Art & Craft: The Difference

What is the difference between art and craft?  As I am about to create a “Holiday Sales Gallery” that will be almost entirely craft, this seemed a good time to write my thoughts on the subject.

This can be a volatile topic in the art and craft world (or worlds, as the case may be.)  There is much dissension. 

I do think that art and craft are different.  I also think there is crossover.  There are art pieces that contain an equal, or almost equal portion, of craft (see the quilts of Gees Bend.)   There are craft peices, many, that contain an artisitic esthetic and/or originality to them.  Reducing anything to a label seems to me a mistake, especially as there is much beauty in both.

In general, we have an understanding that craft applies to those objects that also serve a useful purpose, generally in the home. 

For me the distinction between art and craft has more to do with the originality brought to the creation, the idea/vision, the techniques and how they are applied, whether the final piece makes you, on some level, gasp.  If it does, it is art, whether it is an earthenware bowl, a quilt, or an oil painting. 

Artists and craftspeople often see the art of craft and craft of art somewhat differently than nonparticipants.  Because we are “in the conversation,” we are generally more aware of what is being produced, and so of what is original, unique…what we consider art.

A bystander might experience art in a piece that is little more than a semi-original copy of another’s style.  To another artist or craftperson, this would not signify as art.  But if it is the first time you have seen it, then to you it might be.  I think both perceptions are valid. 

To take away someone’s awe at what is new to her, is mean, and it certainly doesn’t encourage her to trust her response to beauty as she perceives it.  Such response is essential to art making and art loving.  At the same time, it is possible to share someone’s enthusiasm while sharing knowledge of the broader context for this art.

As easy examples of art and craft from my perspective, below is a slide show of three pieces I have created: art and craft.  Creating something from one’s own vision in a unique and original way, this to me makes art.  “Antelope Canyon” and “Bridges to Nowhere” are art.  “Batik Queen” shares an artisitic sense of color, but is essentially craft.     

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Queen Batik and Holiday Sales

"Redwood Forest Walk" Batik Queen Bed Quilt

One of the main joys of working in fiber is the kinesthesia of color it offers.  I actually hold color in my hand and feel the weight of it within the fabric.  It’s the difference between seeing a photo of your beloved or actually touching his/her hand. 

When you buy a piece of fiber art, or a quilt, you enjoy an added dimension in the kinesthetic presence fabric brings into your home.  Our bodies sense touch even when we are not touching.  We are wired for tactile perception.  Whether you are hanging a piece on your wall or laying it upon your bed, your eyes, body and soul feel the touch of it and warm to it.

This is a queen-size bed quilt I recently finished for a client.  It reminds me of a deep forest walk…sun in the sky high above a thick forest canopy, the smell of damp, loamy earth under redwoods, the taste of rich, fertile soil that hangs in the air, the feel of fog on my face as I move, and the deep quiet of nature I feel in my bones, that blesses and nourishes my soul

In the next week I will be setting up my “Holiday Sales Gallery” on this site.  By next Friday several new items will be posted for purchase.  This season I will be donating 10% of all holiday sales to the Food Bank. 

As always, I am available for commissioned work.  Please contact me at to begin that process. 

Please pass this site on to your friends.


“Today the Tao is Dancing”

"Today the Tao is Dancing"

Just as so many ancient spiritual traditions are being renewed today as the world’s heart begins to open again, so this piece reflects an ancient tradition dancing in the light of new energy.

The Tao’s way is very ancient, serene, and patient.  The new world moves more quickly, yet when that movement emerges from a still, silent, deep place it is beautiful dance…in whatever form. 

Thus, the Tao dances.

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As always, I am available for commissioned work.  Please contact me at or call 541-292-9390.

In Studio: “Today the Tao is Dancing” in progress

My most recent piece, “Lightening Storm” sold quickly.  What a gift!  So, while in the midst of a move, my creative juices are given good reason to take a time out from boxing books and crating cartons to work on a new piece.

All my pieces create themselves in the sense that I start with an idea that beckons me, like chasing the end of a rainbow.  Once I begin, the piece “talks” to me, takes its own turns, sometimes sets off in directions (quite stubbornly I might add) that I had not intended, nor am I prepared for.  It is not altogether uncommon for me to have an idea, start to work, only to set it down…because, while I can feel that the piece knows where it wants to go, I am not able to “download” how to get there. 

“Today the Tao is Dancing” is one such piece.  I am excited to be working on it again.  I pulled it out in the midst of moving, held it up for the umpteenth time…and suddenly knew how to take it where it wants to go.  I love that feeling!!!

So I now return to my studio, perchance to finish it today.  This time I will get a high quality photo to share with you very soon.  Then hang it at the gallery:  Ashland Art Works Gallery, Ashland, OR, 291 Oak Street.

May we all feel the love of creative life flowing through us, relaxing our worries and filling us with soul nourishment…whatever form your creativity takes, may you relish it!

Blessings, Stephanie

And a nature photo to share until my next piece is here.

"Snowstorm" Big fat, fluffy, dry flakes. A cool counterpoint to our Dog Days of August!

“Lightening Storm”

Photos at last.  I am sorry to say that I forgot to photograph it in my studio, where I have excellent natural light to capture the true colors of my work.  These photos were taken at the gallery after “Lightening Storm” was hung, so the color isn’t perfect.  You’ll notice the difference between the photos.  The close up has the truest colors. (see my Gallery…button at top of page)

I decided against the wire and beads once I started them.  They made the piece too busy and weighted it too much.  I decided to leave it with the lightening bolts in thread and fabric speaking for themselves.  I think you can hear the thunder crash.

I hope you enjoy it.  If you are interested in purchasing it, please contact me.

"Lightening Storm" I love thunder and lightening storms!"Lightening Storm" up close...smell the ozone, see the rainbows in the bolts!"Lightening Storm" up close...smell the ozone, see the rainbows in the bolts!

And now for something completely different…

"Louisville: A Healing Quilt"

Hi Folks, 

I finished “Lightening Storm” but forgot to photograph it before hanging it in the gallery.  For those who are local, it is in “Rustic Gallery” at Ashland Art Works, 291 Oak Street, Ashland.  Take a lunch and go sit by the creek after seeing the art offerings, mine included.  If you haven’t yet discovered the sitting area by the creek, it is one of the sweetest spots in Ashland.   

I promise to get a photo of “Lightening Storm” and post it this week!

In the meantime, I thought you might like to see a piece I started years ago.  I still have a few bits and pieces to add as finishing touches.  It is a healing piece relating to a dark and difficult period in my life, the years between 14 and 17, when I was utterly a fish out of water…almost literally–but that’s another story.  This piece began with a poem and emerged visually over time.  For me, it perfectly expresses my felt state during these years.  Here is the poem, which also makes it’s way across the face of the piece. 

This quilt lacks a center…a central form to draw the eye…this is deliberate…this quilt is metaphorical…it depicts a very unhappy time in my life…

 a time of grays and blacks and browns…little color…no life…

 when I felt like a stick figure…wandering, searching…alone…

down streets that led nowhere…turning corners to other nowhere streets…searching for bridges to something good…finding they only reached another side of pain…only another dead end empty space…

 all that seemed constant was the ticking of clocks…relentlessly…far too slowly…marking the time until I could leave…run away…escape…hoping endlessly this might mean new life…

New life…is like lightening…bright, stark, brilliant, blinding…deafening, terrifying…coming with storm…rending the new from the old…

 lightening breaks apart the clouds…bringing new birth…color…light…after the storm…

 Kali’s destruction…necessary…though terrifying…for new birth…

 Music was my one light…it softened the pain and gave me strength…gave structure to my desolation…as I poured my emotions over the keys…

 Music was the new life I hoped for…the only place where color still lived…along with hope…and the possibility of love.

Stephanie K. Nead

Poem for "Louisville: A Healing Quilt""Lonely feet walking..."