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Creative terminology

Sometimes art terminology can be confusing (i.e.modern art vs. contemporary), so we've created a list of many conventionally used terms as well as some specifically related to the work we show. Here's to getting it right (or trying to, anyway!)

Abstract: Art that is not representational and explores the relationships of forms, colors and textures.

Artists Books: Works of art created in the form of a book, often produced as one-of-a-kind objects, incorporating a variety of bound forms.

Assemblage: An artistic composition created using miscellaneous objects. 

Batik: A method of producing designs on textiles using dye after having first applied wax on the areas that won’t receive the pigment. 

Bisque Firing: An intermediate kiln process that dries and hardens soft clay thus preparing it for glazing. 

Calligraphy: The art of writing that uses various implements to produce a decorative hand. 

Ceramics or Pottery: Objects formed in clay and hardened by “baking” in a kiln. 

Collage: A composition created using paper shapes adhered to a two dimensional surface. 

Contemporary: Art that is being created during the viewer’s lifetime–the art of one’s lifetime.

Cradled Board: A rigid, three dimensional painting surface built with thick side supports that provides stability and won’t warp.

Diptych, Tryptych, Polyptych: Two, three or multiple panels of art that make up the whole.

Edition: Art created in a finite number of units.

En Plein Air: A French term meaning, “in the open air”;  an Impressionist practice of painting outdoors.

Encaustic: A painting medium using melted beeswax, resin and pigment.

Expressionism: Art created primarily to evoke subjective emotions rather than to portray the subject realistically.

Figurative Art: Generally referred to as a work of art that is a representative of a person or form.

Firing: Using a kiln to "fire" clay objects by "baking" an extreme high temperatures, making the hard and functional.


Fused Glass: Art that involves glass that has been fired in a kiln at a range of high temperatures. 

Genre: A type or category of artistic form, subject, technique, style, or medium.


Gestural: Painting and drawing using loose, sweeping strokes to expressively depict a form. 

Gilding: The application of paper-thin gold leaf or pigment to an object.

Glaze: Layer of liquid applied to ceramics that creates a glasslike surface once fired.

Hard-edge Painting: Incorporates areas of solid color with distinct separations or edges.


Impasto: Thickly applied paint that gives a three-dimensional surface quality to a painting. 

Impressionism: An artistic style that attempts to capture a feeling or experience rather depict its subject realistically.

Installation: An artwork that is created for a specific physical area, becoming part of the environment.

Kiln: A high temperature oven designed baking, or firing, of clay. 

Landscape: Referring to art that portrays an area of land. 

Letterpress: A relief printing process using raised letters, coated with ink and transferred to paper using pressure, usually with a press. 

Matte or Satin: A surface with a flat, non-shiny surface.

Medium: The material from which any given object is made. 
Modern: Art produced between 1870 and 1950-70; characterized by a rejection of representational art to more experimental and “abstract”.


Motif: Any recurring element of a design or composition. 


Mural: Imagery created directly on a wall or created separately and affixed to the wall.

Narrative: Art that depicts a story.

Non-Representational: Art that bears resemblance to the actual subject. 

Painterly: A style of painting which emphasizes the techniques and surface effects of brushwork.

Palette: The range of colors used by an artist in a particular work or typical of his/her style.

Pentachromacy: The ability to distinguish color using five independent channels rather than the typical three (as in humans).

Perspective: A mathematical system for representing three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Photo-realism: Art that illustrates its subject in a photographic way, often seeming like a camera image.

Plasma Cutting: (Simplified for us right brainers) A method that uses a forced jet of ionized gas or hot plasma as the cutting mechanism.

Pre-Modernism: Abstract painting that is influenced by the styles and aesthetics of European painting from the 15th through 19th centuries.

Primitive or Naïve: Decorative art generally defined by simple colors and design elements.

Raku: Low fired ceramic wares characterized by iridescent glazes and rougher surfaces.

Realism: Art that depicts its subject as it appears.

Reclaimed: Disposed material that is acquired to reuse for a new purpose.


Relief: An image or design that is carved into a flat surface, creating a raised or “relief” surface.


Reliquaries: A receptacle for sacred relics.

Representational: Art that depicts its subject as it is, with few subjective interpretations.


Soda Firing: Using soda bi-carbonate during the ceramic firing which creates a unique glazed surface as the soda vapor is carried by the flame.

Stained Glass: Art created from flat glass shapes, assembled and held together by soldering. 

Still Life: Art portraying inanimate objects.

Surrealism: Art that attempts to express the inner workings of the subconscious often characterized by other-worldly illusion or reality.

Art that uses alternate forms to express the meaning of subjective concepts like spirituality.

Tactile: Refers to objects, two-dimensional or otherwise, that appeal to the sense of touch.

Referring to a single, one-of-a kind art piece.

Up-cycle: To restore an object to its original manifestation or recreate it as a new, improved one.

Woodturning: The shaping of wood into a symmetrical—spherical or cylindrical form. 

Wood Firing: Ceramic firing process that uses wood fuel to create the extreme high temperatures necessary to glaze the pot.

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