Tacoma glassblower brings the fire to new Netflix show

Reality TV has finally reached glassblowing, and Tacoma is along for the ride.

A Tacoma glassblower will be competing on the new Netflix competition show, “Blown Away,” which premieres Friday on the subscription streaming service.

Edgar Valentine, 23, is one 10 glassblowers who are competing for a prize package worth $60,000.

Valentine started blowing glass at age 12 though the Hilltop Artists program at Jason Lee Middle School. He’s employed at the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio on South 23rd Street in Tacoma where he teaches beginning and intermediate glassblowing.

Despite his young age, Valentine had more experience than some of his competitors on “Blown Away.”

“People will say, ‘You’re too young’ but I’ve been doing it for 12 years,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “It’s not about age, it’s about experience.”

He hopes the show will give both him and Tacoma exposure.

“Tacoma is a big city for glass but it’s not a big city,” Valentine said.

Currently, he’s a student at the prestigious Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood. The school was founded in 1971 by Tacoma native and artist Dale Chihuly.

Glassblowing continues to fascinate Valentine because of the work and, as he called it, the hippie lifestyle.

“I like the molteness of it,” he said. “How viscous it is. It’s really satisfying.”

After Jason Lee, Valentine attended Tacoma’s School of the Arts and after school, blew glass at Wilson High School and helped out at Jason Lee.

The show was shot in Toronto in October and November. Valentine described the production as a mixture of reality and orchestrated drama. There are a lot of perfectly captured glass shattering moments — a relatively uncommon occurrence in the glassblowing world.

“Definitely some parts were made up. It was a movie set, pretty much,” he said. “But, they did capture really good moments. They were looking for a lot of activity and glass breaking for sure.”

Still, he calls it an accurate representation of what happened over the two months.

“Blown Away” operates in the classic reality show format: One glassblower is eliminated in each episode until only the winner is left. The top prize includes a week-long residency at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.

Art is a highly subjective world. Valentine said there wasn’t much of a competition on the show, more of a conversation. The glassblowing world is a small one, he said.

“You don’t want to be that (jerk) on TV because other people will see you,” he said.

Tacoma, of course, has its own Museum of Glass and hotshop. Valentine will be selling his work at the museum’s Glass Fest Northwest on July 27.

In his personal work, Valentine is making glass African tribal masks and what he calls “open mind jars” with human faces.

“I give them a name and a little back story,” he said.

He also sells his work in the gallery at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio.

“Blown Away” is hosted by pop science YouTuber Nick Uhas with the assistance of glass artist Katherine Gray.

Gray will be a visiting artist at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma July 17-20.

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Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.