Cover image for Materials & techniques in the decorative arts : an illustrated dictionary
Materials & techniques in the decorative arts : an illustrated dictionary
Trench, Lucy.
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 572 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NK30 .M38 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Reference

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In our industrialized society, it is often difficult to imagine how the objects around us are made. How, for example, are triple spirals put into the stem of a wine glass or table tops inlaid with whole landscapes of semi-precious stones? This unique dictionary is devoted to the fascinating materials and techniques used in the decorative arts. Materials range from the exotic to the most basic, from rare stones found only in the mountains of Badakshan, unsavory animal products, and the ground bodies of South American insects to ones as common as sand, clay, and lime.

Compiled by a team of experts, each with an intimate knowledge of his or her subject, the entries are written in clear, accessible language and supplemented by numerous photographs and drawings. Each core material (glass, ceramics, textiles, paper, plastics, leather, metal, stone, wood, and paint) is covered from its raw state through any processing or preparation to various craft stages and finally, to any surface finishing.

Traditionally, the kind of information found in these pages has been passed on from craftsman to craftsman or confined to highly specialized books, and even common terms are often misunderstood. This dictionary makes the subject accessible to all--from art and architectural historians, curators, collectors, restoration specialists, artists, and museum staff to decorators, aficionados, and those who enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow. In short, this book is for all those who are intrigued by the materials and techniques used to create the beautiful objects that surround us.

Author Notes

Lucy Trench has been a conservator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the editor of publications for the National Gallery, London, and materials and technigques editor for the Grove Dictionary of Art.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In her introduction, editor Trench clearly states that "this dictionary focuses upon the materials and techniques used in the decorative arts." She admits that not everyone agrees as to what makes up the field of decorative arts, so the contributors adopted the criteria that the "objects or forms of decorations . . . have a practical purpose but are also prized for their beauty and craftsmanship." Photography has not been included because it does not always fit those criteria; graphic arts are included (although in limited detail) because of their importance in design and books illustration. Folk arts such as rosemaling are excluded. Seven major core materials (Ceramics, Glass, Metals, Paper, Stone, Textiles, and Wood), as well as many minor ones (such as Enamel, Ivory, Lacquer, Leather, and Shell), are defined from their raw state through various stages and processes to their final products. Although the emphasis is upon Western media, attention is given to materials like jade and lacquer, which have been associated with the Orient but are prized in the West. Examples of other entries include Intaglio, Ironstone china, Kiln, Marquetry, and Stonecarving tools. The contributors are drawn from several disciplines and include scientists, conservators, and an art historian. The entries vary in length from a single sentence to several pages. Cross-references appear within entries in capital letters. There are also see references for some terms, directing the user to the preferred terminology. Measurements are given in metric rather than English units. Most of the many illustrations are black-and-white photographs of objects or craftspeople demonstrating a technique. Some of the illustrations have been taken from Diderot's eighteenth-century Encyclopedie because, as Trench explains in the introduction, "the clarity, elegance and precision of his plates are unsurpassed by any modern photograph or computer drawing." There are eight colored plates reproducing objects in different media or materials, from carved gems to block-print cottons. Although one of the photographs is of a detail of a leaded glass shade by Tiffany Studios, there are no entries for Louis Tiffany or his design firm. Some individuals do appear, such as Leo Baekeland (the inventor of Bakelite), but only in relation to the entry for a material or process. A bibliography follows the dictionary entries and includes general works as well as books arranged by materials, such as amber, ceramics, leather, metals, and paint. With its specialized subject coverage, this book will be valuable in academic and large public libraries.

Choice Review

Trench (who has been a conservator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and materials and techniques editor for Dictionary of Art, CH, Jan97) presents this useful dictionary concerned with "how the objects around us are made." It covers a very wide range of materials and techniques of the decorative arts (metal, paper, glass, stone, paint, wood, plastic, ceramics, textiles, and leather) with brief articles and frequent illustrations, both photographs and line drawings. There is some overlap with articles offered by Dictionary of Art, but many specialized terms are treated only by this volume. This dictionary will be useful to collectors of antiques and art and could be very helpful in understanding technical descriptions of artwork. Recommended for public and academic libraries. N. Taylor; Earlham College

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