The streaming service Netflix launched a new 10-episode competition series on Friday featuring the artistry of North American glassblowers titled “Blown Away,” that features Tinora High School graduate Eric Meek as one of 10 guest evaluators.
Meek, senior manager, hot glass programs at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., and a team of six talented glassmakers from the museum’s hot glass demo team, are prominently featured in the final episode which helped determine the winner of the competition.
Meek is a graduate of Bowling Green State University (BGSU) with a bachelor’s degree in ecology, and a graduate of Kent State University with a master’s degree in fine arts, with a concentration in glass. The Tinora grad shared his role as a guest evaluator on the series turned into something more than he expected.
“It was actually very intense,” stated Meek. “When I arrived (to shoot the final episode), the final two contestants were people I knew professionally, which made making a decision that would affect their lives very difficult. I can say that I was both surprised and impressed about the direction the show took over the course of the 10 episodes.
“I expected the show to be more about the technical challenges for the artists, but it really was also about the contestants inputting their personality into their work,” continued Meek. “In the end, it wasn’t just about creating something beautiful, it was also about creating something thoughtful.”
As a youth, Meek found inspiration from the glass artists at Sauder Village in Archbold, where he spent his summers working during college. Following graduation from BGSU, he worked at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., where early Americana-style glass was for sale and demos were featured.
While attending workshops at The Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), he met a Kent State instructor who encouraged Meek to commit himself to glass artistry, which led him to Kent State. He went on to teach at the Glasfachschule Kramsach in Austria for six years, before joining the Corning Museum of Glass. Meek has traveled extensively with the museum on numerous outreach engagements, displaying his versatile skills as a glass artist.
“What drew me in as a kid was watching these artists take a glob of molten goo and turn it into a beautiful piece of glass,” said Meek. “What is still amazing to me is that in 20 minutes to a half an hour, you can make a beautiful piece of glass that could literally last for thousands of years. There really is something amazingly beautiful about the choreography of the process of glass making.”
A press release from CMoG described the Netflix series as a show that follows a group of 10 highly skilled glassmakers from North America who have a limited time to fabricate beautiful works of art that are assessed by a panel of expert judges.
One artist is eliminated in each 30-minute episode, until a winner is announced in the 10th and final episode. YouTube star Nick Uhas, best known for his popular science show “Nickipedia,” hosts “Blown Away” and renowned artist Katherine Gray serves as the “resident evaluator.”
Contestants include: Deborah Czeresko, a veteran glass artist based in New York City; Kevin Kiff, a California-based glass artist; Benjamin Kikkert, a Vancouver-based glass artist; Leah Kudel, a Canadian glass artist; Janusz Poźniak, a British born, Seattle-based glass artist; Patrick Proimeau, a Canadian glass artist and glass studio operator; Alexander Rosenberg, a Philadelphia-based artist, educator and writer; Momoko “Momo” Schafer, a recent graduate of MassArt; Annette Sheppard, a former CMoG artist and current management consultant; and Edgar Valentine, a Tacoma-based glass artist.
The Corning Museum of Glass, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass, the library of record on glass, and one of the top glassmaking schools in the world, served as a key consulting partner on the series.
In addition to Meek serving as a guest evaluator for the series finale, also involved in the finale were six of the museum’s expert glassmakers — Helen Tegeler, Catherine Ayers, George Kennard, G Brian Juk, Tom Ryder, and Chris Rochelle — who assisted the two finalists in realizing their last challenge.
The winner of “Blown Away” is awarded the title of “Best in Blow” and a prize package valued at $60,000, which includes a week-long guest artist appearance at CMoG. The winner will complete two working sessions this summer, July 17-18 and Aug. 28-29, in preparation for the “Blown Away Residency,” Oct. 14-18. During these times, the winner will participate in glassmaking demonstrations for the public in CMoG’s Amphitheater Hot Shop.
“The mission of the (CMoG) museum is to help people see the artistry of glass in a new light and it’s creative potential,” said Meek, who was busy Friday with several media interviews about the show. “The great thing about this project is that marblemedia (which created the series) and Netflix have the same mission. The fact that Netflix is in more than 190 countries and that programs are translated into 25 languages, can only help our mission.
“I would encourage people to watch the series, and to visit their local studios,” added Meek. “If you get the chance, shake the hand of the glass artist and let them know how much you appreciate the skill that goes into their craft. I went to Bowling Green (State University), and I hope this series will lead people to sign up for the glass program there, or to visit the Toledo Museum of Art glass art workshops.”
To learn more about the Corning Museum of Glass, go to cmog.org.