Charisma is more than just the last great Specialty Line Blenko made; it is an uncommonly beautiful and eloquent swan song for Blenko's historic period of 1947-74 courtesy of John Nickerson in his first full year as Blenko's design director. With a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor and a knowing nod towards some of the absurd names given to Blenko designs, I will call this the Charisma "cover girl" decanter (I hope I don't regret that!). This particular design is, after all, the one chosen to represent the Charisma line by being pictured, hovering and alone in the spotlight, on the 1972 catalog cover. It was in fact the first and only time that Blenko ever featured a single decanter on the cover, and a more perfect candidate does not exist.
As discussed on the Blenko Museum's website, "A Specialty Line is a themed group of designs that are technically 'special' or different from Blenko's normal production, and consist of multiple shapes that are aesthetically related. [the] Specialty Lines were an important departure for Blenko and indicate an impulse to innovate and experiment in spite of the risks. The Specialty Lines are a testament to a company in its prime."
To borrow from my explanation of Charisma published in the 2007 issue of Miller's Guide, the Charisma line consist of 10 designs executed in crystal with an internal garland pattern Ruby colorway. The technique was an appropriate and historically relevant one as it was essentially a revival of a technique used in the mid-Atlantic region of America circa 1860-1880. Mid-Atlantic glass is recognized as an important milestone as it was the first large scale iteration of the American glass industry, established in 1739.
Charisma was a significant, if short-lived, move towards more technically demanding and elaborate work at Blenko. It represented their first instance of the use of an internal colorway as well as the revival of the concept of the Specialty Line which was formally established in 1960 by Wayne Husted (Rialto , Regal and Raindrop). This revival is surprising in that the 1960 experiment was a financial disaster for Blenko and can perhaps be interpreted as a last resort; Charisma was effectively a line in the sand against the encroaching competition of Studio Glass. Sadly this line was ultimately crossed against Blenko's favor.
Returning to this particular shape, it is based on a traditional form known as a "ship's decanter" because the broad bottom with low center of gravity ensures stability at sea. In effect we have a very historically aware design here - quoting both important technique and form - but reinterpreted in a very modern way, a very uniquely Blenko way. I would personally place this shape as among the most important designs of the line, not the least of which for its self-evident beauty. Charisma is easily one of Nickerson's most insightful and important innovations at Blenko, one that deserves its place in history.
*Article and photo by Damon Crane, taken with permission from Vintage Modern Glasshouse