Ryan Doolittle celebrates 5 years of Glassblowing with Celebrity Cruises
13th January 2016
When was the last time you had the opportunity to watch a glassblowing show in the middle of the ocean?
If you have been on a Solstice Class Celebrity Cruise, the chances are, you’ve had this privilege. And you may have even had the chance to take a sentimental artistic piece of your voyage home with you. Most wouldn’t expect to go on a cruise holiday and learn how premium glassware is made. However, the Corning Museum of Glass makes this possible for guests of Celebrity Cruises.
Recently, we had a chance to speak to Ryan Doolittle, Glassblowing Team Leader at the Celebrity Solstice Corning Museum of Glass division while in Sydney. Ryan has just recently celebrated her 5th year working onboard Celebrity Cruises. She considers herself fortunate, as she can practice and share her craft with others in the middle of the ocean with an office she believes “is the best spot on the ship” – The Lawn Club. And we think she might just be right!
We spoke to Ryan about her deep appreciation for the arts, her five years travelling the globe with Celebrity Cruises and how she feels fortunate about giving back to her industry and community with her glass creations.
Meet Ryan Doolittle
Glassblowing Team Leader on Celebrity Solstice
How did you discover glassblowing?
I discovered glassblowing at Virginia Commonwealth University after pursuing a degree in ceramics. Once I took a molten gather of 2200 degree glass and made my first glass blob, it was all over for my ceramics career. I made the switch to become a glass major. After graduating, I moved to Seattle - one of the glassblowing centers of the USA, and worked in production studios and as a professional Glass Assistant to many of my glass heroes. Learning how to blow glass takes the same repetitive practice as learning to play a musical instrument. In 2010, the Corning Museum of Glass hired me to embark on my first ‘Blow Glass at Sea’ adventure on the Celebrity Equinox and I've been cruising the world ever since. This is my 5th anniversary and loved every minute.
What can we expect from a Hot Glass Show onboard Celebrity Solstice?
If you come to one of our Hot Glass Shows onboard Celebrity Solstice, Equinox or Eclipse, you can expect to be blown away (pun intended)! Our shows are two hours long and we make up to six pieces of glass during that two hours, or just one very extravagant piece. These could be vessels, sculptures or stemware and we always make a different piece of glass for each demonstration. One of our three Glassblowers will give an educational and sometimes comedic narration during the creation process. It is an informal show and we welcome questions from guests.
At the end of each voyage, we host special auction with the best pieces of glass made. Proceeds go to the Scholarship Fund and Residency Program that affords many people a chance to take glassblowing classes at our teaching facility in Corning, NY called The Studio or to work on an exciting new body of glass work during a month long residency. The final piece of glass in our auction raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the charity that Celebrity Cruises proudly supports.
Your favourite piece of glassware you ever made and why?
My favourite piece of glass I ever made onboard one of the Celebrity ships was a superhero cat! It was during one of our “You Design It, We Make It” shows we do for children during the cruise. They create some fabulous drawings and we choose one or two and make them into glass while they watch on. We try to make the glassware as close to the drawing as possible and the kids love seeing their designs come to life. The 2D designer of the superhero cat was a 4 year old. The cat was black and white like a cow, had a blue head, a black mask, yellow eyes and red ears. When he picked it up, I asked him if he had a name for it and he said, "of course, his name is Guinness just like my cat at home." I was extremely charmed by this. By pure chance on another cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse cruising to Norway, this same little boy was also onboard and he designed us a troll. We picked his drawing design again and made it. He now has quite the glass collection from us.
Your favourite spot on the ship?
My favorite spot on the ship would have to be at the top of the outdoor stairs on deck 15 going down to deck 14. The view is always stunning and it's where I saw a humpback whale breach several times after one of our shows when we were sailing in Alaska. I've also seen several double rainbows from that spot and hundreds of epic sunsets. And I have to mention, our glassblowing studio is outside on deck 15 in the back of the ship right next to the real grass lawn. Needless to say, our office view as we are sailing gives us the best view in existence.
Your favourite port to visit in your free time?
This is the hardest question to answer! In the Baltic, I would say Copenhagen since I love the city and the Scandinavian design aesthetic is a favorite of mine. In the Mediterranean, I have to always pick Venice since the island of Murano is a glassblower must. We like to visit the toolmaker to get some new tools and pop into Pino Signoretto's Sculpting Studio to see what he is working on- (Pino is considered the best glass sculptor in the world). In Australia, I love Brisbane as I got to hold a Koala named Sergeant for the most amazing 20 seconds of my life - an item on my bucket list since I was a little girl. Whatever port of call we go to, we always try to find the glassblowing studios so we can see what they're making, the equipment and tools they're using, and surprise the Glassblowers by informing them of our hot glass shop on a luxury cruise liner docked in their city. I've visited glass shops in Malta, Copenhagen, Venice, Gibraltar, Grand Cayman, Estonia, Berlin, Norway, Australia, Hawaii, and Alaska in the last five years because of this crazy amazing job of mine.