Whether picking out gifts for friends and family, or refurbishing your personal space, a little bit of extra knowledge about what you are buying is always helpful. A basic understanding of popular patterns, crafts, finishes and techniques will enrich the gifting experience. Our glossary simplifies the origins of these terms, and also connects their broader, modern interpretations in art and design. This will be your handy guide through the festive season.
Historically, the sap of the lacquer tree or secretions by the lac insects was used as a finishing coat on wood. The protective sealing also enhanced the surface with a soft sheen and a reddish tint – a natural varnish. Over centuries, lacquer came to be made from several different substances – both organic and chemical – and the palette expanded to a variety of colours. The resin-like liquid dries and adheres to the surface; the type of lacquer determines the intensity of the shine – muted, pearly or high-gloss. Besides being a functional treatment, it is also used as a decorative element in craft and design, ever popular in furniture, home accessories and jewellery.
L to R: Sofia Tray, Pho Trays (Set of 2), Classic Antique Cabinet C-1800
Originating in Rome and other parts of Italy in the 1600s, this style of art and architecture became extremely popular due to its ornate aesthetic, and spread all across Europe. Puritans and classicists were not fans of this post-Renaissance school of thought since they considered it superficial and merely decorative – lacking depth and intellect. Baroque gained popularity once more in the 20th century between the two World Wars; interiors, furniture and décor pieces made for a modern revival, and are still in demand today. In the present context, it means something elaborate, with complex lines, and is only loosely referential to the historic forms.
L to R: Baroque Cuff, Black Marble Urn, Gilded Mirror
The former kingdom of Bohemia, part of the modern Czech Republic, is the main producer of high-grade crystal glass, known the world over as Bohemian glass, prized in the country’s heritage list. Blown, hand-cut, coloured, painted and engraved glassware are crafted with pride in generational workshops. The other connotation of the word ‘Bohemian’ stems from the French word bohémien, meaning gypsies and mostly referring to Romanians, who were thought to have entered West Europe through the Czech province. The term became an adjective used to describe people, lifestyles and tastes that were myriad, colourful and unconventional. Yesterday’s alternative is today’s mainstream.
L to R: Vintage Kilim, A Taste For The Exotic, Bohemian Drink Set
Dating back to the times of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, the method of applying gold leaf or powder to coat an object in a thin metallic layer is called gilding. Several techniques can be used to create gilt; the surface can be metal, wood, ceramic or glass. Glueing by hand, chemical gilding and electroplating (also known as gold plating) are all varieties of the same theme. Earlier, gilding referred to a gold or golden coating, but the definition has broadened. At present, a metallic coating in any colour – copper, silver, bronze, pewter – can be called gilt.
L to R: Banaras Dinnerware, Goldfish Clock, Krishna Urn
In decorative arts and sculpture, inlay refers to the process of creating depressions on the surface of the main object, and filling them with other materials to create contrast patterns, then levelling them to a smooth finish. Wood, metal and stone furniture, objets d’art, serving vessels, architectural components and statuettes are inlaid with glass, bone, mother-of-pearl, horn, shell and a host of other constituents. Pietra dura on marble, silver bidri, cosmatesque on walls and floors, marquetry on wood are all examples of inlay, with beautiful historic specimens.
L to R: Inlay Platter, Square Thikri Shrinathji Panel, Chinoiserie Medium Tray
Powdered glass, fused to a substrate on high heat, forms a molten compound, which hardens to form vitreous or porcelain enamel. Mainly used on metal, this surface coating technique is sometimes confused with lacquer, but produces a more complex shine, due to the incorporation of glass. Enamelling has been intrinsic to heritage crafts across cultures. The Indian version, used in jewellery and known as kundan meena or meenakari, has its origins in Persia, which is considered to be the birthplace of enamel application. The term is derived from the word ‘mina’, meaning heaven in Persian, referring to azure skies. The earliest and most predominant colours in the belt were shades of turquoise and cerulean.
L to R:Peacock Feather Enamel Bangle, Jackson Horse Head Object, Peacock Feather Bowl
Initially woven on vertical looms, this form of textile art was originally weft-facing, meaning that the horizontal yarns would completely hide the vertical warp. Intricate patterns, mostly depicting religious iconography, would emerge in vibrant colours. The French word tapisser, meaning ‘to carpet’, inspired the English version. Because the weaves were weak, these textiles were more decorative than functional, mostly used as murals. Tapestries were greatly prized in medieval Europe; the oldest specimens date back to Hellenic times. In India, there are elaborately complex embroidered or hand-painted pichwais that depict Hindu mythology, particularly the chapters of Lord Krishna’s life and his various avatars.
L to R: Go Krida, Traditional Folk Sharad With Lotus, 'GARUDA' Hand Embroidered Tapestry