My son texted me that Netlifx had a new series out called "Blown Away" and that I should check it out. "The Great British Baking Show Meets Glassblowing" is how I think he described it.
I immediately added it to my Netflix queue and settled in to watch because A) I ADORE the Great British Baking Show (addicted, honestly) and B) I actually used to blow glass.
Right away I was hooked. I binge watched the entire series.
Here are my 5 best takeaways:
1) The running time - approx 25 minutes per episode. They keep things tight and that keeps you engaged.
2) Giving you just enough information about glassblowing that you understand what you are watching but not so much that you become annoyed or overwhelmed.
3) Giving us an impressive group of glass artists to follow - they have widely different experience levels, artistic styles, and personality types.
4) My family and friends now finally understand what the hell I was doing in that glass studio.
When the average person looks at an object created in glass they have NO IDEA what the story is behind it.
"What is glass made from?" (Complicated answer - several different recipes but mostly sand)
"How do you turn sand into molten liquid?" (by heating it to over TWO THOUSAND DEGREES)
"How do you turn a bunch of impossibly hot molten glass into an object?" (Watch the show)
"How do you make colored glass?" (Watch the show)
"What kind of tools do you use?" (Watch the show)
I think you're getting the point. Once you get past those first two questions there are no easy answers. To understand ANYTHING about glass all you can really do is watch people make it.
I only blew glass seriously for two years and during that short time of study there were a lot of forms I never was taught so a bonus aspect of the show for me was seeing all these amazing techniques I never learned.
5) Finally, at the heart of this show are the stories of the artists themselves. When you see these amazing people displaying this astonishing level of skill and then you come to find out that they are pretty much all of them struggling. Struggling to make a name for themselves, struggling to get their family and friends to understand what they do, struggling to make a living, struggle, struggle, struggle. It's a HARD road. It's one of the reasons I could never get back to it after I left college. Maintaining a glass studio is an incredibly difficult proposition. The equipment, tools and space you need are complicated, expensive and dangerous. And it can be difficult to get the public to understand why they should pay $850 for that fabulous vase you just made when they can pop down to Walmart and, for $25, get something they think is just as good.
If this show does nothing else I pray it creates a bigger appreciation of, and demand for, the work of these artists. Every person on the show should emerge from the series with a big online following that will hopefully translate to sales.
And a little less struggle.
The piece on display way at the top of this post is one of the favorite pieces I made back in the day - all you need to know about it (after you watch the show) is that it is thin (almost paper thin), large (16 inches diameter) and well balanced (no weird thick spots). It was very hard for me to get to the point where any of those things were under control for me so I'm very proud of it!