Proposal: Arts and Crafts

I've read through several of the discussions and everyone seems to be floundering in all different directions trying to keep the definition as vague as possible so as to attract the widest audience. But because of this, I'm strugging to understand where the scope of this site begins or ends. "Traditional artwork and handmade items" is too vague on its own.

For example, what constitutes handmade? Does this mean you cannot use any electric tools such as power drills, electric sewing machines, etc.? What about a treadle (foot-driven) sewing machine? Do items need to be no larger than a certain size? What if someone wants to build a castle from homemade clay bricks, or a voice-controlled robot whose electronic components are soldered by hand? Do these classify as handmade?

How does this site differ from existing sites?

For example, how does this site's woodworking subcategory differ Woodworking.SE? Are there any types of questions would be strictly off-topic there but on-topic here?

Are there any other similar sites, and how does this site differ from those?

  • 2
    I need to put some more thought in, but my off the cuff thought is that the projects that Martha Stewart does are arts and crafts, while what George Nakashima does is woodworking. I think the audience for the answers separates the topics. If I want advice focused on the finer points, I would look on a more specific SE. If I want advice on a weekend DYI project with balsa wood, I would look on Arts & Crafts. – ColleenV Jul 24 '15 at 21:30
  • Not to confuse things further, but there's also a woodworking style called Arts & Crafts. – rob Jul 24 '15 at 22:45
  • @ColleenV I think your point about the audience has a lot of merit. Would you say that woodworking questions on this site are more likely to be looking for quick & easy solutions to achieve a certain look, without necessarily considering certain practical issues such as the durability of the piece? – rob Jul 24 '15 at 22:45
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    Yes, exactly. I see crafty projects as ones with simpler techniques and maybe using less specialized tools. If I asked in woodworking, I would expect more in-depth advice that maybe involved more complex techniques. – ColleenV Jul 25 '15 at 11:54

So, to take the example of Woodworking SE versus the Arts and Crafts SE, if I asked a question on Woodworking SE, I would expect an answer from someone who is able to create things like the objects on Fine Wood Artists.

Seafoam clock by Mark Doolittle

If I were to ask a woodworking question on the Arts and Crafts SE, I would expect an answer from someone who enjoys projects like the ones on AllCraft.net.

Hexagon Honeycomb Shelf tutorial

There's a difference in the level of skill, time commitment, and tools required. For the clock above, the choice of the wood and finish was important, for the shelves below it standard pine boards and latex paint from your local home improvement store are probably fine. Woodworkers might give advice involving creating your own jigs or mixing your own finishes, while crafters might give advice on how to miter corners without a miter saw. There's some overlap for sure, and I expect some experts to answer questions on both sites, but the answer they might write for the same question would likely be different depending on what site it was posted on.

Some concepts like A&C are difficult to put a hard line around and clearly define what is and isn't a part of the containing class. As Justice Potter noted in a famous obscenity case, "I know it when I see it." I expect the same will hold true for A&C.

As to how this site is different, unless I've missed something, I don't see another SE that covers most of the proposed questions, the one exception being the woodworking area and I do believe there is value in having both available as CollenV demonstrated in her answer here.

I would consider topics on robotics and electronics to be generally off-topic, belonging in a technology focused SE. While they might be "hand-made", they are based on a fundamentally different knowledge framework (electronics, programming, engineering, ...) than A&C.

But I could see as on topic - incorporating electronics into wearable objects where the focus is on aesthetics and perceptual design. Discussions of the circuitry involved should be taken to a more appropriate forum.

Some other thoughts:

  • In: welding statuary, decorative gates, sconces
  • Out: Industrial Metal working and welding
  • Out: Interior Design
  • In: Mural Painting, trompe l'oeil
  • Out: How to paint your house
  • In: Turning a garage sale find into an interesting element of décor
  • Out: Building furniture from raw materials
  • In: Sewing an article of clothing
  • Out: Setting up a sewing business
  • In: Embroidery design for machine embroidery

In other stacks like Mathematics, there are tags that separate out branches of math so you can view questions related to your specialties. It looks like the CraftsStack would benefit from functioning the same way. In math, there are basic skills that make all branches of math easier to learn, but some have focused on one branch to the exclusion of all others.

Much the same way, Arts&Crafts have a basic skill set common to all types of Arts&Crafts. Some people may have learned to refine their skills in only one manner of rendering in 2 or 3 dimensions, and you would hope that those folks would be nearby to answer your more refined questions. However, I have observed a great deal of overlap in the skills and tools required by painters, sculptors, tailors, woodworkers, et cetera. My questions about puppetmaking might just as well be appropriate to a knitter or a sculptor, depending upon which part of the build was troublesome. Many of the arts and crafts require very disparate skills, and we should expect better answers if we ask people with a wide variety of experiences.

To address your primary claim, this stack is not floundering. It is merely being subjected to an excess of criticism. I hope we can use the answers here to refine our definition of Arts&CraftsStack well enough to avoid the confusion that engenders this criticism.

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