Brenna Baker knows how to take the heat. Since she was 14 years old, her favorite place has been the “hot shop,” where she transforms lime, sand, and soda into works of art. Like the molten glass she inflates, shapes, and sculpts, Baker has been forged by working with an art form that dates to the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. “My relationship with glass is always changing,” Baker says. “But I never get tired of it because there’s always so much room to grow and get better.”
Baker credits her initial fascination with glass to growing up in Corning, New York, and her proximity to the Corning Museum of Glass. After apprenticing under renowned glass artists including Pino Signoretto in Murano, Italy, Baker went on to become the youngest master gaffer and the second ever female gaffer employed by Steuben Glass, the celebrated American art glass manufacturing company that was founded in 1903.
“Glass isn’t so male-dominated now, but then, especially in a factory setting, it was,” Baker says. “There’s a lot of manual labor and it’s not always glamorous, but I tried my hardest to keep it feminine. It’s a trade but with some creativity it becomes an art form.”
Ten years ago, Baker moved to South Florida and opened Hollywood Hot Glass, a glassblowing studio at the ArtsPark at Young Circle that offers workshops on land and also at sea onboard Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice, Equinox, and Eclipse ships. The curriculum is available to children as young as 3. That might give you pause, considering that glassblowing involves furnaces reaching temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But Baker explains that the pastime isn’t as dangerous as it may seem.
“No one’s ever been burned in any of our four studios,” Baker says. “It’s a common misconception that glass is not safe. I love being able to share the glassmaking experience. I never get tired of someone experiencing glass for the first time.”
Last year, Baker appeared on the third season of Blown Away, a glassblowing competition series on Netflix. Each episode saw the participating glassblowers compete for the chance to win $60,000 and an artist residency at the Corning Museum of Glass. Though Baker was eliminated in the fourth episode, she credits the show with spreading the gospel of glassblowing to the masses.
“It gave our community so much exposure,” Baker says. “We’ve had so many more people interested in trying glassblowing for themselves after it aired.”
These days, Baker is more focused on her art than ever. In her Hollywood studio, she’s crafting high-end sculptural pedestal art and experimenting with large-scale installations for her series Solidifying Fluidity. Think: water, waves, and life-forms like birds.
“I would love to build a glass wave that breaks into a flock of ducks,” Baker says. “My signature style right now has been evolving, but the idea is to make this fluid movement solidified into glass.”