There’s a 30% chance that Season 3 of Netflix’s glassblowing competition series Blown Away will be won by a Washington native: three of the 10 entrants are from the Puget Sound area.
“It’s no secret that Seattle is truly a mecca of glass,” said Dan Friday, who competes in the new season and is streaming now. “When I started in 1997, 1998, there were said to be 400 Hot Shops between Vancouver, Canada, and Portland, Oregon.”
Friday, from Shoreline, is joined by Minhi England of Top Hat, in unincorporated King County, and Trenton Quiocho of Ficrest, Pierce County in this season’s “Blown Away.”
In each episode, contestants scurry across a set in Hamilton, Ontario, doing their best to impress the judges with their glass creations.
Active as an artist from a young age, with an early focus on illustration and painting, England moved to Seattle in 2010 after falling in love with glassblowing at Alfred University in New York.
“The weather is great for glassblowing here,” England said of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s raining, but it’s not getting too cold. There’s something really nice about the warm atmosphere in the studio during the Seattle winter months.”
The presence of the Pilchuck Glass School, founded in 1971 by glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg, is another draw.
“Over time, a scene emerged here where people would go to Pilchuck Glass School, take classes, be inspired by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and then decide to make a home here,” said England, 33. She eventually went into partnership with a founder of Artful Ashes, which is a memorial object in glass art that commemorates the gravediggers.
England joined Artful Ashes with her husband Jesse England, a glass artist she met in Pilchuck. After being diagnosed with cancer, Jesse had to have a foot amputated.
“We cremated his foot and then created a memorial for him together before he died,” England said. She said Jesse’s death in May 2021 from peripheral nerve sheath cancer put her on a course for “Blown Away,” a series she had seen but never thought of applying for.
“It’s honestly not something I would ever have done of my own accord,” she said. “My late husband told me I had to do it. He said, “I think if you can do it, you have what it takes to win.” After he was gone, it felt like I had to do it for him.”
Minhi, whose work can be seen at minhi.com, said she doesn’t like it when all eyes are on her, but she’s also keen on overcoming discomfort.
“It’s very much in my character to do something that feels uncomfortable,” she said. “My goal with the show was to be seen, to be able to tell my story, to be an inspiration to people who may have been going through very difficult things in their life or who just need to feel like it’s okay to be themselves out there, and even if you don’t do it well, it’s okay.
“I just wanted to be a beacon of hope as best I could and just be vulnerable and see what happened.”
Friday, who grew up in Ballard and Lake City, took a more hesitant approach to Blown Away. Casting producers contacted him prior to the first two seasons, but Friday declined to participate until he could see how the show portrayed glassblowing. Then he had a change of heart.
“It’s bringing glass into a larger community,” he said, “and I felt like if I can contribute to that, it’s about time I did.”
Friday, 46, was first introduced to glassblowing two decades ago when he met a friend at a Ballard glass factory. Friday decided to trade driving a tow truck for glassmaking.
He later learned the art of glassblowing, visited Pilchuck, and got a job at Chihuly’s studio, where he still works when he’s not making his own creations at his Hot Shop in Fremont (FridayGlass.com).
Friday says when the blindfolds were removed just before cameras rolled on “Blown Away,” he recognized seven of the 10 glassblowers in the competition.
“It was like a big reunion and the people I didn’t know, we became friends quickly,” Friday said, noting that the reality TV component was the most unfamiliar element since he doesn’t own a TV. “Overall it was a good experience and I learned a lot. I’d say it was an eye opener in the reality TV world.”
This included hours of tinkering and sitting for interviews. Each episode was shot over three days with little to no downtime between episodes.
“There’s a lot of mental exhaustion behind it day in and day out,” Friday said. “You’re not in your element. You live in a hotel room during COVID, which was weird at first.”
But at least there were those Seattle ties who receive on-screen training and their shared Seattle connection becomes the topic of conversation in an episode where England and Friday are paired up in a glass art challenge.
“There were some prompts,” Friday said of the producers. “But it’s definitely true that we’re good friends and that we’re from Seattle.”