Heart of Glass - Blenko Glass

Blenko Glass is a West Virginia treasure that spans generations. Nothing symbolizes the state of West Virginia better or more beautifully than Blenko Glass. We will discuss current and former craftsmen and designers and how important it is that Blenko and West Virginia glass be appreciated and valued by the younger generation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Blenko Visitors Center

Hours Monday - Friday 9-5 , Saturday 9-5, Sunday 11-5 ,

Observation deck open 8am - 3:15 M-F

Blenko Literature says: Join the thousands of guest who visit Blenko Glass Corporation and Visitors Center each year. In a most interesting manner, you'll gain a general understanding of the making of handblown glassware. You'll be charmed with the many examples of our craftsmens' fine workmanship on display in our factory outlet display area. The Visitor Center second floor boast an exciting museum featuring examples of past work and a beautiful exhibit of stained glass contributed by leading American studios who utilize Blenko glass in their creations. A short walk takes you to the observation deck, where you can watch our skilled craftsmen transform molten glass into its find a form.

My personal recommendation: in addition to the tour of Blenko, one must walk through the Glass Garden and then take an hour or two self guided tour of the 2nd floor museum - which contains items made from the 1940s to 2000, lots of historic information and those wonderful stained glass windows. Another reason folks shop at the Visitors Center is the great prices and goal of finding unique 'end of day' piece not available from the Catalogue.

Bargain Hunting, Stain Glass, Craftsmen, Hobbyist, heritage tourism whatever your gig Blenko has something for everyone. If you are there on a weekday morning, the odds of running into Mr. WH (Bill) Blenko are high, Mr. Blenko is a walking encylopedia on Blenko and American made Glass. Angie, Diane, Mickey along with Mr. Wade (VC Manager) share the responsibility for keeping the VC running smoothly. They are always willing to share their knowledge of Blenko products, so don't be hesitate to ask for their advice or a question.

Enjoy your visit to Blenko!

The Art of Glassmaking

Did you know Blenko ware is made using the same methods and tools that the master craftsmen in Europe used hundred of years ago? All workers trained at Blenko are trained on the job and perpetuate a 1000 year old tradition. The workers in glass factories are divided into groups of six called "shops". The shop members each have a specific duty to perform and each task varies in its degree of skill. The Finisher and Blower are the 'two' key members of this team.
The Gather, Stick-up and Carry - In complete the shop. It is essential to the successful completion of a piece of glass that each member of this team performs his task skillfully and faithfully. Just as any team, full cooperation is necessary.

The opertion begins as the gatherer collects a globule of hot glass on the end of a blowpipe. This requires much skill, since the correct amount of glass must be collected, and it must be reasonably symmetrical. Large pieces sometimes require as much as ten pounds of glass. The ball of hot glass is then marveled (rolled on a metal plate). Next, the blowpipe is lifted into the air and with a gentle puff the workman traps air in the pipe (called thumbing out) and this air pocket emerges at the end of the pipe into the hot ballof glass. With a wet, coop-shaped block and paddle of wood the iron tong (pucella) shapes the glass. It is then shaped to fit the mold oin which it is to be blown. It takes year of experience to accomplish this task repeatedly - it must be done quickly without a moment's hestitation.
Note: The above information was found on second floor of VC - the Blenko Museum
The first Monday of each month - this blog will feature a Blenko Craftsperson, Blenko designer, Blenko employee current or former. You'll get to know more about the individual behind the unique skill. We'll speak with the Finisher, Blower, Carry -IN and Gatherer. In the mean time if you haven't been to visit the Blenko Glass Factory and Outlet in Milton, plan now to do this - see the craftsmen working and purchase the lovely handcrafted tablewares.