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Prepare to be "blown away" when Netflix competition winner visits Pittsburgh Glass Center

click to enlarge Prepare to be "blown away" when Netflix competition winner visits Pittsburgh Glass Center
Photo: Courtesy of Netlfix
Blown Away winner Elliot Walker

Elliot Walker didn't earn the title “The Best in Glass" for nothing. The British glassblower and sculptor won season two of the Netflix competition show Blown Away, described as pushing 10 glass artists to "creative extremes" in order to impress a panel of judges. Now Walker will visit the Pittsburgh Glass Center for an open house demonstration of his work.

Taking place on Sat., May 7, the free open house will consist of a live glass blowing demonstration with an ongoing Q&A and an interview with Walker.

“The team will include Elliot Walker, his partner Bethany Wood, and several other local glass artists,” says Paige Ilkhanipour, marketing director at PGC. Ilkhanipour adds that PGC executive director Heather McElwee, who served as a guest judge on season two of Blown Away, will also join the conversation.

Walker won a 10-day residency at PGC for his work on episode four, which challenged contestants to inspire people to think about the environment. Walker created a dung beetle rolling a large ball of recycled objects.

“The residency has been a great opportunity for me to test out some ideas for a new sculpture,” he says. “Testing is a huge part of the process and as glassmaking is very expensive, the costs of testing can be huge. Especially when making artwork, not all ideas pay off in financial terms so it’s great to have access to such an incredible facility and the freedom to try out new ideas.”

Walker, who studied glassmaking in the Historic Glass Quarter in Stourbridge, a town in the West Midlands, England, has been working with glass for about 13 years. “This includes four years of study, eight years working for a class studio in central London and a contemporary lighting company while simultaneously running my own business as an artist, and during the last four years, building and running my own glass studio,” Walker says.

Walker says his process for getting onto Blown Away was “rigorous,” and included a questionnaire, application video, and two interviews. He remembers feeling unprepared but says that, overall, the experience was surreal and fun.

Throughout the show, he created a perfume bottle shaped like a whale, a human spine with lungs, a cartoon character named Mr. Noteworthy with a telescope head, and more.

Ilkhanipour hopes that guests will enjoy the demonstration.

“Watching a glass blowing demonstration is captivating start to finish even if you’ve seen glass blowing in the past,” she says. “All blown glass works of art start with a small blob of molten glass and begin to transform and take shape as the artist adds more glass and color and manipulates the shape to create their vision.”

Walker is also looking forward to showing off his skills to the public.

“I love demonstrating to an enthusiastic audience – there’s nothing better,” he says. “I like it when things go wrong as it gives people a proper insight into the risks we take every time we pick up a blowing iron.”

Elliot Walker at PGC. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sat., May 7. Pittsburgh Glass Center. 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship. Free.

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