Breaking the Mold: Local Glassblower Robert Burch on Netflix’s ‘Blown Away’

Stephanie Kroll

In the dynamic world of glassblowing, artists often adhere to traditional techniques and materials, but Robert Burch, a local glassblower from the Roaring Fork Valley, is known for breaking the rules. Featured on Season 4 of Netflix’s ‘Blown Away,’ Burch’s experimental approach and fearless creativity have earned him a unique place in the glassblowing community.

“I work a lot with stone and glass and steel and wood, and that is sort of rare in the glassblowing field,” Burch explained. “That makes me stand out in some ways, and in others, it sort of ostracizes you from the community because we all know that all fields have rules that they construct for each other to follow. And when you don’t follow them, it throws people off. I focus on mixing mediums with glass because that’s my wheelhouse.”

A Journey of Passion and Innovation

Burch’s creative journey began at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) in Carbondale, where he initially intended to pursue photography. However, the extensive manipulation and editing required in photography pushed him to explore other artistic mediums. His background in skateboarding, skiing, and snowboarding provided a thrilling transition to the adrenaline-fueled world of glassblowing.

“As soon as I started working with glass, it felt like the closest I could get to the adrenaline junkie stuff was in a glass studio,” Burch said. “Since I was 16, the excitement of glasswork has been a constant.”

From apprenticing in a factory to attending the prestigious Pilchuck Glass School, Burch’s dedication and passion led him to Seattle, where he worked with renowned artist Martin Blank for five years. This period was instrumental in shaping his understanding of the art-making process, including shipping, metal fabrication, and cold working. His expertise eventually landed him a role on the color design team for Chihuly Inc.

Returning Home and Rising to Fame

Despite his success in Seattle, Burch’s desire to pursue his own work brought him back to the Roaring Fork Valley. “I slowly started pushing my gallery work because being an artist assistant can be sort of a road to nowhere,” he said. “It’s a pretty hard way to make a living, and it’s very physically demanding, very hard on your body.”

Back in the valley, Burch taught at CRMS for a year and built a tiny house in Missouri Heights to lower his overhead. This period, which he refers to as his "grad school time," was crucial for focusing on his creative work. Today, Burch’s pieces are exhibited at Raven Gallery in Aspen, and he is preparing for an exhibition at The Launchpad in Carbondale on June 7.

“I would say it’s a slow Sisyphus-like walk uphill; every year interest in my work goes up,” Burch said. “I just got picked up by a place in Brussels, and I have a piece in this fancy show north of Tokyo. So it’s like a steady walk uphill.”

Blowing Away the Competition

After multiple attempts, Burch finally secured a spot on Season 4 of Netflix’s ‘Blown Away,’ where ten artists compete for a $100,000 prize package. Participating in the show was not only a significant career milestone but also an invaluable learning experience.

Burch emphasized the importance of self-branding and the exposure gained from being on television. However, the camaraderie and support among fellow contestants stood out as the most rewarding aspect of the experience. “The best part was interacting with the other contestants because it’s a really small community,” he said. “I knew about half of them, and we’ve all been checking in with each other to make sure the internet hate is not too much or checking in to make sure everyone is okay.”

Looking Ahead

As Burch continues his artistic journey, his innovative approach and relentless passion ensure that his work will keep gaining recognition. With his upcoming exhibition and newfound fame from ‘Blown Away,’ the future looks bright for this trailblazing artist from the Roaring Fork Valley.

Join us in celebrating Robert Burch’s achievements and witness his groundbreaking work firsthand at The Launchpad in Carbondale on June 7. Don’t miss the chance to experience the artistry of a true innovator in the glassblowing world.

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