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‘Blown Away’ star takes up residency at Carlsbad glass studio

CARLSBAD — A breakout star will be on display blowing minds (and glass) as she takes up residency at Barrio Glassworks.

Nao Yamamoto, a Japanese-born glassblowing artist featured in the Netflix show “Blown Away,” is the first to take up a residency at the new hot shop at 3060 Roosevelt St. in Carlsbad. Yamamoto’s style, grounded in positivity, happiness and empowerment, will be featured in her installation from May 25-28 at the studio.

Yamamoto said she is excited about the opportunity to create an inspirational piece of art showcasing her talent. She’s calling it, “Let your thoughts grow.”

“The idea is to make glass seeds, leaves and flowers,” Yamamoto said. “I saw this process as an evolvement, so I’m excited to try out different techniques.”

Yamamoto’s journey to becoming a fan-favorite began in Tokyo as a child. Her parents are ceramics artists, but Yamamoto said was drawn to glass with its fragile, yet beautiful artwork.

Nao Yamamoto
Nao Yamamoto heats up glass at Barrio Glassworks in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski

She earned her undergraduate degree at Tama Art University and then earning her master’s in fine arts at the University of California, San Bernardino. From there, Yamamoto struggled to break through while living in Los Angeles.

So, she went north to Seattle, a hotbed for hot shops to hone her skills, Yamamoto said. She worked as an assistant and a blower and slowly ramped up her career as she began to tap into her spirituality.

However, Yamamoto was still struggling, but soon her life would change forever. She was tapped for season two of the hit show on Netflix, becoming a fan favorite.

Yamamoto finished fourth in the competition-based show and saw her career take off. She said she knew the show would be demanding and a “mind game,” as the hop shot is filled with numerous kilns with heat in excess of 2,000 degrees each coupled with different themes.

Now, Yamamoto said she doesn’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck and can focus more on passion pieces, rather than scratching out pieces just to meet her obligations.

“I think people have seen my personality … and resonated with my work,” she added. “When people see my work based on my healing journey and how I see the world, people are excited and happy.”

As for Barrio Glassworks, the shop opened on Dec. 5, 2020, and is one of the few glass studios in San Diego County. Owners Mary Devlin and Gary Raskin commissioned another artist, Suzanne Head, to paint a mural on the building’s frontage.

Nao Yamamoto
Nao Yamamoto spins glass on a metal rod at Barrio Glassworks in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski

Head, a friend of Yamamoto, introduced her to Devlin as Devlin and Raskin were organizing their residency program. In many cases, Devlin and Yamamoto said, a residency for a glassblower can be a dicey situation.

Some use the artists for cheap labor, provide substandard living accommodations and other issues. But Devlin stepped up and Yamamoto said it’s the perfect situation for a resident.

Devlin said it’s a balance between providing opportunities for both parties, which she has laid the groundwork with her program. She said each party can take advantage without being cutthroat.

Regardless, Devlin said she is thrilled to have an artist of Yamamoto’s skill, talent and fame.

“It is such an honor and fantastic, as new as we are, to have someone like this,” she added. “People are very excited, and so are we. It fits our mission to have diversity with our artists.”