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The background wood in early 19 In the late 1820s the small mosaic Tunbridge Ware technique was developed, became popular by the 1830s and remained so to the end of the nineteenth century.This technique entailed selecting and sticking thin sticks of wood of different colour to create a preselected pictorial pattern.Although synonymous with wood mosaic Tunbridge ware boxes were made long before this technique and style of decoration was arrived at in the 1830s.The woodworkers in the area of Tunbridge Wells were making wooden artifacts even earlier than the seventeenth century when the town became a fashionable Spa resort.The makers laid out the patterns, using the contrasts and harmonies of the material, with total respect for its natural beauty and quality.The artistic judgement of the woodworkers in selecting and arranging these pieces, created some of the strongest and most beautiful boxes ever made.The range of wood used to decorate these boxes is unparalleled.It includes: naturally green fungus-attacked oak, holly, burrs, patterns made in the wood by fungus infection or peculiar growth, snakewoods (bamboo or palm treated with black polish to create snakeskin effect) as well as fruitwoods, root woods and exotic timbers newly arrived in England.
In the best examples of mosaic contrasting colours of wood were used carefully, to create well defined patterns.
The rods were then sliced into transverse sections and used as decorative veneers of small geometric patterns.
Alternatively the prepared rods were turned to make small objects or toys. It was of paramount importance that the rods to be turned were prepared with the utmost precision so they could withstand the vicissitudes of the lathe.
These boxes were mostly small, sometimes circular or in the shape of baskets.
This kind of work continued into the early part of the 19 century, decorated with penwork, painting, hand coloured engravings or a combination of techniques.