Edmonton

Competition heated for Edmonton glass-blower on Netflix series 'Blown Away'

Leah Kudel was in good company on Blown Away, a new reality series that makes a competition out of the art of glass-blowing.

'I think you have to be a bit of a pyromaniac to be a glass-blower'

Leah Kudel was selected as a competitor for Blown Away, a competitive glass-blowing series streaming now on Netflix. (Blown Away/Netflix)

Leah Kudel was in good company on Blown Away, a new reality series that makes a competition out of the art of glass-blowing.

The Edmonton-based artist is a self-professed pyromaniac. She didn't mind when the competition got a little heated. 

"You, know I play a lot of sports. With glass-blowing, you're working in teams. There's lots of movement," Kudel said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.  "Also, I really like fire.

"I mean, I think you have to be a bit of a pyromaniac to be a glass-blower." 

The series, which started streaming on Netflix July 12, has been described at the Project Runway of glass-blowing.

The artists compete in various challenges for the chance to win $60,000 in prizes, a residency at the Corning Museum of Glass and the title of champion.

Kudel was among 10 professional glass-blowers selected to compete, fighting for the title of "best in blow" inside a hot warehouse full of furnaces and blowtorches. 

Even as she ran around the warehouse, dodging other competitors wielding molten glass, Kudel refused to shatter under the pressure. 

"It's just a little bit more pressure to think on your feet," she said. "You have to come up with ideas really quickly and you know that everyone in your whole entire field in the world is going to watch it.

"I mean, there are some people on the show who started glass-blowing before I was born. It's really inspiring."

Kudel got her start in glass-blowing eight years ago. She took a week-long workshop at Red Deer College on a whim, and got hooked.

"I just couldn't stop thinking about it so I ended up going to art school and doing a degree in glass." 

'A real thing' 

She went on to earn a bachelor of education at the University of Alberta and a bachelor of fine art in glass at Alberta College of Art and Design.

Her creations have been included in exhibits in Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom.

When the casting call for Blown Away went out, Kudel was working at a glass studio in New Zealand. At first, she thought the entire thing was a hoax.

"The casting crew from the production company sent out hundreds of emails to anyone they could find," she said.

"I think they cast their net as big as possible so I got one of those emails and I actually thought the email was fake at first. 

"I had never heard of the show and I thought, this sounds like spam, and then I asked around in the glass community and people were like, no this is a real thing."

Kudel flew back to Toronto for filming and has since decided to move back to Edmonton. She plans to open a studio in the city within the year.

"I'm going to do some workshops out of there and sell some things so I'm hoping the show helps with that. 

"The sky is the limit."

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