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Glossary

Acid - A sour liquid that occurs naturally in fruit such as lemons, or it can be made. Acid can permanently mark or destroy some materials. Some acids can be very dangerous and must always be handled with care.

Adhere - Verb meaning to stick

Adze - A tool, like an axe, used for chipping and slicing away the surface of wood

Alabaster - A soft calcium-based stone that is white in its purest form

Alloy - The name for a metal made up from mixing together different metals; for example, brass is an alloy of the metals copper and tin (or zinc)

Analyse - Verb meaning to look at closely or to take apart  

Atmospheric conditions - The quality of air, how wet, dry or dirty it is

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Binding medium - A liquid, such as oil or water, that is mixed with pigments to make paint

Biscuitware/Biscuit/Biscuit fired - An unglazed ceramic that has been fired only once

Body - The name for a mixture of clays

Bois durci - A material made to imitate the expensive black wood ebony. It is made from sawdust, water and animal blood

Bow drill - A type of drill used for carving very small things

Brass - A metal alloy, made up of copper and tin (or sometimes zinc)

Brittle - Adjective meaning fragile, hard and likely to break

Bronze - A metal alloy, made up of copper, tin and lead

Burin - A tool used by an engraver

Burr - Part of a tree that has been damaged and grows back thickly grained and knotted

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Carcase - The basic frame (normally made in wood) of a piece of furniture

Cast - A mould used for making sculpture

Casting - When a liquid, such as plaster or melted metal, is poured into different shapes called casts or moulds

Ceramics - Objects made from clay

Chalcedony - A precious stone; a type of quartz that has a waxy appearance

Chandelier - A decorative light-fitting that has many branches (or arms) to hold small lights or candles. Often found in grand old houses

Chasing/Chased - Shaping something with hammers. Either with large hammers for construction or small ones for decoration when the metal is hot and soft. This can also be called RAISING, EMBOSSING or HAMMERING

Chemical composition - The building-blocks of any material

China - A fine semi-transparent earthenware, a kind of ceramic

China clay/China stone - A fine, white clay made from granite. China clay stands up to high temperatures in the kiln and china stone is very easy to shape. Together they help to make hard paste porcelain.

Chinoiserie - The name for Western art inspired by China and the East

Chisels - A cutting tool, often used with a hammer, to shape wood, metal, stone and other sculptural materials

Classical style - Works in the style of ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture

Clay - A type of earth or soil used to make ceramics and pottery

Coffer - A name for a strong box or chest, often used to store valuables

Cogs/Cams/Shafts - Parts used in making mechanisms. Cogs are toothed-wheels that interlink. Cams are wheels that can be different shapes to make something move in different ways. Shafts are the sticks that link cogs and cams together.

Columns and Balustrades - Columns are big pillars that support buildings. Balustrades are like stair banisters, with rows of short columns that are linked by a rail across the top. Balustrades are often seen on the top of grand houses.

Commission - Verb meaning to ask for something to be made. Most works of art in the past were ‘commissioned’, meaning rich people went to artists and asked for a certain object to be made for them

Composite - Something made up of different parts or different materials

Compress - Verb meaning to squash and make smaller

Conservators - Someone who looks after precious objects

Contract - Verb meaning to get smaller or shrink

Copper - A brown-red metal. Often used with tin to make brass or bronze. Copper is a very good conductor of heat and electricity

Coral - The skeletons of a kind of sea-creature that lives in warm seas. Corals can become very big and form reefs

Cores - Metal sticks that are carefully attached to a model used in the ‘lost-wax’ method of casting. These sticks are used to make sure the model does not move around within the mould when the wax has been melted and the molten bronze is poured in. When the bronze has cooled, the mould and the cores are chipped away

Cross-hatching - A technique used for shading when drawing and engraving. Small, close-together lines are drawn diagonally in one direction and then more are drawn over those in the other direction

Curators - People who work in museums and galleries, as keepers of the objects

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Debris - Very small bits of rubbish, dust and tiny bits of rock

Density - How heavy something is compared to its size

Depict - Verb meaning to show, describe or represent in a work of art or writing

Derive - Verb meaning to come from

Dilute - Verb meaning to make something thinner or less concentrated by adding to it; for example, adding water to orange squash dilutes it

Drills - Tools used for making holes

Dry body - The name for ceramics that are not glazed (coated)

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Earth - A name for clay

Earthenware - Clay that is fired at a low temperature. One of the oldest ceramic materials

Easel - The wooden frame artists use to hold up paintings

Ebony - An exotic and expensive wood that is black

Emboss - Shaping something with hammers. Either with large hammers for construction or small ones for decoration when the metal is hot and soft. This can also be called RAISING, HAMMERING or CHASING

Emery - A material used to grind and polish surfaces

Enamel - A glossy coating made from glass, joined by heat to a surface (usually metal or ceramic) for decoration

Engraving/Engraved - When patterns or words can be cut into the surface of the metal using fine cutting tools.

Engraving wheel - A tool used for engraving and small carvings

Expand - Verb meaning to get bigger

Exposure - Verb meaning to change the environment or condition that an object is in; for example, if you expose a painting to a lot of bright light the colours will fade

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Fermenting – Chemical reaction of an organic material splitting into more simple substances

File - Long thin tool with a ridged surface, used for shaping, smoothing and grinding down

Filigree – Delicate ornamental work of either gold or silver

Folk Art - Art and objects made by people who are not artists, using styles and materials from where they live

Fossils – The remains of a plant or animal that lived in a past age. The remains appear in the form of mineralized bones or shells

Frieze - A story scene or decoration drawn along a strip or band

Furnace - A kind of oven used for heating and melting metals

Fuse - To stick something by melting it onto a surface

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Gilding – To cover with a thin layer of gold

Gilt-copper - Copper that is coated with a very thin layer of gold

Glaze - A coating for ceramics, made from minerals and applied with heat, to make a hard shiny surface. Can be clear or coloured

Gloss - Shiny

Glost kiln - The kind of oven used for firing (cooking) clay to make it hard

Gouges - A type of chisel with a blade shaped like a scoop

Grandeur - Majestic and splendid

Grain - The little lines found in wood

Grinding - Crushing or polishing

Gum Arabic - A type of resin from an African tree, often used as a binder or thickener

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Hammering - Shaping something with hammers. Either with large hammers for construction or small ones for decoration when the metal is hot and soft. This can also be called RAISING, EMBOSSING or CHASING

Hand-building - Make something by hand

Hard paste porcelain - A type of porcelain made from china stone and china clay

Hippocamps - Imaginary sea monsters, often with a horse’s body

Humidity - Moistness or dampness in the air

Igneous - A type of rock, formed from volcanic magma

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Imitation - Something designed to look like something else; for example, bois durci is made to look like ebony

Incised - Cut or carved into

Inlaid/Inlay - To set materials (such as wood, stone, ivory) into a surface to make a decorative design or picture

Interiors - The inside (usually of a building)

Iron - A kind of silver-white metal that rusts easily

Ivory -  The hard, white tooth-like material from the tusks of elephants and other animals

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Japanning - The name of the process of using imitation lacquer to make objects look like proper Japanese lacquered works of art

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Kayaks – Canoe-like boat made of a frame covered with animal skins. These were used by the Inuit people

Keratin - The chemical that forms nails, horns, beaks in animals

Kiln - An oven for hardening pottery

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Lac - A thick, sticky substance produced by the lac insect, used as imitation lacquer. Also called SHELLAC

Li - A Chinese cooking pot

Limewood - Wood from a lime tree (different from trees that produce limes)

Lost wax method - A way of casting metal using shaped wax in the mould, which is then melted and poured away to be replaced by bronze. This method allows sculptures to be made with just a very thin layer of bronze, which is very expensive and heavy

Lustre - The kind of oily shine on ceramics, caused by metal oxides in the glaze

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Malleable - Easy to shape

Mallet - A type of big hammer

Manufacture - Verb meaning to make

Marble - A kind of stone which is very popular for sculpture. It is white in its purest form

Marqueteur – An artist skilled in the method of marquetry

Marquetry - The process of using very thin pieces of wood and other materials (such as ivory and mother of pearl) to create a picture or pattern

Matt - Non-shiny

Mechanism - A noun for something that makes something move, made up of cogs, cams and shafts.

Medieval - Describing something dating from between 400 – 1500AD /CE. Also called the Middle Ages.

Melancholy - Sadness

Melting point - The temperature at which a material turns from a solid to liquid

Metamorphic - Sedimentary rock (formed by debris) that has been compressed and heated

Mineral - Any natural material formed by ‘geological processes’ in the earth (materials that are not from plants or animals)

Miniature - A very small painting

Mining - The way of getting materials from the earth, using a mine (digging deep into the earth to take out metals and other materials)

Modello - A model, often made from clay or wax, in preparation for making a bigger, final sculpture or for use in the casting process

Monitor - Verb meaning to watch something in case it goes wrong

Mother-of-Pearl - The shiny inner surface of sea shells, made up of calcium carbonate

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Nacre - Another name for mother-of-pearl

Netsuke - Japanese belt-toggle, often made out of ivory and very decorative

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Oil paints - Paint that is formed by mixing pigments with oils

Opaque - Not see-through

Ore - Lumps of metal in rock freshly mined from the earth, before it has been purified

Oriental lacquer - Real lacquer, made from the sap of the sumach tree, which only grows in Far Eastern countries such as Japan

Oxides - The name for chemicals made when metals mix with air

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Palette - Word meaning a range of colours

Pastel - Pigments that have been heated and compressed to form chalk-like sticks of colour

Patination/Patinas - The colouring of metal, caused by treating it with special chemicals or leaving it exposed to the air. A curator will look for patination on metal to help tell an objects age

Pearls - Smooth, hard material found in oysters and other sea shells. Pearls are highly prized

Pietra Dura - The name for special mosaic work, invented in Italy, using different semi-precious stones and coloured marbles set into a hard slab of stone. Pietra Dura is Italian for hard stone

Pigment - Dry powders of colour used to create paints and other drawing equipment. Pigments can be made from plants, minerals or animals

Pique - A process where a surface is very gently pricked and punched with a sharp object to make space for decorative materials

Pivot - A pin that attaches two things together but allows them to move; for example, on a helmet the visor is attached to the rest of the helmet with pivots, allowing the visor to be lifted and lowered

Planes - Levels and surfaces

Plasticity -Able to shape easily

Polychrome - Many colours

Porcelain - A special type of clay mix that makes pure white translucent ceramics

Porous - Absorbent (something that soaks up liquids)

Pottery - Objects made out of fired clay

Prism - Something that reflects and bends light to create different colours (the colours of the rainbow)

Proportion - A proper relation between things or parts

Purify - Verb meaning to make pure

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Quartz - A type of semi-precious stone

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Raising - Shaping something with hammers. Either with large hammers for construction or small ones for decoration when the metal is hot and soft. This can also be called HAMMERING, EMBOSSING or CHASING

Recipes - The instructions for how to make something

Reductive - To make smaller by removing some of the material it is made from; for example, when a marble sculpture is carved from a large block pieces of marble are removed using a chisel or other tools. This is called a reductive process

Relief - Sculpture that has a flat background from which shapes stick out

Resin - A sticky substance that comes from trees used for glues and varnishing some objects

Retouching - To make small repairs or improvements, particularly in paint

Revetments – A facing of masonry to protect a wall

Rolling - When lumps of metal are squeezed between heavy rollers to make flat sheets that can then be made into other things

Rosary - A string of beads used for prayer in certain religions, especially by Roman Catholics

Ruched -  Fabric that is gathered into a ruffle or pleats

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Saffron - A deep yellow-orange colour that comes from the stigmas of the crocus plant. Also used as a spice

Scalpels - Very sharp knife-like tool

Scudding - The name for removing the flesh and hair from a hide to make leather             

Scutes - The outer plates of the giant sea turtle’s shell

Sedimentary - Rocks made up from sediment  (bits of dust, rocks, fossils and general rubbish) that settle and become crushed into one rock over thousands of years

Shellac - A thick, sticky substance produced by the lac insect, used as imitation lacquer. Also called LAC

Simulate - Verb meaning to imitate or copy

Slab-built - Technique for making pots and other objects using slabs of clay

Slate - A type of rock that splits into smooth layers

Slip - Diluted (watered-down) clay used for decoration

Slip-casting -A technique that involves using slip (watered-down clay) that is poured into a mould to create a thin layer of dry clay that is exactly the same shape as the mould

Snuff - Powdered tobacco that is sniffed up the nose

Soft paste porcelain - A type of pottery that was invented to copy Chinese porcelain

Sprigs - Tiny pieces of clay used for decoration. Made into shapes by being pushed into moulds

Stamping - Using a heavy weight to force a shape or pattern into a lump or sheet of metal

Steel - A metal alloy made mainly from iron

Stoneware - Pottery that is fired in a kiln at high temperatures to make it glassy, smooth and tough. Man-made 'stone'

Synthetic – A material that is made artificially through a chemical process

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Tarnish - Verb meaning to discolour metal by exposing it to air so that oxides, such as rust, form

Technology - The process of inventing or developing better tools to do a job

Tepees – Cone-shaped tent made from animal skins as used by American Indians in the past

Terracotta - A type of reddish, water-resistant clay

Three-Dimensional/3D - Objects that are not flat and have a height, width and depth

Throwing - The process of making clay objects using a potter’s wheel

Tin-glaze - A glaze (coating) for ceramics that is made with tin

Transfers - Pictures on thin tissue paper that are stuck onto ceramic objects to transfer the picture to the surface of the clay

Translucent - Word to describe things that light can pass through but that are not clearly see-through

Tripod - Something with three legs

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Varnish - A liquid that can be painted onto a surface (particularly wood). It dries hard to protect the surface and make it shiny

Vellum - Calf, lamb or kid-skin which is treated for use as a writing or drawing surface

Veneers - Very thin pieces of wood (or ivory, turtleshell etc) used for covering surfaces

Verdigris - A greenish or bluish patina (surface covering) that forms on surfaces of copper, brass, or bronze as they are exposed to air or water

Versatility - Having a number of different uses

Visor - The moveable front part of a helmet or other headpiece, which protects the eyes and upper face

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Warped - Bent and misshaped

Watercolour - Paints made by mixing pigments with water

Wigwams - Cone-shaped tent made from animal skins as used by American Indians in the past

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You - A Chinese wine vessel used in religious ceremonies such as funerals