Tunbridge ware is a form of decoratively inlaid woodwork, typically in the form of boxes, that is characteristic of Tonbridge and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent in the 18th and 19th centuries. The decoration typically consists of a mosaic of many very small pieces of different coloured woods that form a pictorial vignette. Shaped rods and slivers of wood were first carefully glued together, then cut into many thin slices of identical pictorial veneer with a fine saw. Elaborately striped and feathered bandings for framing were pre-formed in a similar fashion.
There is a collection of Tunbridge ware in the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery in Tunbridge Wells.
The famous makers of Tunbridge ware were in the Tunbridge Wells area of Kent; their most notable work was from about 1830 to 1900.
Early makers of Tunbridge ware, in Tunbridge Wells in the mid 18th century, were the Burrows family, and Fenner and Co. In the 19th century, around 1830, James Burrows invented a technique of creating mosaics from wooden tesserae. Henry Hollamby, apprenticed to the Burrows family, set up on his own in 1842 and became an important manufacturer of Tunbridge ware, employing about 40 people.
Edmund Nye (1797–1863) and his father took over the Fenner company when William Fenner retired in 1840, after 30 years in partnership with him. Thomas Barton (1819–1903), previously apprenticed at the Wise factory, joined the Nyes in 1836, and worked as Nye's designer; he took over the business in 1863 and continued there until his death.
In Tonbridge (near to Tunbridge Wells), George Wise (1703–1779) is known to have had a business in 1746. It continued with his son Thomas, and Thomas's nephew George (1779–1869), who took over in 1806. In its early years the company made articles such as workboxes and tea caddies with prints of popular views; later items had pictures created from mosaics. Their workshop in Tonbridge, Wise's Tunbridge Ware Manufactory, was next to the Big Bridge over the Medway; the building was demolished in 1886 to widen the approach to the bridge.
Tunbridge ware became popular with visitors to the spa town of Tunbridge Wells, who bought them as souvenirs and gifts. Articles included cribbage boards, paperweights, writing slopes, snuff boxes and glove boxes.
At the Great Exhibition of 1851, Tunbridge ware by Edmund Nye, Robert Russell and Henry Hollamby was shown; Edmund Nye received a commendation from the judges for his work. He exhibited a table depicting a mosaic of a ship at sea; 110,800 tesserae were used in making the picture.
The manufacturers of Tunbridge ware were cottage industries, and they were no more than nine in Tunbridge Wells and one in Tonbridge. The number declined in the 1880s; competent craftsmen were hard to find, and public tastes changed. After the death of Thomas Barton in 1903 the only surviving firm was Boyce, Brown and Kemp, which closed in 1927.
Marquetry was an old technique which was continued by Nye and Barton to create images such as birds or butterflies.
Stickware and half-square mosaic was invented by James Burrows in about 1830: a bunch of wooden sticks of different colours, each having triangular or diamond-shaped cross section, were tightly glued together; in the case of stickware, the resulting block was dried, then turned to form an article such as the base of a pincushion. For half-square mosaic, thin slices were taken from the composite block, and applied to a surface.
Tesselated mosaic, was a development by James Burrows of half-square mosaic; it was adopted by George Wise and Edmund Nye. Minute tesserae were used to form a wide variety of geometric and pictorial designs.
Many sorts of wood were used for the various colours; about 40 were in regular use. Only natural colours were used; green was provided by "green oak", produced by the action of fungus on fallen oak. Designs for articles were often taken from designs of Berlin wool work.
Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.
Parquet is a geometric mosaic of wood pieces used for decorative effect in flooring.
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Pietra dura or pietre dure[ˈpjɛːtre ˈduːre], called parchin kari or parchinkari in the Indian Subcontinent, is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished colored stones to create images. It is considered a decorative art. The stonework, after the work is assembled loosely, is glued stone-by-stone to a substrate after having previously been "sliced and cut in different shape sections; and then assembled together so precisely that the contact between each section was practically invisible". Stability was achieved by grooving the undersides of the stones so that they interlocked, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with everything held tautly in place by an encircling 'frame'. Many different colored stones, particularly marbles, were used, along with semiprecious, and even precious stones. It first appeared in Rome in the 16th century, reaching its full maturity in Florence. Pietra dura items are generally crafted on green, white or black marble base stones. Typically, the resulting panel is completely flat, but some examples where the image is in low relief were made, taking the work more into the area of hardstone carving.
A tessera is an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic. It is also known as an abaciscus or abaculus.
Intarsia is a form of wood inlaying that is similar to marquetry. The start of the practice dates from before the seventh century CE.
Trencadís, also known as pique assiette, broken tile mosaics, bits and pieces, memoryware, and shardware, is a type of mosaic made from cemented-together tile shards and broken chinaware. Glazed china tends to be preferred, and glass is sometimes mixed in as well, as are other small materials like buttons and shells. Artists working in this form may create random designs, pictorial scenes, geometric patterns, or a hybrid of any of these.
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Désirée Lucienne Lisbeth Dulcie Day OBE RDI FCSD was one of the most influential British textile designers of the 1950s and 1960s. Day drew on inspiration from other arts to develop a new style of abstract pattern-making in post-war British textiles, known as ‘Contemporary’ design. She was also active in other fields, such as wallpapers, ceramics and carpets.
Roman glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. Roman glass production developed from Hellenistic technical traditions, initially concentrating on the production of intensely coloured cast glass vessels. However, during the 1st century AD the industry underwent rapid technical growth that saw the introduction of glass blowing and the dominance of colourless or 'aqua' glasses. Production of raw glass was undertaken in geographically separate locations to the working of glass into finished vessels, and by the end of the 1st century AD large scale manufacturing resulted in the establishment of glass as a commonly available material in the Roman world, and one which also had technically very difficult specialized types of luxury glass, which must have been very expensive.
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Gold glass or gold sandwich glass is a luxury form of glass where a decorative design in gold leaf is fused between two layers of glass. First found in Hellenistic Greece, it is especially characteristic of the Roman glass of the Late Empire in the 3rd and 4th century AD, where the gold decorated roundels of cups and other vessels were often cut out of the piece they had originally decorated and cemented to the walls of the catacombs of Rome as grave markers for the small recesses where bodies were buried. About 500 pieces of gold glass used in this way have been recovered. Complete vessels are far rarer. Many show religious imagery from Christianity, traditional Greco-Roman religion and its various cultic developments, and in a few examples Judaism. Others show portraits of their owners, and the finest are "among the most vivid portraits to survive from Early Christian times. They stare out at us with an extraordinary stern and melancholy intensity". From the 1st century AD the technique was also used for the gold colour in mosaics.
The Sutton Heritage Mosaic is a large mural in the form of a mosaic situated in Sutton High Street in the town of Sutton in Greater London, England. One of the largest examples of wall art in Britain, it was commissioned by the London Borough of Sutton to celebrate the borough's heritage.
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