Glassmaking in 1800
(Click the image for a larger version)


Main screen
(Click the image for a larger version)


The system in situ
(Click the image for a larger version)

For their new "Astonish" gallery, Aston Hall wanted to depict the history of local industries in Aston. During their research, they located a fascinating engraving, from around 1800, of B&W Gibbins' "Flint Glass Works". (Flint glass is what we nowadays call crystal glass).

We decided to create a video of the glassmaking process as it would have been done in 1800. Luckily, there is one surviving glassworks - Red House Cone in Wordsley - with an interior virtually unchanged since 1800. Much of the old glassmaking equipment is still in place, and the furnaces are plausible replicas. All I had to do in the way of set building was to recreate a furnace mouth and light it from behind.

Now I had to find glassmakers who could reproduce late 18th century glassmaking techniques. Enter Vic and Ian Bamforth, who are craft glassmakers of some repute. They had no trouble with the technical side, and they were happy to try it in costume. I commissioned a local costumier to dress them in clothes as close as possible to the engraving, and the scene was set.

The filming required some subterfuge. My reproduction furnace mouth looked perfect, but it couldn't be used for real glassmaking. So the stalwart glassmakers went through all the various processes of making an 18th century jug, using a real furnace off camera to gather and reheat, then quickly pretending to do the same operation at the fake furnace mouth for the video. And doing it all before the glass cooled below working temperature. After some nifty editing, you can't see the joins. It could have been filmed in 1800.

The system is housed in a simple kiosk, with a touch screen. I've used the original engraving as the main interface, with hotspots giving background information on the glassmaking process. The glassmaking video provides the central feature.