The technical basics are covered at the start of each episode, and when something more intricate, such as reticello – an Italian decorative technique characterised by a fine netting of threads – rears its head, Katherine Gray, glass artist and associate professor at California State University, is on hand. Gray is an insightful guide and level-headed resident judge, off-set by the perky, mildly irritating presenter Nick Uhas.
Each episode is just over 20 minutes long. It’s breathless for those accustomed to comparable but more leisurely hour-long programmes. You soon realise that the format is unforgiving on an unfortunate breakage or misguided concept. Accidents happen – in the first episode there is not one but two – and they are satisfyingly dramatic in a hot shop.
The making takes place in a huge post-industrial building in Ontario, kitted out to be the largest glassblowing studio in North America. It’s a space originally made for a previous era of manufacturing, reborn as a craft performance space. Within the hot shop is a pristine white box: the gallery where finished pieces are revealed at the end of each episode. It’s a striking contrast one finds at the heart of much contemporary craft, as objects go from the studio’s dirt – all that embedded connection and context – into the blankness and blandness of a white cube.