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.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
From Larry Thompson
Greenwich Flint-Craft Visits Blowpipe
By Sandi Connally
In the beggining someone else was going to write this artical about Tom Connally and Greenwich Flint-Craft (GFC) . Because of uncontrolable events in the maze of life, the task/opportunity fell to me , his widow. Tomas M. Connally Died on May 5,2004 of metastatic lung cancer at his new home on lake Monroe near Bloomington, Indiana. The Blenko Collectors Soicety President, Tammy Kosla, thought the Blenko Collectors would be intrested in a GFC artical because some have glass designed by him. for several years Tom was the mystery designer until Wayne Husted recalled the guy at Indiana Glass Company (IG). More about that later. Some people will remember that (IG) was the subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corporation that lured the glass blowers away from Blenko to bring their skills to the new hand- craftshop in Dunkirk,Indiana, Hence many of the glass blowers created both Greenwich Flint-Craft and Blenko products.
Thomas M. Connally answered a job advertisement in the Muncie Press for an assistant glass designer position at IG in 1961. His only credentials were a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State Teachers College (Ball State University), a burning desire to do art (he'd been a high school and middle school art teacher at Tipton, and a need for more money than his salary netted from the split assignments of set designer ot the Shoe String Theater and Exhibits and Display at Ball State.A child was on the way, the apartment on McCullough Boulevard was shrinking,A modest dual income was going solo soon, and the Kennedy assassination was fresh on his mind. When Arthur Harshman offered him the position, he accepted. He'd never designed a piece of glass but was confident that he could do so. His innate aesthetic sensitivity, boldless creativity, and appreciation of elegant design were his best tools for the job. Vintage Greenwich Flint-Craft is the visual testimony. This Korean War era veteran from Fort Wayne, IN, artist, teacher, set designer, exibits and display creator, was now becomming a glass designer. He never dreamed of this vocation but it became his master, in his blood, a part of who he was, it never departed. To the end he desired to create new glass designs.
Harshman, wellknown designer and founder of the Glass Museum in Dunkirk, was Tom's mentor, teacher, friend and boss at (IG). Package design, catalogs, brochures,all graphics were his training ground for several months
before attempting glass design. His first design was a small vinegar cruet. His two children Erin and Ty, each have an original in blue with a crystal stopper. For twenty-three years he designed and developed products, packaging, catalogs, flyers, advertising,etc, for IG. When Harshman retired , soon after the new GFC line was introduced, Tom was promoted to Design and Production Development manager and reported directly to the
How did the GFC Art Glass,Thomas Connally Greenwich variety, The 1969 Greenwich, evolve?
_________________________________________________________________________________________ It was 1968 when he started designing the GFC line of handcrafted blown glass. A new complete hand shop was producing some of the Bischoff line that had been acquired by the corporation and moved to Dunkirk for improved production scheduling and reliability.They needed new designs and Tom needed to design.
He shared sone sketches and exact drawings with the hand shop foreman Harry Thompson and they requisitioned a couple of cherry wood molds to produce samples. General Manager E.V.Ogg gave the green light to design and develop a total new line of GFC. Wouldnt it be '' lovely'' if they renamed the line? Mr. Ogg refused to do that, hence, the present day confusion.
What followed was a daunting task, driven by the ''fire in the belly'' thing as Tom said in A Designers Story he wrote for Glass Collector's web site. Besides designing the new line of glass, a new logo, individual packaging and a catalog had to be developed. The logo was a transparent mylar sticker with a white graphic to go each piece. Eventually it all came together. The product line consisted of 70 items available in five colors, a total of 350 pieces. Incidentally, 27 of the items required stoppers. Stopper production out paced the pieces requiring them. This resulted in a colorful array of surplus stoppers. Ironically, the stoppers on many GFC eBay sales are missing. Could there be a ''stopper gremlin?''
GFC was introduced to the trade at the Atlantic City China and Glass show in 1969. The display was stunning and reception positive. A prestigious Chicago department store sold out its first order in a matter of days. Its appeal to the consumer was gratifing. Tom loved good contemporary art whether in glass, furniture, painting (his favorite style ws abstract expressionism), architecture, clothing, etc. He was very proud of GFC and its strong commitment to aesthetics. He was an admirer of Scandinavian Design. It's our loss that he never had the opportunity to design another line of art glass. Some prototype and experimental pieces for possible later inclusion in the GFC line have found their way into the collector market. His personal collection has several.. Had he lived he was going to have four to six new pieces blown, for a while he spent early mornings sketching with glass fabrication in mind. This ''carrot'' kept him going when times were challenging during the last months of his life. The GFC line was discontinued after three years because of pricing problems in the market place. In 1986 they were exploring the possibility of reestablishing a place in the higher end market with hand plant products. The newly appointed president Robert Staub, closed the hand plant. Tom always felt the right leader could have kept the doors open. This seemed to him the first chapter of a riches to rags story.
Apparently the glass blowers returned to West Virginia. Tom reminisced about Harry Thompson, and glass workers Charlile Gibson, Darrell ''Lassie'' Templeton and wished he could thank them and the others whos names were stolen by the years. They had shared an extraordinary experiance. My birthday was during the period he was working late nights in the hand shop so he had the guys make me a gift (no time for shopping). It was a blue bowl with daisy-like flower imprints, a very unique present. During this ''once in a lifetime opportunity,''he remembered asking for pieces of chalk and getting on his hands and knees to sketch out ideas and designs on the shop floor. Perhaps this is the reason some of his original designs are ''missing.'' They were swept away.
Tom left IG in 1986 and founded Thomas Connally/Associates; a studio offering marketing services, design,media placemats, and advertising. During this time he received a Best Designer Award for excellence in design. The business was disolved when he moved to Bloomington in 2003.
Besides work-related art he created several acrylic paintings, collages and hundreds of computer generayed visuald. Many pieces of his GFC and other Indiana Glass items are on permanent display at The Glass Museum in Dunkirk, Indiana.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy became Tom's passion. So like Gollam and the ring GFC lay burried and forgotten for the ages. Forgotten except by the Connallys; some of it was stored in closets but many items were displayed. After all those years GFC was still a great source of pride. One day over two years ago, Tom received a surprise phone call from Wayne Husted. Wayne had worked at Lancaster Colony and, of course, Tom was employed at Indiana Glass. Their paths had crossed occasionally during mutual projects and they would see one another at the trade shows. Wayne called to inquire about a mystery designer of some unidentified glass that was being confused with Blenko. The mystery was solved. The ''UG'' unidentified glass was designed by Tom Connally, hand crafted at Indiana Glass, and called Greenwich Flint-Craft. Tom was ''lost for words'' amazed and very pleased. Wayne invited Tom and family to a Blenko Showing at John and Tammy Kosla's house in Lake Zurich,IL. What a SHOW. But you already know about that.
John and Tammy became our friends and I met Wayne for the first time. I see Tom's glass on eBay sometimes. It makes me both happy and sad. The children and I are very proud of him and his accomplishments, if you own a piece of GFC ,circa 1969, by Thomas Connally I hoe you enjoyed learning about its designer; the most tallented and courageous man ever knew. Tom finished signing our collection two days before he died. Only a few other families have signed pieces. What a legacy for his six grandchildren.
Thank You, Wayne, Tammy, and John
Sincerely, Sandi Connally-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why Tom's lines were so short- lived::
An Opinion by Wayne Husted
Tom's designs were so good they caused a jealousy between the competative Indiana Glass and Colony Glass divisions of Lancaster Colony Corporation.
With the competition between divisions, personal power and recognition in the market place were more important than LCC being able to offer Tom's better colored glass line from the Indiana Division.
Tom's designs were far and away better than many of the imported glass lines of the Colony imports Division which constituted an embarrassment to a manager at the Colony Division who used his superior corporate power to kill Tom's great Greenwigh Flint-Craft line.