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.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Today LES WOMACK and a group of retired employees join BLENKO employees to do a demonstration of glass making. Each year Mr. Les Womack, returns to Blenko Glass for 3-4 weeks to make Christmas items. His special items are SNOWMEN and ANGELS. Les Womack produces the most beautiful Angels and Snowmen, he is exact in placing the eyes, buttons, wings. He is very particular about color, and form. Mr. Les Womack has no need for a quality control or inspector - as he would never allow a flaw in one of his Angels or Snowmen. IF you only purchase one new item for your Christmas Decor this year - - - consider the Angel and / or Snowman. I have a small collection setting on the fireplace, in October I bring out the Snowmen and I keep one Angel out all year long. They are so lovely, you don't really think Christmas . The Angel is ART! These items will make great gifts for CHILDREN of all ages. They are NOT mass produced, they are made only once a year for a short period of time. A great investment or the beginning of a collection. About three years ago - I met Les Womack for the fist time, he is a retired Blenko shop foreman. Very unassuming extremely strong,.yet when he speaks of Blenko and his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, you realize he is very gentle. His knowledge of Blenko and the glass making procedure is vast. Mr. Womack and his wife live in this lovely home, near the water - with a perfectly manicured lot, a home and garden that could be on the cover of any 'Ladies Magazine.' Mr. Womack is a perfectionist. Hunting, fishing, gardening, whatever he does there is a neat professional air to the procedure. After spending a few hours with him I could understand why he is considered a most valued friend, co-worker, shop foreman. Mr. Womack hasn't lost his ability to work in the chair, his ability to lead by example, his zest for work.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
It's time to start shopping for the Holidays. . .and Blenko is the place to begin, the Visitors Center has many one of a kind items and they have a large assortment of items under $20 . If you can't get to the Visitors Center in Milton check out the online catalogue at the BLENKO GLASS website. I personally love looking for 'bargains' and those 'unusual items' at the Visitors Center, but the online catalogue is filled with gift ideas. When you give Blenko Glass, you are giving a piece of West Virginia, a piece of our state and nations history. If you aren't a Blenko Collector - let this be the time you become a Blenko Collector, or you start a collection for the young person in your life. NOTE: This photo was taken 11/25 of the Visitors Center - Blenko Glass Milton, W. VA. phone 304 743 8091
Sunday, November 26, 2006
At a recent talk someone ask if I buy only things made in WVa...the answer of course is NO! But I do have Fiestaware, it was my grandma's. I use it daily as did she. It is a quality product. Fiestaware is now available emblazoned with West Virginia Mountainteer and Flying WV logo ( if I can get a sample I'll post a photo) - IF - I ever have disposable income I will own a set or two of this WVU tableware. Before I knew Fiestaware was made in WVa I loved it for the color and the fact that it didn't break easily, and I was allowed to 'wash it', (this was long ago). Fiestaware is made to be used. It has become highly collectible. The Fiesta collectors, like the Fenton, Fostoria and Blenko collectors are a very knowledgeable and helpful group. The membership fees for these glass collector groups is minimal and they provide one with invaluable information and resources. We are in the process of sending letters to the six WVa Glass Collectors Clubs (if you know of others - please send email and I'll add them) to ask for information about membership , how many members they have, how they meet, how officers are selected, what perks one gets with membership etc.- I'll post the information here. We do or have belonged to Blenko, Fenton, Fostoria, Cambridge& Imperial so I have an email address for each of these groups. If you know someone who collects, or just wants to know more about WVa. Glass consider getting a membership as a Holiday Gift. I'll try to post the information about each group before 12/14.
As an adult I try to buy products made in the USA - my car is not but that's the subject of another post.
Friday November 24th was a beautiful sunny day in Milton, West Virginia. More than 2,00 people came to the Blenko Glass Company Visitors Center. Sales on glass - there were wonderful mark downs (still going on), great items for holiday gift giving. The sale area was filled with people, long lines awaiting Mr. Richard Blenko's signature on their special purchases. NOTE: IF someone is available to sign, stand in line and say Thank You!. Signed glass is much more valuable. The Blenko family (Mr. W and Richard) once again so generous with their time, taking the time to sign glass, speak with the public about glass making, the history of the company, and just answering most any question. HJH
Friday, November 24, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Pictured here is a BLENKO GLASS item designed by Don Shepperd. There is some mystery to this figure - some folk say its the 'Family of Man' designed by Shepperd as a gift to very high donors for a charity. The figure shown belonged to an over 80 retired WVU employee - its dated 1979 and signed with Shepperd design mark. The story that came with this piece - - - and most older 'special' Blenko items have a story. . . is he (the owner) and Sheperd developed a friendship during his trips to Milton for supplies, he was there when the mold was being made and admired the concept. ' So simple, yet very strong' were the words he used then and now to describe Sheperd's design. He has the note from Shepperd that accompanied the shipment. I am aware of only one other existing original copy it is owned by my friend and mentor Steve Bair. Last year Blenko took out the mold and made several copies (estimates go from six to 18) - these will not have Don Sheperd's staff (signature). This item - the older ones are quiet valuable - if you find one BUY IT. This is another example of a wonderful collectible BLenko! Note: The Blenko B isn't orginal to his piece - I gave him the B to place on this item. 11/27/06 Note: Readers have responded with information of four known orignal 'family of man'. One reader wrote both he and another family member own one and place a value of over $1,000 on the item.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
This is a 6 day vacation from Dental School - I've spent a good portion of this time removing boxes from my parents garage (so my Dad can again park both cars in the garage) - Boxes of trolls - anyone remember trolls - I collected these in grade school and judging from the size of my collection, my Uncles must have spent a fortune on trolls. Also a large collection of Pogs (bottle caps) anyone remember collecting these bottle liners? I had two boxes, some in plastic liners and some declaring themselves 'collectors series' - again it all went to the trash. Only the boxes of Barbie dolls and accessories survived - and they are now at the Goodwill Store.
Why you must be thinking .is Hillary sharing this? Hillary who hates self disclosure. . . actually during the cleaning my thoughts turned to BLENKO, if instead of Pogs, and Trolls I had been given simple little pieces of Blenko - or a water bottle collection had been started for me by one of my indulgent Uncles. Well the water bottles have increased in value - the trolls and pogs were placed on the curb for the City Trash truck.
This year I am again buying gift for my friends children and young cousins
However, I will be buying gifts MADE IN WEST VIRGINIA . A special ornament or small figurine, or a trip to visit the West Virginia Crafts at Oglebay or Tamerack. As responsible adults we need to educate our children about the wonderful craftsmen here in West Virginia. Plant the seed.
Happy Shopping! . NOTE: This .photo is BLENKO it was blown by Shorty Finley and was available for purchase in the Visitors Center - duirng the same time I was collecting Trolls! Blenko always has a collection of unique small items - turles, frogs, snails, figures something to excite most anyone. Plan to bring the children in your life for a visit - see Glass being made - allow your child to connect to Made In West Virginia!
Monday, November 20, 2006
At a recent talk, I encouraged the audience to send photos of their favorite BLENKO GLASS water pitcher .
We have received quite a few, we will post them as they arrive. Blenko has produced over 100 different styles of water pitchers. With the exception of Trey Gott* each Blenko designers' series included sketches of Water Pitchers. If you have or see an unusual one please send us a copy.
The photos I am now posting came from: Juanita Thompson of Ashland, KY, Tim Salmons of Orlando, Florida, Skip Copley of Charleston, South Carolina, Carletta Blevins of South Williamson, Kentucky. NOTE: Anyone having knowledge of a Trey Gott pitcher - contact us.
Frogs. Everyone seems to collect frogs. Especially single women. Why do we like them so much? I recently read that the Japanese believe frogs bring prosperity to the home. The 'fairy tales' have a frog turning into a PRINCE with the 'right kiss'. Are you familar with Richard Gardener's 'Real Fairy Tales' - - as a child my Mom read only Gardener's Fairy Tales to me and my cousins. . . . I'll let you search for a copy to find out what happen to the frog prince in this fractured fairy tale book.
The Frogs I like best - are Blenko Frogs. Blenko Glass has made frogs since the 1930s. In the 1960s Blenko made the large open mouth frog vase ( there are two example in the Visitor Center Garden entrance garden). In 1990 they started making the two sizes of dump mold frogs. (These are on sale now at the Visitor Center for $6 - $12 in multiple colors). In 2002 they inhitiated a new larger end of day froge bookend to use left over glass ( I don't have a photo of this but Don Lemley at Blenko is suppose to find one and then I'll post it) . If you have photos of Blenko Frogs or other special frogs we can share them in a future post.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
These faces were all designed by Hank Adams. Faces like most other Blenko items cost a bit more if they are Ruby. Ruby was not a line item color for the Face Vases. The 'devil face' not a Blenko line item - is a signed/ limited number (50). The Blenko Museum sold the 'devil face' as part of a fund raiser. For a donation of about $500 one received the Hank Adams 'devil face.' A link to the Blenko Museum and other information about Hank Adams may be found at www.blenkoproject.org or the Blenko Glass Company web site. HJH
Ebony (Black Glass) was produced by Blenko for a short time. Ebony was discontinued about eighteen months ago. Blenko shipping reports, ‘ the last ebony was sold in 2004.’
Miss B and I admit black and red are our favorite colors in everything – clothing, glass, automobiles, home décor. Needless to say our little place contains a small collection of
Blenko – Ebony (see photo).
Because Ebony is a discontinued color and production of ebony was limited, Ebony is not always easy to find - - we checked today and not one Ebony Blenko item was available on E Bay.
NOTE: Occasionally discontinued colors/ items show up for sale at the Blenko Visitors Center in Milton. Blenko Staff
During cleaning find one or two older items and then offer these for sale at the VC - - they aren’t labeled - one simply must
Look at all shelves and under the shelves. Also I recommend asking Angie and Diane what ‘unusual items’ if any might be available.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Don Lemley - Artist - Teacher - Loyal Employee - Supervisor- Mentor.
Don Lemley has spent most of his adult life working with and around Glass. Mr. Lemley currently supervises the Antique Glass division at Blenko. Antique is most every thing but 'tablewares' . . Blenko Glass developed the reputation of being the best producer of 'antique glass' in the 40s. Very little has changed. Blenko still makes glass the old fashion way. High quality - small batches - with skilled workers at every step of the process.
Don Lemley is described by his customers as " knowledgeable, approachable, a skilled artist, ' a go to kind of guy', one customer said " Mr. Lemley is never too busy to help with whatever my problems are. He knows the market, the product, and he is himself an artist." Don Lemley is a valued employee of Blenko Glass. As a college student involved with the Blenko Project we frequently phoned or emailed Mr. Lemley for pieces of information about Blenko products and people. We experienced first hand his 'kindness, his loyalty to Blenko, his knowledge and willingness to share the knowledge and love of glass.
We will continue each month to focus on Blenko employees - the following is a summary of Don Lemley.
1. Supervisor Antique division.
2. He has worked in the Shops (production)
Utility prep personnel supervisor (night watchmen)
Batchmaster (Batchmixing supervisor)
Antique dept. Warehouseman
3.He likes meeting people from all around the world and seeing their art and ideas.
4. He collects older pieces of cobalt. ( We will ask him for photos of some special pieces- and post later)
5.His grandfather worked for Blenko for 47 years, his father was here when he first returned form the army and many family and friends have been employed at Blenko.
6. When ask 'what other thoughts do you have about Blenko'. Mr. Lemley responded:The only other thoughts I have about Blenko are:
"I would like people to stop and realize what a treasure Blenko glass is being the last production handmade glass factory. It is a link to the past when workers had a skilled craft and were proud of their work which actually was and still is a true work of art. "
Photo: Laura Moul
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Our mail often contains the question - 'where to buy BLENKO'? My first choice is always the BLENKO Glass Company Visitors' Center, located in Milton, WVa.. The selection is always unique and constantly changing - if you see something you like 'buy it' it won't be there next week. Lots of people like to shop on line -for those folks, BLenko Glass Company has an online order form. If you don't find what you want at Blenko then I recommend two other places. (DK COLLECTIBLES- an online store ran by a couple from the Montgomery area - I will try to get more information and do a post about this source of BLENKO). My other recommendation is Dixie's. Dixie's in Texas has one of the largest collection of Blenko for sale. Dixie's has many one of a kind items. I ask Billy one of the owners at Dixie's for a brief description of their involvement with Blenko. I am attaching his replay and several photos.
HILLARY, HERE IS OUR STORY - Our family appreciates the opportunity toserve you, and we know you will be pleased with the uniqueness and qualityof our merchandise."Dixie's" was started in 1981 as a way to travel and supplement ourretirement. What was started in one room and the garage of our home, quicklygrew into a successful wholesale business with over 1200 accounts across thecountry, six full time sales reps, and a permanent show room at the "DallasApparel Mart. Today all of our time and energy is spent on our retail and internet business. The wholesale business was wonderful! We are very proudof having the largest selection of Blenko Glass in Texas with manyone-of-a-kind items. Blenko has been a true joy for us. Thank you so much for allowing us to serve you. If ever in theDallas-Ft.Worth area, please stop by our store and say hello.You can find us on Ebay at dixiesfashionandgifts and email email@example.com. Our website is www.dixiesonline.com Thanks again from your friends in Texas
Monday, November 06, 2006
F. Duke Perry CEO & President of the West Virginia University Foundation will retire at the end of the year.
On Thursday he will be honored at an open reception hosted by the Univesity.
Mr. Perry came to WVU in 1999, he listened to the community and facilitated the most tremendous growth in West Virginia University. Mr. Perry listened to the desire of the University and our community - he then allowed us to become a part of the growth of WVU. THANK YOU MR. Perry! The blue chalice in this photo is vintage BLENKO GLASS - it was engraved by ' A Touch of GLass ' in Hurricane,WVA. BLENKO GLASS COMPANY makes many items that are suitable for awards. Prototypes are available at the BLENKO GLASS COMPANY office.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Hank Adams - Blenko Designer 1988-1994 is known for his ability to perform magic with glass, he often uses 'found objects' (screws, bolts etc) in molds to create texture. The Hank Adams pieces we buy are the FACES. He has created many different faces for Blenko. Shown in this photo are two of six different faces currently available at the Blenko Visitors Center. In the little home Mz B (my bichon) and I share there are seven Hank Adams 'faces or heads' as they are often called. . .we started collecting in early 1990 and have a total of about fifteen. If you google Hank Adams you will find the price of his after Blenko studio pieces (often faces and heads, very elaborate pieces) to be in the 5-20K range. Hank Adams continues to grow in popularity, his Blenko designs are highly collectible and currently a real bargain in the $85-$150 range at the Visitors Center.
Many wonderful examples of Hank Adams work at Blenko are available for viewing at various Blenko sites on the web. At the www.blenkoproject.org you'll find photos of
Hank Adams after leaving Blenko - SOFA Show Chicago 2004
Hank Adams after leaving Blenko - SOFA Show Chicago 2004
Hank Adams after leaving Blenko - Seattle 2001
Please visit the Wheaton Museum where Hank is the creative director of the glass studio. The above photo provided by Dixie's Glass.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
We hope to have photos of the road trip and will post when we return! So you will have 6 weeks to anticipate the photos of Fetty glass and perhaps the two working together (Fetty-Finley - well a girl is allowed to dream....!
Who is Dave Fetty?
A skilled glassworker, Dave Fetty retired in 1999 after more than 40 years in the glass industry. Dave came to Fenton in 1964 after learning the trade in Milton, WV, at the Blenko Glass Company, where he began as a carrying-in boy when he was 19. Dave's mentor at Blenko was glassworker "Shorty" Finley, who taught Dave many of the skills needed to make glass off-hand (without moulds).
In the mid-1970s, Dave worked with glass artisan Robert Barber, helping to design and create some of Fenton's first limited edition pieces. In 1998, Dave taught a "pulled feather" technique to other glassworkers, and he supervised them as they produced this vase for the 1998 Connoisseur Collection.
Even after his "official" retirement, Dave has continued to contribute to Fenton. In addition to working closely with the glassworkers who produced a "Hanging Hearts" vase for the Connoisseur Collection, his contribution to the Collection in 2002 was this "Favrene Feathers Vase."
Dave also contributes pieces for the Collectors Room at the Fenton Collectors Convention held in August of each year.
The information about Dave Fetty was taken from Fenton Glass literature.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The uniqueness of hand blown glass cannot be compared to that formed glass - a process which produces items all exactly alike. Because Blenko glass is made in small batches and the process is perfroemd by hand, it is common to observe small air bubbles, lines, indvidual marks left by the craftsmen's tools. These are not glaws - but rather the distinctive nature of the hand made process - which identify and make each piece of glass unique.
In a world of increasing automation and standardization, Blenko prides itself on paying particular attention to the forms and designs, BLenko continues to stay true to the traditon of hand blown glass.
What's in a name........when the name is BLENKO . . . history, tradition, quality and pride are in the name!
Blenko Glass Company is located in Milton, West Virginia. The Visitors Center Outlet Shop is open from 9 to 5 most days.