Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Art vs Arts and Crafts

Somehow we all intrinsically know that there is a difference between "art" and "craft",  yet the real question is how and when and to whom does it matter? Sometimes I care a lot, and sometimes not at all.
During the last few weeks of drawing from life, I have begun to glean the difference for myself: art has something to do with finding the voice within, to make an original impression or expression. 

And yet for most of my life I have been what may be called an "artisan"--someone who crafts fine things by hand. Hey, isn't "artisanal" the word of the day for good foods? Well, I've always had an artisanal home and life. Whether my clothing, my food, my decor, or the gifts I gave--they came from my heart and my hand. So I have to believe it's only a small leap step to expressing my heart and my intellect in a form that may be called "art".

While I work on getting to that place, I often get my fill of great art by visiting the wealth of it that resides in Chicagoland.  I am fortunate to be a member of the Art Institute of Chicago and one of its affiliate associate clubs. Last month we took a trip to see the collections of an obscenely wealthy family (think major corporate CEO) on the North Shore who happen to own a mind bending stash of artifacts from the Arts and Crafts period of home decor and art, primarily but not exclusively, Gustave Stickley. Their property, Crab Tree Farm, is a restored, working farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois, and only gives docent led tours to non profit groups like the AIC. You will never get closer to a museum quality collection (literally walk around rooms filled with stuff, just don't touch) than a personal tour such as this. I was both joyous and queasy to be there, thinking about weighing my good fortune with the morality of how any one family gets to have so much power as to own and control a piece of history like that. But I can't deny I was thankful for the opportunity.

Back home in my garden, inspecting the recent maintenance on my gazebo, I reflected on my own good fortune to live in a "hand built" home of my husband's and my making. The gazebo we built together is a sanctuary of sorts graced with my stained glass skylight. Because you only see the glass when standing close, I often forget how special and beautiful it is.

Six hand built panels, all the same design, but uniquely sized
to fit the spaces of a hand built roof

Everywhere inside my home are pieces of unique craft: stained glass windows and lamps, hand dyed sheets, hand built staircase with unique wrought iron balusters, tiled walls and posts and mantle, and quilts, quilts, quilts everywhere.

What to do with all the leftover dye at the end of a dye session:
Voila! "autumn splendor"

When you have an ugly pole, cover it with tile.
These homeowners are not afraid of color!

Custom made wrought iron furniture by two Michigan  artisans. Nothing is too special for a beloved cat to sit on.

Yes, and although I didn't realize until now, I live in a home inspired by the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement: that people need to surround their daily lives with handmade beauty. 

I live in handcrafted love.


  1. Your gazebo is gorgeous! You have expressed so well what is in my heart. Thanks for a peek into your world.

  2. Thanks, Jeannie, for peeking. So glad to make a connection. That is just what I hope to do by writing. Do come again.