I thought I'd explore that thought. You know I can't just give a one word answer on such a wide reaching subject. *grin*
So what is a craft? Wikipedia says "A craft is a branch of profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work... the term is usually applied towards people occupied in small-scale production of goods." Well, that certainly fits the crocheter. Since it takes a good many hours, days, weeks, months, to complete some projects, it is certainly a small scale production and it certainly takes a particular skillset.
At Dictionary.com under "craft" (as a verb), "to make or manufacture (an object, objects, product, etc.) with skill and careful attention to detail." As a noun, it has "an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill." It also notes "the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild."
Well, you'd better be paying careful attention to detail if you are working from a pattern and the skill you have to have is how to crochet. There is also the Crochet Guild of America. Tada! A guild.
So I don't think there is any doubt that crochet is a craft. But is it art?
You'll note that in the definition above, it says "an ART..." etc. But let's not just take a word out of definition and call it done. *smile*
What is art? Let's go again to Wikipedia first. "Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression..." "Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery."
When I first read that definition, I thought of freeform crochet where various crocheted pieces are joined together to make a unique piece of what I think of as art.
Art can be practical as well as aesthetically pleasing (or displeasing). This idea can be visually demonstrated through the various episodes of yarn bombing. Remember the knitted trees? Trees in their own glory are pretty neat to look at, each one being different and with its own unique properties. The colorful, yarn covered trees brought smiles to many faces. Happiness is an emotion in this case brought about by the use of our sense of sight. We see trees wrapped in beauty and we smile. Pretty sight = happy.
If we move to dictionary.com.
Let's look at a few of the definitions given for art. I just pulled a few that seemed to fit the topic.
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.I was just saying the other day that even if I never make the items inside it, I love to have bunches of crochet books, particularly of afghans, just to look through it at all the beautiful pieces in it. They are aesthetically pleasing to me and I enjoy looking at them. Not just the crocheted afghans themselves, but the artistic layout of the photos in the publication.
2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection.
3. a field, genre, or category of art: Dance is an art.
7. the principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning: the art of baking; the art of selling.
8. the craft or trade using these principles or methods.
9. skill in conducting any human activity: a master at the art of conversation.
I have seen many collections of crochet work. In fact, I actually was part of a crochet display at our local library (well, not ME, but my work). I also recently read about the display of crocheted coral. You can read about the hyperbolic crochet coral reef here. I have, in fact, a book called Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes on my lap right now. It is not "light" reading, but very interesting. I would consider the coral reefs to have artistic quality, so why not crocheted coral reefs? :-)
I often hear the term "the art of crochet" and also "fiber arts". That seems to indicate that there is no doubt in the minds of all those who matter (me!) that crochet is both craft and art. I think this is true of a lot of other crafts as well. The crafter makes a piece of art, each uniquely made, every time he fashions a product. Even if you make 100 butterflies - which I have done - each one is individually crafted and whether you mean it to be or not, each one will have minute differences.
I think most crafters strive for a certain uniqueness anyway. Though I have used the same pattern many times, each item I make uses different colors, different yarns, different hooks, different assembly methods. They end up not looking the same.
I have made several breast cancer ribbon afghans and those are close to the same. I have used different edgins on them though, so I guess not. :-)
There is value in the unique. One of a kind will get you more value than one of a hundred or one in a thousand.
But I digress.
All this to say that crochet is not either craft or art, but is rather both craft and art.