Often within the stitching community the question of art or craft comes up, and on a general basis, it can be answered. However cross stitch always sits outside the classifications, and no one is really sure. It’s not an art form in its own right, its part of embroidery, however, there are LOADS of art pieces out there with just cross stitch. So does it deserve to finally be called an art form?
Mastering the art form
I wrote a post a few months back now on becoming a cross stitch master and how achievable that actually is, however, I never addressed the elephant in the room; a master OF WHAT?
The reason there are so many issues here is down to the definition of an art form. In short, it could be “a medium for artistic expression”, “an activity that requires skill and care” or “the more or less established structure, pattern, or scheme followed in shaping an artistic work”, all of which cross stitch applies to. But it’s STILL not classed as an art form in its own right. So why?
I recently posted a link to someone who had used my cross stitch as a base for his own artwork, so surely the original must be art too?
For many, cross stitch conjures up images of cute kittens and country cottages, but there’s a different side to cross stitching that its an art in its own right, and will encourage them to be a little braver with their art.
Mr X Stitch, Jamie Chalmers
The greatest case therefore would be galleries and museums, both of which have a historic inclusion of cross stitch. Some of the best known are the V&A in London, the Met Museum in New York, and the Smithsonian in Washington DC. However most of these are old samplers, and almost none are from modern times.
However there are a few exeptions. What I like to call the “modern renaissance” where art is in the hands of everyone, there are a few notable examples:
WWII cross stitch
We’ve shown this piece before in a history of cross stitch, however the works of Major Alexis Casdagli in the second world war are not only a fascinating story in their own right, but his most widely known work (seen below) has traveled all over the world in modern exhibitions.
The only truly well known cross stitch artist is Severija who uses cross stitch with historic objects to truly create a memorable set of works. We even devoted a whole post to creating works like hers.
So does any of that suggest an answer? Well, yes. But mostly in the craft camp.
Whilst there is cross stitch art out there, most of the works being produced are being done for just a beautiful image. To truly be classed as art in a modern form, it needs to have a message, like Severija’s works. So as much as I hate it, I’ve got to admit I’m not an artist.
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I prefer a different definition: if an observer can easily tell the difference between your work and a similar work by someone else (and possibly take a guess at which one is yours), then it is art. If they cannot, it is craft. Therefore stitching someone else’s pattern is craft, but creating your own is definitely art. This definition also has some holes in it, but I find it more satisfying than something as subjective as meaning.