Blown Away, Netflix, 2019

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Artists and creators compete in inspiring artistic challenges

Image source: IMDB

The never-ending tide of Great British Bake-Off style skill competitions continues apace. For what it’s worth, I think The Great British Sewing Bee is the original and best of these copycats. But Blown Away is a worthy contender. First released on Netflix last year, it pits ten glass blowers against each other in a series of technical and artistic challenges, with one being eliminated in each episode.

It was inspiring to see ideas of gender and feminism explored on such a mainstream format

The cast of ‘blowers’ is pleasingly diverse, both in terms of their background and in their style. Each brought their own knowledge and skills to the table, but some particularly stood out. Deborah Czeresko was a delight to watch, slightly abrasive at first, but soon revealing a thoughtful and deeply expressive personality. It was actually quite inspiring to see ideas of gender and feminism being explored on such a mainstream format, and to see that she wasn’t pushed aside because of this. Of all the artists it was her who I felt brought the biggest ideas to the show, and was willing to take artistic risks for the sake of pursuing them. The craftsmanship of others such as Alexander will take your breath away. Glass is a fascinating medium; so scientific and yet so graceful, with the potential for hours of work to be destroyed at the slip of a hand. It’s an obvious choice for television, with its transformation of mundane materials into incredible works of art.

You will walk away with a new appreciation for the science and artistry of glass blowing

It was frustrating at times to see the natural subjectivity of art work against the creators. The tasks were a fairly even mix of strictly sculptural pieces with more pragmatic functional works. Momo, whose work in both categories explored her Japanese heritage, often suffered from the judges just not ‘getting’ her creations. I felt that more effort could have been made to understand the cultural origins of her ideas, instead of dismissing them as failed attempts. But each artist was able to present a statement on their piece, so perhaps Momo didn’t quite express what she was trying to get across in there. I’m not sure what it says about the artist and the viewer if such a statement is necessary, but that’s one for a longer discussion. Nonetheless, I think her work is fascinating, and it will be great to see what she produces in coming years (you can find her on Instagram at GlassyMomo).

At a time when we’re all feeling quite fragile, there is real comfort to be found in watching skilled people simply create. Whichever glass blowers you are drawn to, there is no denying the talent each of them possesses. At 20 minutes the episodes are short (and each ends strangely abruptly), perhaps too short to really get involved in the creative process. But that does make them incredibly bingeable. Unlike baking you probably won’t be able to pursue this skill very easily if you’re inspired by the show, but you will walk away from it with a new appreciation for the science and artistry of glass blowing. And you may find yourself planning a trip to your nearest glass museum when life returns to ‘normal’.

What are your favourite Bake-Off style shows? Sewing Bee is my firm favourite, but I’m always on the look out for new ones! The Great Pottery Throw Down is another strangely mesmerising craft-based one which I enjoy. What show do you think I should try next? Let me know in the comments below!

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