Fait à la Main: About Louisiana Crafts

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Craft Terms

applique -- stitchery in which a design is created by sewing fabric shapes or other materials to a background.

base metal -- any metal other than a precious metal (platinum, gold, silver).

bateau -- originally over 20 feet x 4-5 feet; type of inboard motorized scow built long and narrow to go through wooded swamps; considerable forward shear, outboard motorized versions are shorter. See Joe or John boat.

batik -- a method of selectively applying dye to cloth which is covered in part with a dye-resistant, removable substance such as wax. After dyeing, the wax is removed, and the design appears in the original color against the newly colored background. Also refers to the finished, dyed cloth.

burl -- a dome-shaped growth on the trunk of a tree with unusual swirled wood grain.

burnishing -- dry polishing of hardened, unfired clay to produce a smooth, shiny surface which may be fired.

cabochon -- a gem or bead with a smooth curved surface, highly polished but not faceted.

Cajun -- distinct south Louisiana French culture which was developed from the blending of Acadian settlers from Nova Scotia in the late 1700s with other immigrants such as other Frenchmen coming from France and Haiti, Spanish, British, and Germans in the late 1800s.

capuchon -- (French) pointed dunce hat worn by Cajun men in the rural Cajun Mardi Gras.

celadon glazes -- gray-green semi-opaque to iron bearing opaque glaze, developed by early Chinese porcelain potters (reduction fired).

chased -- metal whose surface is patterned by striking with a hammer or other tool.

chinaberry -- small ornamental tree producing berries which provide seeds used to make beads.

clay-body - a mixture of ceramic materials used to make pottery. Earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain are three common types. cone --- thin, tapered length of molded ceramic materials formulated to melt at a prescribed temperature providing an indication of temperature inside the kiln. Also the temperature of firing for a specific process or clay body, ranging from cone 022 (low) to cone 12 (high).

contemporary craftsmen -- those self-taught or formally trained in classrooms or workshops, making personal artistic statements with their craft. Those self-taught have been influenced by books and magazines popular culture rather than folk culture. copper foil technique -- a process for joining glass pieces for creating stained glass by applying adhesive copper tape to the edge of each piece and soldering the copper edged pieces together.

crawfish pond boat -- small, flat bottomed craft used in commercial crawfish ponds.

Creole -- term used differently in several contexts. In the broadest sense, it refers to the blending of French, Spanish, and sometimes African-Caribbean cultures in colonial Louisiana. Can specifically refer to the French-Spanish or French-Spanish-African cultures of New Orleans. Black Creole refers to the African-French culture in rural southwest Louisiana. The Creole language is a blending of French and African-Caribbean influences and is spoken predominately by black Creoles. Creole skiff -- typically 16 feet long; V-shaped transom and joug oarlock; originates from southern France.

diatonic -- involving only the tones, intervals, or harmonies of a major or minor scale without chromatic alteration.

double weave basket -- a basket that has two continuously woven surfaces, such as a basket within a basket, requiring great expertise.

dovetail -- a flaring tenon and mortise wood joint.

dugout -- pirogue constructed of a solid cypress log.

earthenware -- white, tan, or reddish pottery fired at a low temperature. Also any type of clay which has a low firing range.

effigy -- a representation of an image, especially among Native Americans. a basket or carving in the shape of an animal.

enamel -- a vitreous ceramic composition applied to the surface of metal, glass, or pottery, and fused by heat.

etched glass -- glass decorated with hydrofluoric acid. The glass is first masked with an acid-resistant substance and decorations are inscribed through the mask with a point; and the exposed glass is etched by the acid.

fait à la main -- (French) made by hand.

folk art -- see folk craftsman.

folk craftsmen -- those artists or craftsmen maintaining traditional crafts learned from within their own community. Their skills have been passed orally or by example rather than learned in the context of a classroom or workshop. Although some folk craftsmen may be self-taught and express a high degree of individuality in their work, the dominant influence is the folk community and its values.

folklife -- The the living traditions currently practiced and passed down by word of mouth, imitation, or observation over time and space within groups, such as family, ethnic, social class, regional, and others. Everyone and every group has folklore.

forged -- ferrous metal shaped, usually by hammering, while at a red or white heat in blacksmithing, or cold in the case of non-ferrous metals.

free-blown or freehand blown -- glass shaped by air pressure, by blowing through a metal blow pipe to which molten glass is gathered.

fresh water skiff -- typically 14-16 feet long, flat-bottomed with wide, angled stern.

fumed glass -- glass with an iridescent surface due to a thin film of metallic oxides.

glaze -- glass-like ceramic material applied over clay and fire to a suitable melting point.

granulation -- tiny particle of metal heat-fused to a metal surface without the use of solder.

hand built -- assembled by hand. In reference to ceramics it refers to one, or a combination of production techniques including wheel-thrown and altered, cast, coiling, slab, or pinching.

hollowware -- vessels, such as bowls and pitchers produced by raising flat sheets of metal.

hot glass -- glass worked in its molten state directly from the furnace, either by blowing or casting.

Joe or John boat -- 14-20 feet long, 18 inch draft; scow or flat boat; square bow and stern, flat bottom; equipped with inboard or outboard engine; paddle or oars; features specialized for hunting and sports fishing.

joug -- yoke to elevate oars above the gunnels; used in Creole skiffs where standing oarsman faces the bow.

Lafayette skiff -- 18-35 feet in length; semi-V hull, fantail transom, designed for speed and maneuverability; powerful inboard engine.

Lake skiff -- 16 feet x 5 feet x 16-20 inches, originally powered by oar and sail, can be motorized; developed for the rough waters of Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

laminate -- layers of material bonded together for strength, thickness or decoration; also the material, such as Formica which is bonded to another material.

lamp work -- the technique of manipulating glass by heating it with a small flame, often as decoration on free blown work, or for the creation of small figurines.

lapidary -- the cutting, polishing, and engraving of stones and gems.

lost wax casting -- a one-time reproduction process in which a wax object is impressed into sand or surrounded with a special refractory plaster to make a mold. Molten metal is then poured into the sand or plaster mold, displacing and burning the wax.

low fired -- clay and/or glazes fired at a low temperature in the range of cone 022 to cone 1.

lugger -- 35 feet x 13 feet typical ratio, up to 50 feet length, round bottomed; hour-glass transom and center board if powered by sail; rounded fantail transom typical of motorized boats.

luster -- a metallic or iridescent effect from the application of a thin film of metallic oxide over a glazed, fired ceramic surface, and reheating to fuse the oxide to the underlying glaze.

marquetry -- decorative patterns of thin layers of wood or other materials inlaid into a surface, usually on furniture.

matte glaze -- a non-glossy or dull (non-reflective) glaze.

mortise -- a notch, hole, groove, or slot made in a piece of wood to receive a tenon of the same dimensions.

mudboat -- typically 14 feet x 36 inches; inboard motor designed for marshes with very shallow or no water.

oxidation or oxidation fired -- firing ceramic ware at high temperature and without the manipulation of the fuel/air combustion mixture inside the kiln to remove atmospheric oxygen.

oxide -- metal oxides are used as ceramic coloring agents, often suspended as fine articles or soluble salts in a glaze.

oxidize -- to cover with a coating of oxide by chemical reaction, used on metals to produce different finishes (see patina).

palmetto -- small palm native to wetlands of Louisiana.

patina -- a surface coloring of metal, usually brown or green, produced by oxidation of bronze or other metal. It occurs naturally or can be produced artificially for decorative effect. Also, the substance used to produce this effect.

pirogue -- boat 14-16 feet long x 27 inches wide, propelled by paddle or pushpole through swamp and marsh; variations include V-bottomed racing and deep water pirogue. Plank or dugout construction.

plaiting -- braiding three or four stands of fiber to make a long strand for weaving or stitching.

porcelain -- a hard, high-fired, fine-grained clay body which is glassy-white and sometimes translucent.

pottery -- a generic term for clay objects.

raise -- to form by hammering from a flat sheet of metal a container or vessel (see hollowware).

raku -- porous earthenware originally made in Japan and associated with the Tea Ceremony. Also the process of firing pottery to red heat and rapidly cooling in a pit or container of combustible material.

reduction or reduction fired -- firing ceramic ware at high temperature in the presence of added carbon to reduce the percentage of oxygen in the kiln. This produces muted and subtle color variations, and alters the color-producing reaction of some metallic oxides used as glaze colorants.

repoussé-- a design raised in relief on a metal surface, also the process of hammering to achieve it.

revivalist craftsmen -- those producing traditional forms, but trained outside of the traditional community though books or workshops and not members of the traditional community.

salt glaze -- a hard, glassy sodium-silicon glaze resulting from the vapors created by the introduction of salt (sodium) into the hot kiln atmosphere hear the end of a high temperature firing.

sand-blasted glass -- glass whose surface is abraded with fine sand projected at high pressure, resulting in a translucent, frosted finish. Deeply engraved, multi-layered designs can be produced by using protective masks or stencil.

sawdust-fired -- a primitive firing technique in which ceramic work is packed into a pit or container and covered with sawdust and ignited. The slow-burning sawdust produces subtle gradations of color.

skiff -- vessel with relatively flat bottom and pointed bow. See Creole, Lafitte, lake or trawling skiff.

slab built -- pattern constructed from flat pieces or "slabs".

slip -- clay and water in a fluid mixture, used for casting, joining pieces of moist clay, and decorating ceramics.

slumped glass -- flat, pre-cast glass, such as plate glass, which is heated until it slowly flows or "slumps" into prepared refractory molds.

spalted -- naturally decayed wood with distinctive markings used for its decorative effect.

stain -- in ceramics, any oxide or prepared pigment used for coloring clay, slips, or glazes; in woodworking, any transparent oil or water-based pigment used to alter the natural color of wood.

stoneware -- natural clay, or blend of clays which is fired over 2100 degrees F. It differs from porcelain principally in color, being gray, tan or reddish, and having a larger "grain."

strip quilt -- quilts of vertical strips or variable length and width characteristic of African-American quilt makers.

tapestry -- a weft-faced fabric, often with slits between different color sections.

t-fer -- (Cajun French) term for the triangle used as a musical instrument.

tenon -- a projection on the end of a piece of wood.

terra cotta -- hard, brown-red earthenware clay, most often used for sculpture, bricks, tile, architectural ornamentation, and planting containers.

terra sigillata -- method of obtaining a waxy, semi-glazed ceramic surface using only the finest particles of clay slip separated by flotation.

trawling skiff -- 40-70 feet long, built on a 1:3 length to width ratio, 4 feet draft; deep semi-V hull designed to withstand inland as well as Gulf of Mexico waters; forward cabin.

trompe l'oeil -- (French) trick of the eye, used especially in regard to graphic finishes which give the illusion of depth (i.e. the realistic painting of doors and architectural fixtures on a flat surface).

tupelo gum -- tree common in swamps and river bottoms of the south.

turned -- wood shaped by cutting while it revolves about a fixed axis on a lathe.

underglaze -- pigments applied to the raw clay or bisque and covered with a transparent glaze.

veneer -- a thin layer of wood applied to an edge or surface to cover defects or inferior wood.

wax resist -- decoration by applying warm or emulsified wax to pottery or fabric to present water-based glazes or dyes from adhering to the waxed areas.

warp -- the yarn which runs the long way in cloth made on a loom. It is under tension during weaving and is usually stronger than the weft (or fill) yearns which run across it.

weaving -- the process of making fabric by interlacing a series of warp yarns with weft yarns at right angles.

weft -- yarn or thread which runs at right angles to the warp. Usually patterns are woven into fabric by changing or manipulating the weft threads.

wheel-thrown -- forming of pottery on a rotating potter's wheel.

wire grass -- a long southern grass used to make coiled baskets by Native Americans, especially the Koasati (Coushatta) of Louisiana.

wrought -- shaped by beating or hammering, often for decorative effect.

wrought iron -- a low-carbon ferrous metal which can be easily shaped and is resistant to corrosion.