When William J. Blenko came to the United States from England in 1893, his vision was to produce and sell American-made "antique" (mouth-blown) flat glass instead of having it imported from Europe. After a few failed ventures, he started The Eureka Glass Company in 1921 and produced stained glass from its Milton, West Virginia glassmaking facility until the Depression. Struggling to stay afloat, Blenko switched his product line to glass tableware, and in 1930, Eureka became Blenko.
Before Blenko employed designers, it had expert finishers on its staff. The first artisans hired for these important positions were Axel Muller and Louis Miller, a pair of Swedish glassblowers who had the background in stemware that Blenko and his son, who joined his father in 1923, lacked. Blenko’s output from the pre-war years is characteristically clean and spare. Its footed goblets and tumblers were uniform in color and simply proportioned. Even the stems were straightforward, though elegant in a casual, distinctly American sort of way.
As the 1930s progressed, Blenko's pieces got a bit fancier. A clear iced-tea glass, for example, would have a colored glass leaf on its outside surface, while dusty-green highball glasses were sometimes wrapped with threads of vivid red. These objects, as well as Blenko’s candleholders, rolled-rim plates, and crackle-body decanters, caught the eye of the folks running Colonial Williamsburg. In 1933, Blenko became the exclusive manufacturer of table and stemware for the historic site.
By the end of the decade, Blenko was also producing amphoras and vases. A new shop foreman named Carl Ebert Erickson had now joined the company. Blenko's line of "Heavy Swedish Type Vases," which have been attributed to Erickson, gave the company its identity just before the war.
After World War II, Winslow Anderson took the company’s design reins. He introduced indented vases of various sizes and colors, bent-neck cruets, and slender, flat-bottom decanters with teardrop stoppers. Anderson laid the groundwork for one of Blenko’s most influential designers, Wayne Husted, who was with the company from 1953 until 1963. During that decade, Husted pushed both forms and color to bring Blenko into step with the prevailing Mid-century Modern aesthetic.
Of particular interest are Husted’s wedge-cut decanters, portrait vases, the Echoes series from the late 1950s, and the Spool decanters, which recall Brancusi’s "Endless Column." In fact, decanters and vertical pieces became something of a Blenko trademark during this period—some pieces stood three feet tall.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, Joel Philip Myers, who is now a well-known artist in his own right, designed for Blenko, injecting the company’s sensibility with humor and whimsy. Especially charming are some of the clear decanters with green or turquoise spouts and stoppers, the lovely coiled and mushroom pieces, and the decanters with cowboy hats and longhorn skulls for stoppers...
One of the tricks about collecting Blenko is to know how to identify the company’s marks since most of its pieces are not signed. The exceptions to this rule are the engraved signatures on the bottoms of pieces in 1958, the sandblasted Wayne Husted-designed logo used between 1958 and 1961, and the pieces signed "Blenko Joel Philip Myers," which grace the bottoms of products made for Gump’s in 1964.
Instead, the company practice has been to affix a foil, hand-shaped label to its pieces with the words "BLENKO HANDCRAFT" on it—paper was substituted during World War II. This label was used from the 1930s through 1982. A different paper label of a stylized Blenko glassblower was glued to the Raindrop, Regal, and Rialto Specialty Lines in 1960 and 1961.
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Recent News: Blenko Art Glass
Source: Google News
Baugh '53 has decanter selected for Cooper-Hewitt collectionAU News, April 23rd
A Blenko Glass Co. decanter and stopper, whose concept, design, and execution are attributed to Betty Baugh, AU Class of 1953, was selected for a Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collection this past winter. The Cooper-Hewitt, which was ...Read more
Milton's annexation plan encounters oppositionWest Virginia MetroNews, April 23rd
The proposal would expand Milton's boundaries to parts of Route 60 near the Putnam County line and to Saw Mill Road near Culloden—an area that includes 1,000 residents, Pumpkin Park, the Milton Flea Market, Blenko Glass and other businesses...Read more
Producer Profile: Russ BarbourWest Virginia Public Broadcasting, April 22nd
1996 National Educational Telecommunications Association Award), Hearts of Glass: The Story of Blenko Handcraft (Cultural Programming, 1998 Communicator Award) and Ashes to Glory (Sports Documentary, 2001 Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Award)...Read more
Milton Annexation Plan Stirs Controversy; Hundreds Attend MeetingWSAZ-TV, April 21st
That space includes 26 businesses, including the Milton Flea Market, Blenko Glass, and the Pumpkin Park, which currently aren't within the city limits. The expansion also includes around 450 property owners, who would be forced to pay Milton's property...Read more
Alluringly abstract: River Gallery's April exhibit features works of ...Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 18th
His introduction to glass blowing came during a trip from his home in Broadway, Va., to the headquarters of Blenko Glass Co. in Milton, W.V., located about halfway between Charleston and Huntington. He later attended a workshop at New York City's ...Read more
East at a glance: North Huntingdon gets update on Pa. Turnpike workPittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16th
North Huntingdon — Commissioners last week heard a report from Andy Blenko, township planning director and engineer, about work the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is doing in conjunction with turnpike widening. During the commissioners' special ...Read more
Blenko Glass Co. expects increased production aheadHuntington Herald Dispatch, March 24th
MILTON - Blenko Glass Company has had its share of bumps in the road, but the outlook is improving at the 122-year-old company. "We've had some ups and downs because we make luxury goods. People only buy our products if they have extra money," ...Read more
Gallery: Blenko Glass' Annual Warehouse SaleHuntington Herald Dispatch, March 14th
Enthusiasts from across the country gathered as the Blenko Glass Company began their annual Warehouse Sale on Saturday morning in Milton. Bishop Nash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @BishopNash. 2015 0315 ...Read more