Although the two main materials of The Dinner Party are ceramic and textile, a closer examination reveals the work is actually composed of a myriad of materials. Many of these varied elements, well over one hundred, are found as embellishments on the 39 place setting runners. For example, animal skins (calfskin, snakeskin, and deerskin) are used in the Primordial Goddess, Amazon, and Sacajawea runners. Kidskin leather is used for the shoes in the male figure in Mary Wollstonecraft. Metals are used on several runners: titanium to represent the axe blades incorporated into Amazon’s runner, while coins of 14-gauge sheet metal are sewn onto the runner for Judith, and the runner for Boadaceia has enameled copper metal attached. Glass beadwork is used on the runners for Judith, Sacajawea, and Natalie Barney. Shells, bone needles, and starfish are incorporated onto the Fertile Goddess runner. White pearls are sewn onto the runner for Elizabeth R. and carved wood is glued to the Saint Bridget runner. Acrylic paint and wooden stretcher bars are components of the Georgia O’Keeffe runner. Even the textile components are made from a variety of natural fibers, including cotton, wool, silk, linen, horsehair, and cotton/linen blends, as well as some synthetic fibers.
The wide range of materials, both organic and inorganic, which make up The Dinner Party, present challenges for the preservation of this work while on long-term exhibition.