Contestants for Blown Away: Christmas are, from left, Alexander Rosenberg; Edgar Valentine, Andi Kovel, Cat Burns, and Nao Yamamoto.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

When Alexander Rosenberg auditioned for the first season of Netflix’s “Blown Away,” reality show, he was at the end of a road. 

“I applied … really out of a place of desperation. I had left a pretty secure career, I guess, without a safety net. And I was just trying to figure out what to do next,” he said.  “I thought ‘Okay, I have a chance maybe to maybe to make some money. A chance, you know, not not a guarantee. And, you know, I’ll give it a shot.’ “ 

That shot hit the mark in 2019 when the reality show competition featuring glassmakers turned into a surprise hit. Salon.com called “Blown Away, “… just a sheer joy to watch. It’s a succinct exploration of the world of glassblowing — perfectly bingeable at around four hours total.”

Rosenberg didn’t win the prize, valued at $60,000. But the Philadelphia-based glassmaker is back for a third attempt in the holiday edition, “Blown Away: Christmas,” now streaming on Netflix. 

This latest version has five former contestants competing for $20,000 – $10,000 for themselves and $10,000 for their favorite charity. Besides Rosenberg, other cast members are Edgar Valentine, Cat Burns, Andi Kovel, and Nao Yamamoto.” Queer Eye’s” Bobby Berk  and glassmaker and art professor Katherine Gray return as hosts. 

 With just four episodes, the course remains grueling. The glassmakers have only a few hours to design and create art in an intensely demanding medium. Like the earlier seasons, the focus isn’t on personal drama. Instead, it’s on technique, the beauties and challenges of the medium that can be as strong as it is fragile.

Alexander Rosenberg returns to compete in Blown Away: Christmas.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Despite the stakes and the stresses, Rosenberg didn’t hesitate about participating in the Christmas special. He’d made a short appearance on season two as a judge – and realized he missed being down in the hotshop. 

 “To  have this whole thing unfold in such a short amount of time: having the idea, the technique and the execution all kind of unfolding in hours. It’s stressful, but there’s also a great kind of reward to it,” Rosenberg said. 

Rosenberg may not have made it to the finals in 2019, but the show has enriched his life, he said. It’s given him exposure that he’s been able to monetize and market.

“You know, we make all these jokes about exposure, right? In the arts, it’s like, ‘Oh, I can’t pay my rent with exposure,’ “ he said. “But Netflix is enough of a platform…that (exposure) actually really is worth something in a way.

“You get this kind of audience that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get through an exhibition or a publication or any of these standard checkboxes of an arts career.”

Rosenberg said he saw an immediate lift in his social media. His Instagram has more than 80,000 followers. 

Most importantly, Rosenberg, who now directs the glass studio at WheatonArts in Millville, NJ , said his integrity remained intact.

“I don’t think I was portrayed in a way that was different than how I am,” he said. “And I also feel like I was able to preserve my artistic voice through the different projects in spite of being pushed in this direction or that direction.”

Afi Scruggs

Afi Scruggs

Staff Writer

Afi Scruggs is our staff writer. Afi is an award-winning multi-platform journalist and author who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Her articles and columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The U.S. edition of the Guardian, USA Today, and Essence magazine and on washingtonpost.com. Her audio segments have been broadcast on national NPR programs as well on local affiliates in northeast Ohio. She’s also written three books: Jump Rope Magic, published by Scholastic; a genealogical memoir, Claiming Kin: Confronting the History of an African-American Family; and an essay collection entitled Beyond Stitch and Bitch: Reflections on Knitting and Life. The New York Times Book Review called Jump Rope Magic a “magical, spunky book.” Afi learned to knit when she was 7 years old and to sew when she was 9. She’s forever working on reducing her stash.

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