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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Chilifest heating things up in Lincoln CountyHuntington Herald Dispatch, August 21st
I've got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling. Do you really? Well, have we got the festival for you. Just a short drive for anyone in the Huntington or Charleston area, Hamlin, over in Lincoln County is throwing some heat into the...Read more
Health Fair, Chilifest set for August 22-23 in HamlinThe Logan Banner, August 18th
HAMLIN — The 2014 Heat'n The Hills Chilifest, featuring free music, food, family fun, fireworks and more will take place on the grounds of Lincoln Primary Care, 7400 Lynn Ave in Hamlin, Sat. Aug. 23. Proceeds benefit Lincoln Primary Care Center's...Read more
Hamlin to host a Chilifest Saturday with Georgia Satellites playingHuntington Herald Dispatch, August 17th
HAMLIN, W.Va. — The 2014 Heat'n The Hills Chilifest, featuring food, free music, family fun, fireworks and more will take place Saturday, Aug. 23, on the grounds of Lincoln Primary Care Center, 7400 Lynn Ave., Hamlin, W.Va. Proceeds benefit Lincoln ...Read more
Seeking Blenko historyHuntington Herald Dispatch, August 4th
The Blenko Project, www.blenkoproject.org, is a nonprofit group that focuses on archiving Blenko Glass and preserving the history of Blenko Glass, the craftsmen and the designers. It was founded by Dr. Hillary Homburg, a Charleston dentist, in 2006...Read more
Annual festival gives fans chance to craft own art glassHuntington Herald Dispatch, August 1st
MILTON -- As Blenko Glass Company Vice President Andy Blenko watched Sue Parker of Huntington blow her molten glass into the mold of a vase, he said she looked like she had done it before. Parker isn't a professional glass crafter, but rather a first...Read more
Arts Notes: July 27, 2014Charleston Gazette, July 26th
Blenko Glass Co. will present its seventh annual Festival of Glass on Friday and Saturday, featuring a variety of classes for both children and adults, signing events with company Vice President Andy Blenko, guided factory tours, glassblowing...Read more
Classes, discounts and more offered at BlenkoHuntington Herald Dispatch, July 26th
MILTON -- One of the highlights on Tri-State calendar is the annual Festival of Glass of Blenko Glass. That time is here again as the 7th Annual Festival of Glass is set for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1-2 at the Blenko factory in Milton. "We hope that...Read more
The seventh annual Festival of Glass is set for Aug. 1-2 at Blenko Glass in ...WCHS-TV8, July 24th
Signing events are scheduled with with Blenko vice-president Andy Blenko, as well as guided factory tours, glassblowing demonstrations, live radio remotes with B97.1 and glass giveaways. Limited edition pieces will go on sale Aug 2. A 15 percent...Read more