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.
"David had the skills to reproduce theartwork on the moulds, that was theinitial reason for him to come along.Now he does everything to do with theartistic side to our work," explains Mark. Since 1995, the pair has had a studioat vibrant visual arts centre ProjectWorkshops, near Andover, Hampshire(see separate box), where theyspecialise in recreating Roman glass. "Roman glass fascinates me as itrepresents the beginning ofglassblowing," says Mark. "Within thespace of a generation the Romanglassblowers mastered a wide variety oftechniques. To make their glass they hadto work quickly and accurately, using thetools and technology of their day."Recently, Mark and David have workedon glass from other periods, includingancient Egyptian core formed vessels,English medieval glass and 18th-centurydrinking glasses, studying vessels fromthese periods and learning thetechniques required to reproduce them. Glass is formed of silica (sand),soda and lime fused at very hightemperatures. The earliest glassdiscovered is from Mesopotamiaaround 2500BC,where it wasused for seals, beads and otherdecoration. It is only about 1,000years after this that vessels areproduced, but it is at around 50BC, inPhoenicia, that the real revolutionoccurs: glass blowing. Some 12 yearspreviously, Rome had taken control ofthe region and the consequences wererapid. Glass became cheaper, with aROMAN GLASSMAKERSNADFAS AT SUMMER SPECIALThe Project Workshops SummerExhibition(May 7-9) offers originalartworks and contemporary crafts in apicturesque setting. A charitable event,proceeds go to the Alzheimer's Society.There will be a silent auction of some ofthe artists' work (the catalogue will beon the website so bids can be takenbefore the event). All resident artistshave open studios and work to sell, andsome offer demonstrations. The newtimber-framed barn will house visitingartists, as well as NADFAS HampshireArearepresentatives who have a standto promote the Association and localSocieties. A new sculpture garden willalso feature exciting new works. Groupsare welcome. Contact Richard or MandyAtkinson-Willes on01264 889889. 32NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 2010www.nadfas.org.uk