30NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 2010www.nadfas.org.ukROMAN GLASSMAKERSFrom furnaceto filmFilm props are often taken for granted but in fact some directors goto great lengths to get them right. Susanna Clarke investigatesthe work of the Roman Glassmakers, just one of a number of artistsworking in Hampshire's hub of creativity, Project Workshops
ROMAN GLASSMAKERSFar left:Theauthenticwood-firedopen furnaceused by theglassmakersLeft:Mosaicglass dishesBelow:MarkTaylor blowsglass fromthe furnace In Ridley Scott's 2000 film Gladiatorisa scene in a bar where two senatorsdiscuss the evil Emperor Commodus'splans for 150 days of gladiatorial games.In front of them are some Roman-styleglasses, from which they sip. While mostpeople never give film props a moment'sthought, in fact some film-makers workhard to get an authentic look and theglasses in that scene were not only inthe Roman style, but also made usingRoman methods, by a pair of talentedcraftsmen, Mark Taylor and David Hill. Mark and David are friends fromschool who have found themselvesworking together in a most unusualcreative field - they call themselves theRoman Glassmakers: 'experimentalarchaeologists' who explore the manyancient techniques of glass-blowing,decoration and engraving from severalkey periods in history. Mark studied archaeology atBirmingham before spending two yearsin field archaeology. But glass had beenan interest of his since his teens and hewanted to set up his own business, sohe trained for a year in Glass Techniquesand Technology at Brierley Hill nearStourbridge. The idea for reproducingRoman glass came from a 1987exhibition at the British Museum entitledGlass of the Caesars, a showcase of thefinest Roman glass discovered.In 1989, he set up his own glass-making studio. He asked his old schoolfriend David, a multi-skilled artist, to helpcreate the moulds for some Romanbeakers he wanted to make.