by searching on such terms as basket, blanket, canoe, clothing, rattle, weaving, and woodcarving. Compare the crafts of different tribes by selecting pertinent headings in the Subject Index such as Snohomish Indian--crafts, Nez Perce Indian--crafts, and Tlinget Indian--crafts. Use the following questions to conduct an in-depth discussion.

  • What can you learn about a people from their crafts?
  • What is the purpose of craft? What is the purpose of fine art?
  • Where do we find arts and crafts in society? How are they made? Who sells them and who buys them? How much are they worth?
  • Is something less artistic or precious because it has an everyday use and function?
  • Is an artistic object less creative if the creator must take function into account?
  • Is the object less creative if the creator is working within a stylistic tradition?
  • Is something less valuable if it is not a one-of-a-kind object -- if there are many people who can make it or something like it? Is it less special?
  • Fine art could be said to express an individual's personality and ideas, while craft could be said to express cultural beliefs and traditions. Is one more meaningful than the other? Are they mutually exclusive?
  • Is the literal meaning or the aesthetic beauty of an object more important?
  • Which works of art are most similar to crafts? Which crafts are most similar to fine arts? Why?