Why can't Craft be aesthetic (valued in a way that doesn't rely on utility/instrumentality)?
Would such an attempted view be a devaluing of Craft, or, at the very least, a revaluing of it as simply a form of art? My goal has always been to establish the grounds of difference between Craft and art as we know them today and as they are historically informed. To define or value Craft on aesthetic grounds seems to recall the Studio Craft movement - which I see as artists appropriating Craft principals and vice versa -instead of a 'genuine' assessment of it.
I guess it comes down to my desire to find a 'pre-Kantian aesthetic' for Craft where utility and beauty weren't seen as opposing or distinct forces to be reconciled. This need for reconciliation is built within a system that tacitly views Craft as a field of creative expression or a classification of objects/materials and techniques. What I am attempting is to find a more ontological understanding of Craft that predates the notion of 'art' in the West - one that has also managed to hang on throughout the centuries as an undercurrent of tacit appreciation for certain ethical and social aspects of artworks.
So, it seems that the answer here might not be a flat "No." It's more that the question itself reveals a lack of awareness in one's assessment of Craft - one that assumes Craft to be assessable on the same grounds as art. As our notion of 'art' today grew out of what we still call 'craft,' the two are inextricably linked. However, the relation is primarily in one direction from Craft to art. Though reversals are possible and have happened throughout history, the beginning of this relationship and the majority of its most meaningful development has happened along the 'from Craft' directionality. This must be acknowledged if we are to ever unpack the roots of the Craft mindset, its implications on human culture, and how we can make use of these insights in a world that has largely overlooked their tacit existence.