All posts by qldmuseum

Henry Lawson’s other skill

Henry Lawson remains one of Australia’s best known poets and authors a century after his death. Poems such as ‘The Lights of Cobb & Co’, ‘The Teams’ and ‘Andy’s Gone with Cattle’, and short stories like ‘Joe Wilson and his Mates’ flowed from his pen. His face has adorned banknotes and stamps.

Henry Lawson’s life was glorious and tragic in equal measure. At once blessed with insight and eloquence, humour and empathy, he was also cursed with melancholy loneliness and alcoholism. As a young man in the 1880s he struggled to overcome a limited education and the isolation of profound deafness. Yet, in the vernacular of the day, he was not without prospects. Henry Lawson was a skilled tradesman; a coach painter.

Henry became apprenticed as a 16-year-old in 1883 to Hudson Brothers, a large construction and railway engineering company with over 1000 staff. He learned his trade painting railway carriages and wagons at Hudson Brothers new workshops at Clyde (Granville) in Sydney, and for a time at their Newcastle works. Henry seems to have been at least proficient, as he considered Hudson Brothers good employers who ‘imported the best mechanics and treated and paid them well.’ [1] (However he may have had a rough time with his foreman at Newcastle.)

A railway carriage built by Hudson Bros. in the 1880s. Image State Library of New South Wales.
Hudon Bros. workshops at Clyde (Granville) in Sydney. Image State Library of New South Wales.

Henry subsequently worked for coachbuilder William Kerridge in Castlereagh Street Sydney, the home of ‘quality’ coachmakers such as Vial’s and Angus and Sons. Kerridge’s carriages regularly won prizes at the Sydney Show, and William Kerridge himself sometimes judged carriage classes. Indeed he was regarded highly enough to be made chairman of a coachbuilder’s conference in 1886. (Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Dec 1886. p8).  Henry Lawson later described William Kerridge as ‘an old fashioned tradesman and gentleman’ who had some employees with him for over 30 years. And in return William Kerridge wrote Henry a reference describing him as ‘a steady, trustworthy, hardworking, young man.’ This was certainly a description at odds with Henry Lawson’s later decline into alcoholism and poor mental health.

Coach painting was quite an involved trade to learn. Paints did not come premixed. Painters ground coloured ochre, and blended white lead base powder with linseed oil, terebene hardener, varnish and other mysterious additives. The trade at the time seemed somewhere between science and alchemy. Coach painters painted, sanded and rubbed back coat after coat of paint to produce glossy finishes. It took over a week to properly paint a carriage. Painters could ‘pull’ fine straight lines, paint intricate scrolls, and even produce signage and lettering on trade vehicles. For this they were paid at the same rate as the blacksmiths, body makers, and upholstery trimmers, and even a little more in some shops than the wheelwrights, although apprentices were paid only a fraction of the tradesman’s rate. (SMH, 11 June 1884. p12.)

Paint recipes from The Coach Painter’s Handbook and Guide, Henry J Drane.
A popular brand of paint provided the inspiration for Arvie’s surname.

Unfortunately ill winds were blowing towards Henry Lawson, the carriage industry and the country. The carriage conference William Kerridge chaired in 1886 discussed the effects of drought and cheap imported components on the trade. And an economic depression which even consumed the huge Hudson Brothers business was just around the corner. In 1890 William Kerridge closed the doors of his Castlereagh Street workshop but Henry Lawson had already moved on. He had studied at night while an apprentice in the unsuccessful hope of matriculating to university. A life of letters called.

In the late 1880s he was house painting for money but also establishing his name as a poet. Poems such as ‘Faces in the Street’ (1888) and ‘Second Class Wait Here’ (1899) depict the circles Henry moved in at the time, amongst Sydney’s poor in tenement slums. (Today properties in Phillip Street where he lived for a time and Castlereagh Street are amongst the most expensive in Australia.)

Although he considered Hudson Brothers good and fair employers, Henry Lawson drew on his time as an apprentice coach painter as the setting for two of his darkest short stories; ‘Two Boys at Grinder Brothers’’ and ‘Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock’. Arvie Aspinall, is a very young apprentice at Grinder Brothers’ Railway Coach Factory. He tries to help his widowed mother pay the bills, but they still struggle to make ends meet. Arvie has neither the time nor money for interests outside of work believing… ‘it would be better if young fellows of this country didn’t think so much about racin’ and fightin’.’[2] His subcontractor boss Collins underpays the underage apprentice ‘babies’ and works them beyond the standard hours. And he preaches in the park on Sunday.

Arvie is given an alarm clock by a benevolent society after it was reported in a local paper that he was found sleeping outside the factory, having arrived for work in the dark with no way of telling the time.[3] The benevolent society as it turns out is supported by the Grinder family, but their charity is paid for by the labour of those they purport to help, and only extends so far as to keep the workforce ‘grinding’ on in poverty.

On the face of Arvie’s clock are the words,

Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.

‘“Mother!” he said suddenly, “I think it lies.”’ Young Arvie, suffering from overwork, malnutrition and an untreated chest infection dies shortly after in his sleep.[4]

Henry Lawson was writing in the depths of the 1890s economic depression which exacerbated the plight of an already poor underclass. The stories are a reminder that ‘The Wonders of the Victorian Age’ in our museums, such as the railway rolling stock at the Workshops Rail Museum, were produced by a multitude of long forgotten Arvie Aspinalls working long hours, six days a week. And the urban coach painters, blacksmiths, coachbuilders and wheelwrights who built the carriages in Cobb + Co Museum almost never owned one themselves.

Jeff Powell
Curator, Cobb+Co Museum


[1] A Fragment of Autobiography

[2] Two Boys at Grinder Brothers

[3] Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock

[4] Ibid

References

Geoff Barker, 2018 ‘Hudson Brothers’ Building & Engineering Company’. State Library of NSW.

Henry J Drane, 1896 The Coach Painter’s Handbook and Guide, London. Reproduced in Harness, Vehicles, Timber and Coach-Painting, Dene Bindery, Liverpool NSW 1980.

Ross Edmonds, ‘Henry Lawson and the Wickham School of Arts’, Hunter Living Histories, University of Newcastle.

Peter FitzSimonds, ‘From the Archive’, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Jan

Henry Lawson, ‘Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock’ first appeared in The Bulletin, 11 June 1892, page 11. Also 1896, While the Billy Boils. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Henry Lawson, A Fragment of Autobiography (vol 2) 1899. Angus & Robertson Manuscripts, State Library of NSW.

Henry Lawson, 1900 ‘Two Boys at Grinder Brothers’, Over the Sliprails. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Mike Scanlon, ‘Henry Lawson link should be marked.’ Newscastle Herald, 14 March 2014.

A Story of artists and the museum

Written by: Andrew MacDonald, Factory Supervisor Cobb+Co Museum

Biological science can inspire artists, not only with form but also display style.

In a previous life I worked in the art department of a regional university, where I looked after the studios and taught sculpture techniques. One of my colleagues was the textiles lecturer, and we decided to collaborate after we noticed similarities in our work. I predominately used timber and metal, Sarah Rayner worked in fabric with embroidery and weaving.

We began by partially making a piece each then handing it over for the other to complete. After the first couple we couldn’t stop, deciding to collaborate to produce an exhibition with a museum feel.

Source material

We agreed that our work would be botanical or insect inspired, like case moths, beetles and seed pods. As we both lived in rural areas, Cabarlah and Ravensbourne, we focused on local species like Grevillea, Eucalypts, Flindersia, Castanospermum and other trees around us.

These forms were closely observed, manipulated and re-imagined in a combination of materials. To better view the locale, I walked along the road from Sarah’s house to Ravensbourne National Park. I noted native vegetation and exotics, and collected finds on the roadside. One discovery that changed our approach was a shredded inner tube. It became the material we could both work with, and physically joined many of the pieces.

Display style

We both identified as ‘museumophiles’ and loved the old Queensland Museum. The memories of pulling out drawers of pinned insects prompted us to display our work in a museum collection style. We designed glass fronted cases with handles, and labelled many works like insect displays, with a pinned tag bearing an obscure Latin name. We spent many hours inventing titles with the help of a Latin dictionary and a glass of wine.

The first exhibition was at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, who purchased three of the works for their collection. With that success we approached Artisan Gallery, of Craft Queensland who agreed, and we received an Arts Queensland grant for exhibition and catalogue costs.

Runaway success

The popularity of the exhibition prompted an extension at the gallery. From local media coverage we were picked up by several curators, which meant inclusion in the Craft Australia exhibition, Material Speaks, at SOFA, Chicago; and we were asked to apply for a large sculpture commission with Brisbane City Council.

Our proposal was accepted, and we went on to install larger works very similar in content and style along Melbourne Street, West End. The inspiration was the original rainforest vegetation of the area. We used aluminium- cast or pressed, to make the pieces durable. We also produced laser cut aluminium lettering, of faux Latin nomenclature, like Flindersia westendus.

Old works re-imagined

My role in QM is a fascinating mix of technical and creative work, with a dash of history. At home I still make constructions in aluminium and rubber, and Sarah now makes exquisite porcelain pieces based on native flora. Working at QM suggested a way of linking old and new pieces, by mixing them into the museum displays. The forms find new echoes with collection specimens, and the display boxes merge into the museum matrix!

Visitors to Cobb+Co have the opportunity to see more than horse drawn vehicles. The Inquiry Centre has an eclectic mix of objects from the past, fauna specimens, and physics interactives. Can they stimulate new connections or creations in the observant visitor?

To the teachers, thank you

As of Monday 25 May 2020, all Queensland school students are set to go back to school, after many being at home doing school virtually for some time.

The importance of teachers and their pivotal role in our youth’s lives cannot be overlooked. During this unique and unprecedented time, teachers have been responsive and supportive in transitioning whilst helping students and parents alike.

With this, we wanted to shine a light on teachers and thank them for the work they do.

Teachers have the unique ability to guide us in the right direction, make us believe in ourselves and encourage us to be creative and imaginative. 

We asked some of our staff to share their thanks to a teacher they know.

Luke, Public Engagement

Thank you to the teachers of my daughters at this difficult time, you have built a magnificent garden for their sunflower minds and importantly, even now, each day you bring the sunshine.

Ronnie, Cobb + Co

In high school I studied a French Immersion language program, which was introduced in Australia by a passionate teacher I was lucky enough to learn from. While at first it was incredibly challenging studying core subjects such as Math, Geography and Science in a completely different language, the rewards were so worthwhile. He provided the most stimulating, fun and encouraging educational environment every day and certainly made an impact on my life. Thank you!

Zoe, Marketing

Thank you to my high school geography teacher. You were very enthusiastic about geography and teaching our class. Every lesson you walked through the doors with a beaming smile and after each topic you taught us you would say “now isn’t that just fascinating!” You believed in me and pushed me to work hard. I will always remember that class fondly and the passion you had for learning.

Bernadette, Major Projects and Exhibitions

Teachers have always amazed and inspired me. A great teacher is a true gift.  Most recently, I had two university associate professors guiding my doctoral studies – they were not only a knowledge bank but life coaches as well. They imparted their extensive knowledge, challenged my engrained perceptions and helped and encouraged me to reach the end when the going got tough. To them, I will be eternally grateful and hope I can inspire others in the way they inspired me. I am also grateful that I live in a country that allows me and other women to learn and to teach.  

Andrew, The Workshops Rail Museum

Thank you to my high school economics teacher who, especially in Year 12, provided guidance and support that enabled me to achieve successful subject results. Year 12 is stressful and demanding and your patience, insight and ability to provide humour, when needed, was greatly appreciated. Your enthusiasm for the school and the learning environment are memorable and I do reflect on that time with much fondness.

Chae, Lifelong Learning

I would like to thank the teachers who took me under their wing during each of my preservice teaching placements. I learnt a great deal from your skills and experience. You each gave me the freedom to take risks in the classroom and to learn from the outcomes. In your own ways, you provided me with the support, encouragement and feedback I needed to develop my self-confidence and teaching ability – and it is this that really helped to prepare me for my own future classrooms.

Gabriel, Museum of Tropical Queensland

We moved to America for a few years back in 1979. I had to start year 9 at West Roxbury High School, in Boston, a week after we arrived. Speaking minimal English I was terrified on how I would manage to attend classes. Lucky for me, I came across a Greek American Teacher, Mr Kalogerakos. To this day, I feel that I owe him so much. He started helping me with my English after school, and got to the extreme of translating in Greek any of my other subjects. Also, I still remember what he had said to me.  “Watch random shows on TV. With what you learn after school, you will be able to understand in 3 months and speak really well in 6”. He was right. The only bad thing is that I am now addicted to television. Thanks for your guidance.

Searching for Surprise Rainbows with SparkLab

Kate, SparkLab Learning Officer, South Bank

Discover rainbows around your home and explore the science of light and colour.

Have you ever noticed a rainbow somewhere that you didn’t expect one? SparkLab Learning Officers have been discovering surprise rainbows all over their homes. This got us thinking… Where do rainbows come from? And how can we create our own rainbows at home?

Search for your own surprise rainbows!

You can explore this too by looking for surprise rainbows around your home. You might find them in the kitchen, in the garden when the sprinkler is on… or somewhere else altogether! What do you notice about the rainbows you find? Are they in dark places or bright places? Do you usually find them at night, in the morning, or during the day? What colours do you see? Where are those colours coming from?

How can we make our own rainbows?

There are lots of ways you can make your own rainbows. Try using objects like a CD or DVD, a big glass of water, or a clear sparkly object. You will also need a little bit of light, next to a little bit of shade. Move your objects around slowly in the light and look very carefully for rainbows. You might want to try moving your object close to the table, the floor or the wall.

  1. Where do you notice the rainbows occurring? What shapes do they make?
  2. What colours and patterns do you notice? Do they always look the same?
  3. What colour is the light that is shining on your object? Is it the same colour as the colours in your rainbow?

Hidden colours: The science behind a rainbow

Rainbows are created when white light gets split up into all its different colours. Sunlight is made up of lots of different colours of light mixed together – we call this white light. When white light passes through some materials, the different colours of light bend – or refract – at different angles. This means that when the light comes out the other side of the material, the different colours of light have split and spread apart. We see this as bands of different colours – a rainbow!

The tiny ridges on a CD or DVD can also split white light up into different colours. As the colours of light bounce off the CD they overlap, which makes some colours appear brighter and cancels other colours out.

Take your exploration further

You can keep experimenting with rainbows using different objects or different sources of light.

  1. What happens if you use a different shaped object, like a square glass?
  2. What happens if you move your object closer or further from the rainbow? How does this change what you see?
  3. What happens if you use a different colour of light? Add a drop of food colouring to your glass of water…what happens to your rainbow?!

Share your discoveries with us!

You can share your discoveries with us! Take a photo of your surprise rainbows, or the rainbows you have created and tag us at #SparkLabQM on Facebook or Instagram.

CHANGING COMMUNITIES. CHANGING LIVES.

For decades across the Queensland Museum Network, hundreds of volunteers have generously given their time and knowledge to ensure visitors to our museums enjoy an experience to remember.

This year for National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the theme, “Changing Communities. Changing Lives”. We know our volunteers do exactly that, with visitors often speaking of the lasting impression left after an encounter or tour with a ‘volly’.

This year we would like to say thank you, and acknowledge the generous contribution of all volunteers by sharing a few favourite memories from across our campuses.

Marylin Jensen OAM, volunteer at Cobb+Co Museum in Toowoomba.

Cobb+Co Museum

Marilyn Jensen OAM has been volunteering at Cobb+Co Museum for over a year now. After retiring, Marilyn thought it would be an opportunity to promote craft skills that are simple to do, and encourage others to have a go or join a group in their local area.

“My favourite time at Cobb+Co Museum is every time I’m there, as every day brings new questions and people asking them,” she says.

“It’s the pleasure of helping someone else know and learn something new.

“It’s a pleasure to show someone how a natural fibre is processed to a useful garment, and encouraging people to have a go and be happy, and enjoy life and our wonderful community groups and museum.”

Kyle Harmer, volunteer at The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich.

The Workshops Rail Museum

Kyle Harmer started out at The Workshops Rail Museum as a volunteer two years ago. Graduating to a Visitor Service Officer within a year, Kyle still also volunteers his time as one of the Museum’s expert model builders, working on the museum’s model railway – the largest of its kind, depicting scenes from Queensland’s extensive rail network.

Kylie has many great memories from his time volunteering at the museum, but one that stands out in particular.

“Whilst rejuvenating the model one day a young visitor came up to me and said ‘that’s what I want to do when I grow up!’”.

“That was really cool.”

Mike Saw, volunteer at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville.

Museum of Tropical Queensland

Mike Whiting started volunteering at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2001. He said while there have been many changes of staff, displays and volunteers over the years, a very significant change has been the introduction of special and in-depth training given to help volunteers present stories accurately and confidently to visitors of the museum.

“I have so many memories but probably my favourite was confidently giving my first and special talk on the “Three Incredible Small Boat Stories,” he said. 

“What makes being a volunteer worthwhile is just being able to help our visitors understand more about of all the museum’s diverse displays, which cover topics such as maritime history, palaeontology, biodiversity and marine biology!

“It is such a wide range of topics and it’s all important information that is relevant to North Queensland.”

Janice Neill, volunteer at Queensland Museum in Brisbane.

Queensland Museum

Janice Neill has been a volunteer with Queensland Museum since 2012, when the museum celebrated 150 years of connecting and collecting.

“We now have extra space to host larger exhibitions, but staff still have the same dedication to share their enormous wealth of knowledge with volunteers and visitors,” she said. 

Janet has many fond memories from travelling exhibitions and displays, but also appreciates the smaller, simple moments inside the museum’s walls.

“Every day is an exciting day talking to the school groups in the Discovery Centre and recently the Discovery Day for Little Learners.”

If you would like to become a volunteer at any of our campuses, please complete the online Volunteer Expression of Interest form.

Grindstone – ancient multi-tools

Marisa Giorgi, Information Officer, Queensland Museum

Grindstones are a relatively common tool found across Australia. But did you know grindstones have many varied uses? Archaeological science is revealing the complex nature of these stone artefacts.

Introduction

At Queensland Museum, we have many of grindstones of different shapes and sizes, from across Queensland. These grindstones represent durable examples of everyday items used by Indigenous Australian people.  They are also integral components of the archaeological puzzle that helps us understand our past.

Grindstone, flat sedimentary rock with striations and polish on one side.

What’s a grindstone?

A grindstone is usually a large flat sandstone rock (abrasive rock) that is used with a suitable top stone, or muller. They form an efficient tool to grind or crush food to release nutrients. An important role was grinding of seeds to make flour for bread. This usually required a flatter top stone. There were many other uses which sometimes involved a smaller more rounded top stone called a pounder. This served to crack open seeds, break bones to extract the marrow, pound plant fibres to make string and grind ochre to create different pigment colours. Sometimes the process was dry grinding and other times using water. Essentially their main use of grindstones was for processing food.

Grindstones can be identified by their shape and wear patterns. Some are deeply abraded, with surfaces often worn smooth from extended use. They were mostly found where Aboriginal people lived and processed food. Grindstones were sometimes heavy (up to 14kg or more) so they were not always convenient to carry. The largest grindstones often remained at certain location for extended periods. Grindstones did wear out, and many areas lack suitable sandstone outcrops to create new ones. A grindstone trade network existed, and some of the recently located production areas are so large that they indicate an extensive and well-developed production for trade. Some areas, including parts of Victoria, seem to have fewer grindstones.

Grindstone – Muller, disc-shaped stone with polishing on one side.

What can they tell us?

We can analyse surfaces of grindstones for traces of plant matter. Because of limited resources this research is only carried out with community permission. Grindstones with a lot of contextual information are generally selected for this research. For this reason it is always important to leave artefacts in situ (In place) when possible. Record the location and report your discovery to the Department of Environment and Heritage so that archaeologists can get the full story behind an object. You can play an important part in preserving Australia’s history.

Grindstone – Muller, rectangular-shaped stone with polishing on multiple sides.

They are not all the same….

In the Museum we have some very specialised grinding stones such as the Morah grinding stone- only found in the Wet Tropics rainforests. This grindstone is made of slate with several parallel grooves incised on its surface to create a processing platform for seeds and nuts. Starch residue analysis on some of these Morahs for provides evidence that the stones are used to process toxic starchy nuts.

Some foods contain toxins which must be released before consumption.  Processing methods included water leeching or washing, and grinding or crushing. Grinding stones also processed plants for medicinal use. Smaller grinding stones were usually used in the production of pigments, crushing different colours of ochre to make a fine powder for the use in painting rock art, for painting on people’s bodies or on objects such as message sticks and shields.

Grindstone technology dates back thousands of years in Australia. Researching them provides us with clues about the food sources that were exploited across different climatic periods. Studies also shed light on the distribution of populations around Australia and how they traded and interacted. Some stones can even be traced to their origins before starting their life as a grindstone. One grindstone recently discovered in the Madjedbebe rock shelter, in Mirrarr Country, in northern Arnhem Land traces grindstone technology back over 60 000 years ago. That is the earliest evidence in the world for grindstones.

Grinding food, herbs and spices between two stones is still carried out today in many traditional communities. Indeed the mortar and pestle remains a popular tool in plenty of modern kitchens. Grindstones are still relevant to indigenous communities today, offering another connection to country and culture. At the Queensland Museum we have procedures in place to facilitate people visiting and reconnecting with their significant objects.

As we have many archaeological artefacts uploaded to our Collections Online web pages, you can start exploring some of the grindstones from the collection here.

Looking through the Glass

Dave Parkhill, Assistant Collection Manager

Clear as Glass?

Glass was used throughout the Roman world, with various applications and methods of manufacturing, and with colours ranging from an almost clear, pale green to vivid blues or other bright colours.

This rare core-formed alabastron (circa 3rd to 4th C BCE) is so named as earlier forms were made of alabaster. This bottle would have been used to hold perfume and the two small lugs were probably used for attaching a stopper in the neck. (© Queensland Museum, Peter Waddington)

A Dubious Origin Story

Glass objects, mainly in the form of simple glass beads have been dated to approximately the 3rd millenium BCE, but it was not until approximately a thousand years later that the first glass vessels emerged in Syria and Mesopotamia, an area that now makes up Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Iran.  One historical, albeit fanciful, explanation as to the origin of glass was recounted by Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian from the first century CE. In book 36 of his Natural History, Pliny gives a somewhat serendipitous account of how a Phoenician trading vessel, loaded with nitre, or potassium nitrate, was moored on the banks of the Belus River. The merchants were preparing their evening meal on the beach, and, not having any rocks to support their cooking pots, they turned to using large pieces of their cargo.  The nitre melted and fused with the beach sand and as the entire concoction cooled and hardened, glass was formed.  This theory has been generally discounted as the high temperatures needed to create glass would not be supplied by a simple cooking fire. 

Used for holding perfumed oils for anointing the body, this double balsarium (circa 3rd – 4th century CE) still has its looped handle intact – a rarity due to its fragile nature. (© Queensland Museum Peter Waddington)

Delicate glass bangles (circa 2nd cent CE) such as this indicate a life of relative ease and luxury. (© Queensland Museum, Peter Waddington)

Three Methods of Manufacture

Prior to the 1st century BCE discovery of glass blowing, there were basically two methods of manufacturing glass vessels: slumping and core formed. 

Slumping involved heating a piece of glass, roughly cut to size, over a mould and as the glass softened it would “slump” or drop into the mould. This was used to produce plates or bowls or other open containers.  The resulting product had both a rough exterior and interior, which was then polished smooth; it was at this point that a design could be cut or etched into the glass.  

Core formed glass requires forming a core of clay, or sometimes even animal manure and sand, around a steel rod and then dipping it into molten glass.  Strings of glass could be laid onto, and wrapped around the core.  The outer surface of the vessel was smoothed against a stone while still soft, and if needed, handles or feet could be added at this point.  Once cool, the object, such as this core formed alabastron (image a), was snapped free of the rod and the core removed. 

The third approach to making glass vessels was glass-blowing. The development of glass blowing is generally considered to have occurred sometime towards the end of the first century BCE in Syria, which at that time was a province of Rome.  The Romans came to excel at glass blowing, a technology that allowed them to create objects with far thinner walls, thereby making the product more translucent and allowing for a greater range of designs.  This method was also quicker and less expensive, which in turn gave rise to an increase in productivity, and glassware became more common as everyday items.  To create blown glass, molten glass, known as a “gob” is attached to the end of a blow pipe and air is blown through the pipe by the artisan. As the gob inflates it is shaped and formed by rolling or swinging the blowpipe.  While the glass is still soft, a rod, or pontil, is attached to the base of the object so that it can be held as the blowpipe is removed, and the mouth of the vessel is smoothed and shaped. Items such as this double balsarium (image b) were formed by glass blowing then folding the tube in half and pinching the fold to close each side.  In this example, a glass trail was then added to the upper half and a handle attached.  The chalky white encrustations on the balsarium are the results of the glass deteriorating due to the environment of the soil in which it was buried prior to its archaeological excavation.  

Beautifully blown glass dishes similar to this (circa 4th century CE), were used to serve meats, the well in the base providing a space for marinating oils. (© Queensland Museum Peter Waddington)

Beauty and Function

Glass was not only functional but could also be decorative, as in the case of tesserae for use in mosaics for pavements as well as for walls or ceilings, but also for personal adornment such as bangles (image e) and pendants (image f).  . With the discovery of new techniques, combined with greater skills of the glass makers, Roman glass became more accessible and served a wider range of uses. The advent of glass blowing, made for a thinner walled vessel, increasing its beauty and decreasing its cost.

For more Archaeology Blogs click here.

This delicate amber glass bottle (circa 1st – 3rd century CE) is decorated with a fine a glass trail which spirals its way from the base to the top of the neck. (© Queensland Museum Peter Waddington)