There seems to be two distinct categories within the art community; functional and ornamental. Throughout my research in my dissertation question of what is craft? I found that Function is often associated with traditional craft. I regarded myself in our seminars as a maker in the craft category, and wanted to create something functional. However the use of bronze in my work limited the functionality of many object i could produce, for example tabel ware.This sparked the question ‘what really is function?’ and ‘what value does it add to an object?’
The dictionary states function as :
the kind of action or activity proper to a person, thing, or institution;the purpose for which something is designed or exists; role.
synonyms for decorative include” (Dictionary.com, 2018)
The first example that comes to mind regard Art is tableware. Something highly functional but is designed well and hand made. Wheres sculptures in a gallery are seen as non functional. Unless you view its aesthetics as its function.
Howard Risatti in a theory of craft discusses stream lining in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This is where an object has ” a contoured designed[sic] to offer the least possible resistance to a current of air, water, etc.; optimally shaped for motion or conductivity.” (Dictionary.com, 2018) Risatti describes how large amounts of object were designed and made streamlined where it was not necessary, as it had become a symbol of functionality at the time. ” streamlining style transformed functionality into a sign in a language system, one that overruled actual functionality as a proper inherent in an object’s ability to perform a physical function” (Rissatti, Theory of Craft. p237). This is an example of the popularity of functional objects. How something is more worthy of investment if it usable. Objects that had no requirement to be streamlined were taking on this form, although visually it may have been just an aesthetic trend. In regards to the art and design community streamlining was used to target
different audiences where functionality was a key factor. If an object has a use, it can support the desire for the object.
However, purpose and function are two separate things; purpose is the act of achieving something the maker has intended for the object to do.
Function is the reason that an object was made, the original intention of the maker, conversely, purpose can be anything the object has the capacity to fulfil. Risatti makes a point of separating the two terms as, with art, in the non functional sense, has a purpose to move the audience and create some form of emotional response, where its function could be just to visually look a certain away. With a functional object, for example a mug, the purpose is to be a piece of tableware, perhaps part of a matching set, and its function is to hold a liquid.
Fine art or ornamental art found in galleries, have always been held in high esteem whereas craft and functional ware was barely even considered a craft. Through the century, craft has slowly been building a reputation for itself. With the help of artists such as William Morris and John Ruskin, founders of the Arts and Crafts movement, the status of craft started to rise to be on par with ornamental arts.
With so many objects in our modern day lives, we have an abundance of stuff that we can easily buy and replace. The need to have objects that are visually appealing, but have a function, should in theory reduce the amount of stuff we own. With this in mind I wanted to create work that was visually appealing yet useful. I wanted to move away from my comfort zone of sculpture, and progress to functional ware. As the project continued, I realised the materials and form were more important to me than a straight forward function. I decided to focus more on the actual object’s visual appearance and process of making, and work flexibly with the outcomes, building on my progress, rather than forcing a function from the pieces.