How Sheridan College Students Helped A Netflix Series Raise The Profile Of Little-Known Art
Terms like “annealing” and “pulling a stick” entered the lexicon of viewers when the glassblowing competition series Blown first aired on Netflix in 2019. The show features 10 contenders who make glass art and are eliminated throughout the series; the winner receives a prize valued at $ 60,000, which includes an artist residency at the prestigious Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York.
Koen Vanderstukken, director of the glass studio at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, helped bring the show to life. The producers approached Vanderstukken, a renowned artist with decades of industry experience, with the idea, and he mobilized the university and its resources. Sheridan’s Bachelor of Crafts and Design (glass) students and graduates were recruited and paid to help competitors with their sweaty, high-pressure adventures during the show. “Glass blowing is a team sport,” says Vanderstukken. “You have to have good assistant skills to help your glassblower.”
The setting for the show was an empty industrial building in Hamilton that was transformed into the largest glass studio in North America. The series came together so quickly that the first episode was the first time the studio was used. Featuring 10 blazing “glory holes” (the ovens that artists use to heat their work), 10 competitors, their glassblowing equipment and production crew, all filming on one of the hottest days of the year, the temperatures in the store they were above 50 ° C (Filming was postponed until ceiling panels were removed so hot air could escape, then industrial air conditioning was added).
The show topped Netflix’s Top 10 in Canada. Two seasons later, Vanderstukken says it has significantly raised the profile of glass as an artistic medium. “There has been no other event in the history of contemporary glass that has had such an impact,” he says. “It’s just unbelievable.”
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Paul van den Bijgaart Ink panel