To Binge or Not to Binge: Episode 58: ‘Blown Away’

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To Binge or Not to Binge: Episode 58: ‘Blown Away’

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Hannah Allred

Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Hannah Keating

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the Netflix show “Blown Away.”

 

Recently added to the lineup of Netflix’s often-questionable original content is a hidden gem featuring the mesmerizing art of glassblowing. “Blown Away” is a Canadian competition show that you never knew you needed, where 10 of the world’s best glassblowers compete in a series of challenges of skill, technique and creativity. 

The objective? Survive through challenging rounds of state-of-the-art crafting to be crowned champion and receive the prize of an artist residency at the Corning Museum of Glass. Along the way, viewers are in for ASMR-inducing shots of red-hot glass being shaped, entertainment from the quirkiest cast of artists ever and gorgeous pieces of art that everyone will view in a different light. While this premise might sound boring, it’s far from it. This show is as intense as it is fun, and as much as a high-level artistic exploration as it is a guilty binging pleasure. 

The first season has just been released on Netflix, crowning its first-ever “Best In Blow” out of the 10 artists. The show is adjudicated by host Nick Uhas and Katherine Gray, a professor of art from California State University, San Bernadino. Each episode features a guest judge who is an expert in their field outside of glassblowing. This first season included a sommelier, a principal dancer and a design manufacturer to provide insight on the products of each challenge. The pieces are judged on aspects like technique, design, creativity and skill, and as one competitor is eliminated at the end of each episode, the stakes are raised for the artists drawing closer and closer to the grand prize. 

However, the show can be a little difficult to get into when the jargon is thrown around. With shots of the artists running around the workshop shouting out phrases such as “glory hole,” the show is confusing before it’s compelling. After several episodes, the process becomes clear — the glassblowers dip the blowpipe into the molten glass when it looks like honey, shape it on the marker surface, attach it to a punty rod while shaping it again under heat, and carry it to the furnace, or the glory hole, before placing the finished product in the annealer. (See what I mean about jargon?)

 

To Binge or Not To Binge?

This show is absolutely bingeable. I found myself on the edge of my seat countless times, as artists and assistants hurried across the workshop while time is running out. It is heartbreaking to watch when masterpieces they have slaved away over suddenly shatter to the ground. The stakes are so high with the unpredictability of glass and the subjectivity of their designs. Every friend I forced to watch it with me rooted for a different competitor, saw each piece in a different light and connected to the artists’ stories behind the work individually. This is what makes this show so unique and captivating. It’s irreplaceable and subjective and magnificent in a way unlike any other. Though a second season has not yet been announced, I am utterly obsessed with this season and will continue to binge it consistently. 

The show’s first winner, Deborah Czeresko, could be the most entertaining competitor I’ve ever seen on a show like this. She is blunt and driven — a necessity as a woman in her field — but shows incredible passion and produces completely unique designs. Though she was not my favorite competitor — I’m a huge Janusz fan, who took second place — her pop art toothpaste pieces were comedic and stunning. It’s refreshing, too, compared to other shows where frustrated competitors would storm out in a rage of expletives, to watch these mild-mannered and focused artists simply excuse themselves from intense moments in the workspace with a mutter of, “I need to get some air.” 

 

Best Episode

In Episode 3 “Lighten Up,” the artists are tasked with creating a light fixture creation. Though not the most dramatic of episodes — that episode was definitely Episode 7 “Dual Intent,” where two teams of two go head-to-head to avoid dual elimination — the lighting fixtures were beautifully colored and intricately designed. I loved Momo Schafer’s absurdist ghost night light, Janusz Poźniak’s glimmering UFO and Annette Sheppard’s hanging heart entitled “Light of My Life.” The pieces produced from this particular challenge were uplifting and intriguing. 

 

Similar Shows

“Skin Wars,” “The Great British Baking Show” and “Nailed It!”

 

Trigger Warnings 

There’s nothing triggering about or in this show — unless the glass-blower jargon of “glory hole” disturbs you. 

 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Blown Away”

Available to stream on Netflix

10 episodes, Approximately 4 hours

 

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@iamjustkeating