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
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Milton family holds huge Blenko glass collection in homeWOWK, June 19th
That is how Felicia Hathaway describes the reaction of visitors to her mother Barbara's home in Milton, WV mere minutes from the Blenko Glass Factory. By the looks of what is held within the home, it could easily be mistaken for an extension of the...Read more
Blenko Glass to sell vases, in honor of W.Va.'s 152nd birthdayWest Virginia MetroNews, June 19th
MILTON, W.Va. — The designer of Blenko Glass in Cabell County says when creating each year's West Virginia birthday vase, he likes to think about what life is like in the Mountain State. “I try to think about things that are symbolic of West Virginia...Read more
Travelers ready to purchase Blenko WV Day piece enjoy reunion of glass loversWOWK, June 18th
Blenko Glass is a sanctuary of glass in Milton, West Virginia; a place where amazing artworks and blown glass can be found, but every year, near the celebration of West Virginia's entrance into the nation as a state, people gather for a reunion, and a ...Read more
People Lining Up Days Before Blenko Releases West Virginia Day PieceWCHS-TV8, June 17th
Every year for nearly 30 decades, Blenko Glass has sold a limited edition vase to celebrate West Virginia's birthday on June 20. The glass company only sells a certain number of the vases, so some people are making sure they get one to take home with...Read more
Blenko hosting WV DayHuntington Herald Dispatch, June 15th
Each piece is hand signed by Bayliss and Blenko President Walter Blenko, Jr. West Virginia birthday cake and refreshments will be served. Blenko will be available to sign additional purchases, and Bayliss will be available to speak with customers and...Read more
Blenko pieces honor West Virginia DayCharleston Daily Mail, June 15th
This commemorative birthday vase designed by Blenko will be sold at the West Virginia State Museum Gift Shop in the Culture Center for $65 beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. It is one of three West Virginia Day pieces released by the company. Standing at ...Read more
Blenko Glass hosting annual WV Birthday sale, celebrationHuntington Herald Dispatch, June 14th
The Visitor Center, located at 9 Bill Blenko Drive, Milton, will open at 8 a.m. for this special event. Blenko is celebrating its 35th anniversary of creating the WV Birthday piece. This year's birthday piece is called “Autumn Flame." This vase pays...Read more
Blenko Glass creating "Autumn Flames"WOWK, June 14th
Blenko is having its Annual WV Birthday Celebration on June 20, 2015. Its Visitor Center will open at 8 a.m. for the special event. Blenko is also celebrating its 35th anniversary of creating the WV Birthday piece. This year's birthday piece is called...Read more