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Binge Worthy: PHS Alum's Artistic Talent On Display In Netflix Reality Show

Binge Worthy: PHS Alum's Artistic Talent On Display In Netflix Reality Show

This tale of Perkins High School alumni Ryan Thompson comes with a spoiler alert: Ryan starred in the latest season of “Blown Away,” a Netflix reality series about 10 glassblowers competing for a grand prize worth approximately $60,000. 

If you want to experience the drama of a reality show and enjoy surprises, stop reading here and watch all 10 episodes of Season 4 of “Blown Away,” which premiered on Netflix on March 8.

It’s a great show and very interesting. 

Ryan, a 2008 PHS alum, was contacted by the producers of “Blown Away” last year and asked that he apply to be a contestant for the reality show’s fourth season. As a glassblower at Greenfield Village in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Ryan says he was aware of the show’s prior seasons and, admittedly, “it is a really good thing for glassblowing” and showcases the art form to a broad, mainstream audience.

“I decided I might as well give it a try and applied,” Ryan says. “The next day they called for an interview.”

The series was recorded during the spring of 2023 in Hamilton, Ontario. There, he was joined by his nine fellow contestants – glassblowers from across the country.

“When I arrived on set, I could tell that this was going to be one of the most challenging things I’ve done professionally,” Ryan says. “Just being there with such an incredibly skilled group of artists was intimidating.”

Ryan Thompson

Ryan discovered his love for the art form while studying visual communication technology at Bowling Green State University. He took an elective course in glassblowing, and “by the end of the semester, I was head-over-heels in love with the process and the community surrounding it,” Ryan recalls. He changed his major and transferred into the BGSU School of Art, and graduated from BGSU in 2016.

While in college, Ryan joined the studio artist workshop at the Toledo Museum of Art, and later took his current job at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, where he is the shop lead in the Henry Ford Glass Shop.

The nature of glassblowing is that failure is an accepted part of the job – a minor mistake means an artist has to start over. But for the show, that was not necessarily the case. 

“If you do something wrong, it could be a ticket home.”

And, as a “Blown Away” contestant, there was the added component that the artists were forced to work against the clock. 

“As artists, we like to sit and think and distill ideas over time. We don’t put a time crunch on ourselves for making a piece of art,” Ryan explained. “In this show, everything was under a time crunch.”

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Ryan has a group of dedicated fans here in his hometown. Among them are his proud parents, Kathy and Jim Thompson. Mrs. Thompson is the librarian at Meadowlawn Intermediate and Furry Elementary schools. The fan club also includes two Perkins Local Schools art teachers – Mike Beuglass, who retired last school year and first met a young Ryan when he was in 2nd Grade, and Donna Hensley, who had him as a Perkins High School art student. 

“I had thousands of kids in 37 years (as an art teacher), and there were always a few that stood out,” Mr. Beuglass says. “Ryan was one that stood out.”

Ryan, as a young artist, was passionate about art, and it continues in his career, says Mr. Beauglass, who binged the series in the first couple of days that it was available on the streaming service. 

Ms. Hensley also binged the show. “I bet they invite him back,” she says of “Blown Away” producers. And, speaking like a true fan, Ryan, “should have won it all.”

Indeed, Ryan did not win it all, but he did go the distance and finished the show as runner-up. 

“It’s hard to say that I did anything wrong,” Ryan says. “I’m super proud of my performance and the glass I made. My only goal was not to go home first. And, after that, it was all icing on the cake” 

And while he did not win the grand prize, Ryan did earn a five-day residency at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, in October. There, he plans to work on large vessels. 

Meantime, he admits he feels a bit more of a celebrity, thanks to “Blown Away.”

“It’s a little strange,” Ryan says. “I’m still just an artist who’s making things and bringing a little bit of beauty to everybody’s lives.”

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