Blenko Man is the idea and gift of Rock Wilson, of Pennsboro, WV who has been collecting Blenko Glass Co. glass for almost 20 years and was drawn to Blenko because “Blenko glass is fun and I love the odd forms, vibrant colors and fantastic size….some pieces are 3 to 4 feet tall.”
Because Blenko made vases shaped like heads and ashtrays shaped like hands and feet, Wilson thought that a man could be created. As a friend and business associate of Dean Six, founder and director of the museum, he wanted to contribute to the museum yet wasn’t sure how to put it together. Then last fall, fate intervened when internationally recognized sculptor John Zidek moved to Pennsboro and a partnership was born.
John Zidek has exhibited at Art Expo NY and has pieces in the collections of such well known people as Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings and Ross Johnson, former CEO of Nabisco. In addition he was an invited Artist at Planetfest 1997-NASA Celebration of Rover Landing on Mars and has a large installation at the Fox Cities Children’s Museum in Wisconsin. He has worked with several materials, but currently is focused on copper wire sculpture which works so well for Blenko Man. Thus Zidek took on the project eagerly.
Mr. Wilson provided 18 glass objects from his personal collection noting that it was hard to give up the piece that forms the right arm as it is signed by Richard Blenko, fourth generation president of the firm. In selecting the glass to be used, Wilson tried to include as much variety as possible in color, size and shape as well as age including pieces from the 1960’s until the present time. A problem arose when he had only one hand and one foot, but the Blenko factory graciously made a special production run of hands and feet that were originally made in the 1970’s. (The hand represents the company’s outline logo indicating that the products are handmade.) The only minor glitch was that the glass molds are only for left hands and feet, yet the Blenko Man proudly lifts aloft his right left hand.
A western theme was selected to use the glass cactus, steer heads and cowboy hat available in Wilson’s collection. Originally the cowboy hat was to be of clear glass, but his two year old son made a move that caused a shift to a rare ruby colored one instead. The hats are currently in production in clear and topaz.
Adding to the western style, Blenko Man sits surrounded by sand and cactus creating a little bit of desert in West Virginia.
Showcased inside the museum is beautiful American made glass arranged by form and or by company. It is amazing to see how many glass houses once operated in the region of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Once a thriving industry, there are only a few handmade glass companies still in business and one is Blenko which began in 1893. Located in Milton, WV its colored glass for stained glass windows and architecture has long been widely used. And the lovely shapes and colors of its decorative and utilitarian wares can be found in homes throughout the country.
The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia is open year round noon to 4:30pm daily except Wednesday, Sunday and major holidays. Admission is free. It is easily accessible off I-79 exit 99 onto US 33 West for two miles to Main Avenue. A left turn onto Main and the museum is on the left at 230 Main Avenue. Begun in 1992, the Museum relocated to its present location in 2007 and occupies 12,000 square feet with nearly 7,000 pieces of glass on permanent display. More information can be found at http://wvmag.bglances.com/. Questions about programs or the museum can be directed to 304-269-5006.