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Defying Gravity


Defying Gravity follows Shelburne, MA glass artist Josh Simpson in his efforts to create the largest glass object of his career: a 100-pound Megaplanet commissioned by the Corning Museum of Glass in New York to commemorate the 1000th paperweight in their collection.

Like his other work, Simpson’s Megaplanet is inspired by both the natural world and by glass itself. Made with many layers of luminous glass enclosing vast seascapes and minute terrestrial details, the Megaplanet reflects his joy of exploration and discovery and encourages the viewer to appreciate even the smallest details of our complex universe.

But creating the largest Megaplanet he’d ever attempted demanded an enormous amount of planning.   “I thought this would be a physical project,” says Simpson, “but what’s amazing is how much mental energy has gone into this; thinking about “what if’ and ‘how to’ and how it’s all going to happen turned into a huge mental effort.”

WGBY’s cameras were on hand for every step of the year-and-a-half long journey from commission to creation, traveling to Kent, OH and Kenova, WV to interview the makers of custom tools required for the project, setting up at Simpson’s Shelburne, MA studio to capture all of the artist’s triumphs, disappointments, technical obstacles and sheer artistic inspiration and finally heading to Corning, New York for the unveiling of the Megaplanet at the Corning Museum of Glass.

Equal parts drama, how-to, science and art program, Defying Gravity is the first-ever WGBY documentary shot in razor-sharp high definition, which presented it own challenges and inspiration for the WGBY production crew. “Being our first HD documentary, working with a brand-new format and new equipment was a big technical challenge,” says WGBY Producer Keith Clark “But when you see the images, you’ll know it was worth it.”

The Megaplanet is currently on display at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York as the centerpiece of the exhibit Worlds Within: The Evolution of the Paperweight running through March 18, 2007. For extensive information on the exhibit, be sure to visit the Corning Museum of Glass website.

Major funding for Defying Gravity was provided by the The Corning Foundation, Jonathan Oakleaf, Stewart Rosenblum and Phillip Verdi.

Watch Defying Gravity:

Watch Defying Gravity on PBS. See more from WGBY Documentaries.


Corning Museum of Glass
Josh Simpson, Glass Artist
Jonathan Winfisky, Glass Artist
Ed Branson, Glass Artist