glossary of materials and techniques

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A strong fiber obtained from the leafstalk of the banana plant (Musa textilis) native to the Philippines. It is also called Manila hemp. See "hemp"

acid etching

The process of engraving details by exposing a material, such as glass, metal, or concrete, to acid. A ground is partially covered with a resist, such as wax and varnish. The acid then creates a frosted, pitted, or carved surface where the ground is not c overed by the resist.

acid polishing

The polishing of a surface, most often glass but also metal, by exposing the material to a concentrated solution of acids, commonly hydrofluoric and sulfuric acids. The process, which results in a glossy surface, was developed in the late 19th century. Se e "metal", "glass"


A colorless, transparent, thermoplastic (i.e. capable of softening or fusing when heated and of hardening again when cooled) synthetic resin; used for adhesives, protective coatings, finishes, and as a paint medium. See "resin", "adhesive"


A liquid, paste, powder, or dry film used for sticking or adhering one surface to another.


A stone composed of silica and/or chalcedony, often patterned with stripes, bands, or irregular clouding. Historically, agates were believed to have curative powers against scorpion stings and snake bites, to prevent contagion, and bring victory over enem ies. See "silica" and "chalcedony"

air brushing

Using compressed air to transform a liquid into a fine spray of paint, glaze, or other coatings with specialized implements called air brushes or atomizers. See "glaze"

albany slip

Clay used to produce a natural black or brown glossy glaze on earthenware, stoneware, or salt-glaze pottery. It is a slip glaze, made from clay mixed with water. The clay was mined near Albany, New York in the early 19th century and used throughout the ce ntury. The mine closed in 1986, and this slip is very rare today. See "slip", "glaze", "clay", "earthenware", "stoneware"


A metal, usually manmade, composed of two or more distinct metals to provide characteristics different from those of either metal alone. Alloys sometimes occur naturally, such as in electrum which is the natural alloy of gold and silver. Examples of alloy s include sterling silver (silver and copper), brass (copper and zinc), and bronze (copper and tin). See "metal", "bronze", "brass"


A soft, lightweight metal, having a dull silvery appearance. It is extracted from bauxite ore and is known for its resistance to corrosion. Aluminum is used in many manufacturing processes and to make a variety of products, especially in combination with other metals, such as copper, zinc, and magnesium. It may be colored by anodizing. See "anodizing"


A purple or bluish-violet variety of quartz, generally classified as a gemstone. See "quartz", "gemstone"

aniline dye

Dye produced from aniline, a poisonous, oily liquid. Used to make the earliest synthetic dyes. See "dyeing"


The process of heating and then very slowly cooling glass or metal in order to relieve internal stresses, by helping to remove the defects and rebuild the internal structure damaged through working the material. The process is used to prevent brittleness or cracking and to make hammered silver workable or pliable again, since continued manipulation of the material can cause the silver to crack. In glass, annealing is used to prevent the glass from cracking as it cools and hardens. See "glass", "metal"


Process in which the surface of a metal is coated with a protective or decorative layer through electrolytic action. Anodizing can prevent the metal from corroding and give it additional strength or color. See "electrolytic", "metal"


Forming a design by applying cut out pieces of a material to a ground material; generally associated with needleworked fabric but also used in ceramics, leatherworking, woodworking, and metalworking. See "ceramic"


A transparent, light bluish green gemstone; a variety of beryl. See "gemstone", "emerald"

ash glaze

Ceramic glaze, utilizing wood or vegetable ash as the fluxing ingredient. See "flux", "glaze"


Form of quartz crystal containing mineral inclusions that give it a sparkling appearance. True aventurine comes from the Ural mountains and India; a synthetic version is made of glass with metal shavings and used for small objects and costume jewelry unde r the name of goldstone. See "crystal", "glass"


A type of grass originating from the tropical and subtropical regions of East Asia, characterized by its tree-like formation and hollow, tubular stem. Bamboo can be used for culinary, medicinal, and artistic purposes, such as basketmaking and papermaking.

bandsaw joinery

Joinery accomplished with the use of a bandsaw (a power saw with the cutting blade in a vertical position). Because the cutting edge is vertical and often rather narrow, a bandsaw is useful for cutting irregular shapes. See "joinery"

basse lisse

A traditional tapestry weaving technique. Looms used for weaving traditional tapestry are classified as haute lisse looms, where the warp is suspended vertically between two rolls, and the basse lisse looms, where the warp extends horizontally between the rolls. See "warp", "loom", "haute lisse", "weaving", "tapestry"

basse taille

An enameling technique in which translucent powdered glass is fired onto a carved or chased metal surface. The contours and three dimensionality of the design show through the translucent enamel. See "enamel", "carving", "chasing", "firing"


A printing or dyeing method in which the fabrics are patterned by applying wax (called a wax resist) prior to dyeing. The wax repels the dye, and when the wax is later dissolved, the design appears in the original color on the dyed ground. Batik is produc ed in many countries in South and Southeast Asia, but it is most popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. The technique has been used by numerous Western artists working in fabric. See "dyeing"


A fine, soft sheer fabric of plain weave. It is often made from cotton and is used for lining and children's clothing.

battuto surface

A technique of cold working glass in which the glass is cut or ground using a revolving abrasive wheel to make small, irregular facets on the surface of the glass, giving the appearance of a hammered finish; originally a Venetian glass technique, the term derives from the Italian for "hammered" due to its resemblance to hammered metal. See "cold working", "glass"


A small object, of any shape or material, pierced so that it may be strung, hung, or attached, most commonly by sewing.

bias cut

An oblique or diagonal line cut across the grain of a fabric. The cut allows the fabric to stretch more easily and garments to drape softly. See "fabric"

bisque (biscuit) ceramic

A partly fired or fully fired but unglazed ceramic body. If it has been deliberately left unglazed, the body is usually a fine porcelain or stoneware. The term can also refer to a stage in firing when a piece is first fired to a relatively high temperatur e and then glazed and fired again. See "ceramic", "fired", "glaze", "porcelain", "stoneware"

black basalt ware

Hard, fine-grained, unglazed black stoneware that resembles the black or gray volcanic rock of the same name. First developed in Staffordshire, England, in the 18th century, further developed and produced by the Wedgwood factory from the 1760's. See "ston eware"

blow mold

A metal mold in which a blown glass object is shaped. See "blown glass", "mold", "metal"

blow pipe

A long metal tube used to gather a gob of molten glass, after which air is introduced by mouth to expand or to shape the glass. See "metal", "glass"


Adhering two or more materials together firmly by means of an adhesive. See "adhesive"

bone china

A type of porcelain in which calcined ox bone, or bone ash, is a major component. It is characterized by high whiteness, translucency, and strength. It was first developed in Britain in the 18th century.


Interweaving of three or more strands, strips, or lengths of a fiber or other material in a diagonally overlapping pattern. Also known as plaiting. See "plaiting", "fiber"


An alloy of copper and zinc, usually with copper as the major alloying element and zinc up to 40% by weight. See "alloy"


In metalwork, to solder with a nonferrous (not containing iron) alloy having a lower melting point than the metals being joined. See "metal", "alloy"


Fabric with ornate woven decoration. These decorative elements are typically raised.


Copper alloy whose major components are copper and tin, with small amounts of nickel, lead, or zinc. It is known for its strength, resistance to corrosion, conductivity, and ductility. See "alloy"

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