Modern Artists Show How the Ancient Greeks & Romans Made Coins, Vases & Artisanal Glass

Sometimes the old ways work best. That assumption, or at least the assumption that the most centuries-tested techniques can still produce interesting results, underpins many of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Launchpad videos. The series, designed to give visitors context for the artifacts they see there, reveals the process behind the product, and some new products may come out of some very old processes indeed. In the case of the video at the top, we see the creation of an ancient Greek vase — or, rather, a new vase, created as the ancient Greeks did — from the clay purification to the kneading to the shaping to the illustration to the firing.

Just above, you can watch the ancient “free-blown technique” of glassmaking in action. Invented around 40 B.C., glass-blowing gave the glassmakers of the day a faster, cheaper, more controllable way to work, which enabled them to produce for a larger market than ever before. If you’d like to learn more about the method it displaced, the Art Institute also has a video demonstrating the older “core-formed” glassmaking technique. Pottery and glassware have an appealing practicality, and first-rate artisans of those forms could no doubt make a good deal of money, but how did the money itself come into being? The Launchpad video on coin production in Ancient Greece, below, sheds light on minting in antiquity. Serious artistically inclined numismatists will, of course, want to follow it up with its companion piece on coin production in the Roman world.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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