Get Ready To Be Blown Away
Get Ready To Be Blown Away
Season 2 of the Netflix series starts January 22.
If you loved NBC’s show Making It, an upbeat reality show about amateur crafters, but you’d wished the contestants had moved with more muscularity, like they were performing a rhythmic gymnastics routine as they wielded their glue guns—and you’d secretly hoped they were surrounded by hissing furnaces and giant flames while they worked—then, man, oh, man, do we have the show for you.
It’s called Blown Away, and season 2 premieres on Netflix this Friday.
In the show, glass artists from around the world take on a series of glassblowing challenges in the hopes of being crowned “Best in Blow.” It’s incredibly watchable television, with skilled artists, rigorous challenges, colorful personalities, an exquisitely fragile medium—in nearly every episode in season 1, a contestant’s project crashes to the floor and shatters—and awe-inspiring art that breaks new ground both technically and conceptually.
“There’s the fire and how close we all tread to danger in working with glass,” says resident advisor and co-host, Katherine Gray, about what makes glass such good TV. “And there are aspects of dance and athleticism, as well as creativity and spontaneity—all these things are in play. As a viewer, you’re watching someone walk a knife’s edge in a way.”
Deborah Czeresko, the season 1 winner, waited until the last minute to apply to be on the show, worried that producers wouldn’t take the art seriously, or that they would introduce unnecessary tension. “There are different types of reality shows,” says the New York-based artist. “Would this be another Ricki Lake, with all the throwdowns?” Blown Away, she says, was the opposite. “The producers realized that the drama of making glass is enough.”
As Margaret Lyons writes in the New York Times: “Episodes are a half-hour, there’s only one challenge per episode, and the elimination process is swift and direct. There’s a total lack of producer-made contrivance here, which feels more dignified than other skill-based contest shows. It’s oddly low stakes, but all the glassmaking is extremely rad.”
Despite the inherent drama of glassblowing, season 1’s runaway success came as a shock. “No one thought it would have the impact it ended up having,” says Gray, who also happens to be a recent American Craft Council Fellow. “It was a surprise to most of the glassblowers, a surprise to Netflix, and a surprise to the production company.” The show changed the lives and careers of the contestants, too, especially the top three.
“I feel so connected to the world in a different way now,” says Czeresko. “So many people—especially women in non-traditional fields, like working on oil rigs or in the police—have written me such heartfelt things about me being an inspiration.”
Czeresko brought a strong feminist message to her techinically brilliant and deeply conceptual work, as well as to her role as an artist in the hot shop itself. “Seeing a woman look like me, saying what I say, was important.”
The experience of being on the show helped change and shape her artistic process, too. “It felt like being at an art boot camp, with its relentless pace. I’d never produced that much in a short time,” she says. “It showed me how deep the things I was thinking about were, and when I went to that well of ideas, there was something there to pull out.”
Season 2 contestant Cat Burns credits being on the show with helping her expand her repertoire of concepts and techniques. To skirt trademark issues after leaving the show, season 2 participants strove to make pieces unlike work they would normally make in their home studios. Some artists might experience that as a constraint, but not Burns. “As an artist, you can get forced into your own corner sometimes, like, ‘I know I can sell this [type of work] and feed myself,’” she says. “The show forced us all to think outside of our boxes.”
Season 2 will follow the same format as season 1: In each episode, competitors will be given a theme to interpret in glass in a small window of time. Their pieces will be judged on concept and technique by Gray, co-host Nick Uhas, and a cast of rotating guest judges, including Bobby Berk of Netflix’s Queer Eye and Czeresko.
What’s new in season 2? New personalities, new skill sets, new judges, and some thrilling new glassblowing techniques. “I saw things I hadn’t seen before,” says Gray. “Not that I’m the keeper of all knowledge of glass techniques—maybe I’d seen some of these things in books or heard about them apocryphally—but seeing them in real life, I was like, Wow, even I’m blown away.”
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