Bronze and glass are ancient tools for modern learning

By Elizabeth Hornor | Emory Report | April 12, 2013

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A Carlos Museum program is teaching students about the materials and techniques of ancient art forms like casting bronze and shaping glass from artists who still use them today. Photos by Ann Borden.

The experience of casting bronze and shaping glass has changed little since the 7th century BC: the artists who created the vessels, statues and jewelry found in the galleries of the Carlos Museum would feel very comfortable in the foundries and studios of Atlanta’s metal and glass artists.    

This spring semester, thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Teaching and Training Program at the Carlos, 18 Emory students are learning about the materials and techniques of these ancient art forms from artists who still use them today.  

During the first half of the semester, "Pyrotechnology in the Ancient World" students explored works of bronze and glass in the Carlos collections, looking closely for signs of technique, special skill, and the possibilities of the medium.  Artists from the Inferno Foundry in Union City, Ga. guided students through the lost-wax process—making a wax sculpture, forming a mold, pouring the molten metal, and finishing the final product at the foundry.   

During the second half of the term, students will take up glass making of the kind practiced in antiquity — core-forming, slumping, and blowing, working with Matt Janke of Janke Studios in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward.   

Sandra Blakely, associate professor in the Classics Department and director of the program in ancient Mediterranean studies, says she couldn’t be more excited about the course for her students.  

“The bronze smithy and the glass workshop were the source of the finest artifacts, the most specialized craftsmen, and the oddest of gods in the Greek and Roman world," she says. "Participants in this seminar are closing the gap between themselves and antiquity, and will see the treasures in the Carlos Museum through entirely new eyes.”  

Says Emory College junior Leila Rogers: "It's one thing to read about how the ancients worked with glass and metal; it's totally different to learn through hands-on experience. Being able to see works that were created thousands of years ago using the same methods we have learned is incredibly inspiring and has made me want to learn more."  

The Carlos Museum plans to offer a public glassmaking workshop with Janke Studios in fall 2013.