A glossary for select terms used on this site.

Broadside – A large piece of paper with an announcement or advertisement printed on one side, intended to be posted on a wall or noticeboard.

Cartesian diver – A Cartesian diver is an object used to demonstrate the relationship between density and buoyancy. This classic science experiment is thought to be named for René Descartes. Alternate terms: Cartesian devil, water devil, water dancer, bottle imp. Learn more.

gif of glass cartesian diver in use

Source: Kathryn Wieczorek

Fancy glass – “A term used to describe a very wide variety of 19th-century European and American decorative glass.”* In the context of this site, fancy glass was a term frequently used by itinerant glassworkers to describe their techniques, their products, and themselves (e.g. – “The Great Bohemian Troupe of Fancy Glass Workers”).

Flameworking – “The technique of forming objects from rods and tubes of glass that, when heated in a flame, become soft and can be manipulated into the desired shape. Formerly, the source of the flame was an oil or paraffin lamp used in conjunction with foot-powered bellows; today, gas-fueled torches are used.” (alternate terms) See also: lampworking.

Glassblowing – “The technique of forming an object by inflating a gather or gob of molten glass on the end of a blowpipe. Traditionally and in modern furnace working, the gaffer blows through the tube, slightly inflating the gob, which is then manipulated into the required form by swinging it, rolling it on a marver, or shaping it with tools or in a mold. It is then inflated to the desired size. In flameworking, one end of the glass tube is heated and closed immediately, after which the worker blows into the other end and manipulates the hot glass.”

Glass spinning – The technique of making glass fibers by pulling molten glass into threads. Itinerant glassworkers would typically heat a rod of glass and attach the end to a rotating wheel, then spin the wheel while continuing to heat the rod. The result was a continuous strand of glass drawn around the wheel. Once done, the glassworker could easily cut the threads off the wheel using a fingernail. See also: spun glass.

Learn more about glass fibers and their early production in a 2017 Q&A with glass conservator Charlotte Holzer on the Corning Museum of Glass blog, and see an example of this technique demonstrated by flameworker Eric Goldschmidt on Instagram.

Glassworking – A general term for a number of techniques that use glass as the primary medium, including glassblowing, flameworking, coldworking, and kilnworking. Alternate term: glassmaking.

Handbill – A message or advertisement printed on a single page, intended to be delivered, circulated by hand, or posted on a wall or noticeboard.

Itinerant glassworker – A lampworker (or flameworker) who traveled from town to town demonstrating glassmaking for audiences, much like a traveling theater troupe or circus. Alternate terms include: fancy glass artist, Bohemian glass blower, glass worker, glass spinner. Learn more.

Lampworking – An alternate term for flameworking often used in historical contexts when the source of a flame was a lamp fueled by oil or paraffin. Still actively used by some artists today. [Author’s note: This is the term I will primarily use when referring to this technique on the site except when discussing a contemporary topic, in which case I will use flameworking.] Learn more.

Silvering – The process of coating a piece of glass in a reflective solution such as silver nitrate.

Spun glass – Fibers made from molten glass pulled into threads. For hundreds of years before glass fibers were manufactured in a factory setting, artisans including itinerant glassworkers made spun glass. Alternate terms: glass fiber, fiberglass. See also: glass spinning.

* Unless otherwise noted, definitions in quotes come from the Corning Museum of Glass’ Glass Dictionary.