Glass Blowing Rock Stars Made It To Netflix
Have you seen the reality show Blown Away on Netflix? It has created a lot of buzz: glassblowing is going viral! As a glassblowing enthusiast for 15 years I can say that the show really captures the essence of working with molten glass. It is the high wire act of art, requiring huge physical, mental, and aesthetic risks. As in surfing, a wipeout can happen in a heartbeat, resulting in a spectacular failure, and a successful ride is captivating to watch. The contestants on Blown Away are surfing monster waves of glass, attempting and completing some truly astounding feats of skill. All of them are rock stars, and my fondest wish would be to assist any one of them in order to improve my own skills. The show is highly entertaining, but falls far short of what it could be.
How Did They Do That Glass Blowing Technique?
For starters, each episode is way too short. There is no way to compress four hours of glass blowing by up to ten artists into a satisfying half hour show. It was frustrating to see snippets of incredible maneuvers that had no contextual build up and cut away too soon. Perhaps the producers felt that viewers with no blowing experience don’t have the attention span to watch longer clips, but that is a mistake. At the very least, all of the footage should have been made available on a companion website for those who want to see the whole incredible process.
I blow glass at a studio that is open to public observation and I regularly see people who stroll up with no idea what to expect and end up staying for hours because they just can’t tear themselves away. Here’s a tip: search glass blowing on YouTube to see an almost endless array of full length videos that will definitely blow you away. If you are really hooked, plan a trip to Corning, NY or Seattle, WA. The Corning Museum of Glass and the Tacoma Glass museum are like glassblowing theme parks that deliver an exciting destination adventure in glass. The friends and family that you drag along will be happy you did.
Glass Blowing As A Reality Show
The other aspect of the show that was a mistake in my opinion was adopting a “survivor” format that forced one contestant off the island at the end of nearly each episode. I would rather have seen all the contestants tackle all the challenges. They each had unique styles and skills that would have brought much more interest to the later episodes. Honestly, I shook my fist at the judges several times for sending an artist packing who had just completed what I thought was a masterwork.
Once again it seems the producers underestimated the audience and went with the reality formula format. They also tried to prod the blowers into reality show behavior and I’m happy to say that the artists (mostly) didn’t bite. Forcing short time limits might pump up the excitement of a cooking competition, but it took away from what could have been done on Blown Away. Trust me, blowing glass is already difficult enough without artificial constraints.
Glass Blowing Is A Performance Art On Its Own
I will admit to an anti-competitive bias, especially where art is concerned. I get that our culture demands a winner, but the single-minded focus on the contest really caused the beauty of the performances to be overshadowed in Blown Away. Make no mistake, glassblowing is truly a performance art. Watching a master coax molten glass into an intricate shape is as riveting as, well, watching a trapeze artist. The resulting object is a record of the performance, but is not the art. When I see a work of glass art, I construct a mental movie of its creation, which can never be as good as actually witnessing the action.
After all of my criticisms, I still give Blown Away a positive review for raising awareness of this ancient, yet modern art. It gives the viewer a taste of what hot glass work is all about. If you liked it, go get a full course experience.