A short list of commonly used arts and crafts terminology and abbreviations

I was having a discussion on my Inkyspider Facebook page the other day about OOAK. A friend and very talented jeweler had no idea what OOAK meant. I realized that some terms which we use to describe art and handmade items were not necessarily clear to buyers and even artists and makers. I decided to compile this list of commonly used terminology and abbreviations which artists and makers may use to describe their work. I chose words which were used fairly broadly and have not covered techniques and terms used for specific media. This may come in useful if you are one of those people who like to peruse the beautiful handmade world of online venues such as Etsy.com . Any of these words or terms may be used to make your searches on these sites more relevant.

'Undersea Garden" - An original OOAK fiber art ACEO by Morgen Bardati


  • Artwear (Art to Wear) – Meaning wearable art – defined as an original garment, jewelry piece or accessory which has been individually designed with the intention to be viewed as a functional/wearable art piece.
  • Archival – The ability of paper (and sometimes other items) to withstand the effects of time, especially useful to know when buying photographs, prints or art made on paper.
  • ACEO – An ACEO is a 2.5 by 3.5 inch miniature artwork. Originally ATC’s (artist trading cards) were exchanged amongst artists but the relatively new idea of ACEO’s means that anyone can make a treasured and affordable collection of these inspired little works. ACEO’s fit into standard card collector’s sleeves but may also be framed.
  • ATC – Artist Trading Cards are miniature artworks traded between artists. Just like ACEO’s they measure 2.5 by 3.5 inches and fit into standard collector’s cards.
  • Commission – Hiring someone to make a specific art piece usually for a group or public venue but is a term sometimes used by a person placing a personal custom order.
  • Custom order – ‘Made to order’ – Something which is made to specific requirements by the buyer. A special order made for an individual.
  • Limited Edition – A limited amount of signed identical prints (could be photographs or screenprinted, blockprinted or lithograph) that an artist would produce. This could also apply to designers of garments, jewelry and accessories.
  • Handmade (handcrafted) – Made by hand, not by machine, although machine stitched items made by one maker is still considered to be handmade. It would usually suggest a certain amount of personable craftsmanship was involved.
  • Indie – A term applied to independent artists and designers who are not represented by big studios, companies or fashion houses.
  • OOAK – Means  ‘One of a Kind’, not two or three, but the only one made, making it truly unique and original. This term has become overused and it’s definition blurred by websites like Etsy and eBay. If you are looking for a genuine OOAK item make sure that you ask sellers directly if the item is the only one like it they have made or will be making in the future.
  • Open Edition – An unlimited amount of prints or copies are available.
  • Original – A one of a kind artwork or handmade item in which has been entirely designed and created by the artist.
  •  Reproduction – A copy, more than one. When applied to an artwork it would mean that it is not an original but a print or copy of the original.
  • Reconstructed – Something which has been made from an preexisting item. This term is used especially by garment designers to describe garments which have been redesigned from used garments. Reconstruction would imply that the garment/object was first deconstructed. The new creation usually retains some feature of the original item or garment.
  • Repurposed – An item or garment which has been altered or added to in some way to be turned into something else – not necessarily deconstructed.
  • Unique – Means only one, one of a kind but is more often used broadly to describe something that is unusual. If you’re looking for something that is totally unique and truly the only one made then use the term OOAK instead.

My new pincushion

I have to admit a bit of a fetish for sewing notions. I collect vintage buttons, hooks and eyes, metal stitch-in snaps and zippers are so much fun! Sewing tools like thimbles, sock darners and unpicking tools. Pins, needles and pin cushions are irresistible!

I was recently having a pin crisis because so many pins made right now arrive, blunt, bend easily and are always losing their little round pin heads. I bought a new set of (hopefully) good quality glass head pins and this gorgeous pin cushion from Etsy seller Susan Parsons of Georgia Street Crafts. She made this felted wool pin cushion with hand stitched detail and a vintage bakelite button in the centre. It is beautifully constructed and filled with crushed walnut shells. This natural eco-friendly filler gives the cushion a nice solid feel and helps to keep pins clean and sharp. A great way to start the new year in my studio!

Textiles in this photo have been surfaced designed in my studio – discharge screenprinted, direct screenprinted and hand dyed. I have started making some of into cuffs featuring mother of pearl and natural wood buttons.