10 Things to Discover: Blenko Glass

1 Before the turn of the 20th century, before there were automobiles, before there were economic booms and recessions, there was the Blenko Glass Co. The family-run company launched in 1893 and has operated from its location in Milton, West Virginia since 1921.

Blenko Begins in 1893

2 An example of an experimental prototype free-form bottle created by Winslow Anderson during the mid-20th century, and measuring 15 1/2 inches tall, sold for $600 during the Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates Spring 2017 auction. The late Winslow Anderson (1917-2007) was the first resident designer at the Blenko Glass Company.

3 Early in the company’s history, founder William J. Blenko encountered challenges in generating consumer appreciation for his glass. Between starting his company 1893 and the turn of the 20th century, he would begin operations in Kokomo, Indiana and move to the same West Virginia community where the company still operates today. In between, Blenko would end up returning to his native country of England after struggling to create a demand for his glass in the U.S. While he was in England, he continued to produce the glass creations for exportation.

4 A site that celebrates the history and design of Blenko Glass, and provides a place for collectors to connect is Blenko Glass Collectors – The Blenko Four (www.blenkocollectors.com).

Sheet Glass Sets the Pace

5 In addition to its well-known tableware and decorative glass, another aspect of the Blenko Glass Co.’s legacy is the creation of mouth-blown sheet glass. According to the Blenko website, the glassmakers use an age-old technique to create the sheets. The process involves craftsmen blowing cylinders of glass, with ends removed, scored, and then reheated. The cylinders open into flat sheets of glass measuring 18 by 25 inches during the final heating. The color sheets, along with small rondels of glass, are utilized in decorative architectural design.

Blenko face figural vase

Blenko glass done by noted designer Wayne Hustad, sold for $140 during a February 2018 auction.

6 Blenko masterpieces represent 131 lots, in Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates’ Feb. 16-17 Winter Variety auction. An example of a original piece by prolific Blenko designer Wayne Husted is the pale amethyst vase figural mold in the form of a woman’s head pictured at right. The vase is part of the Variations Series. It sold for $140 during a February 2018 auction.

7 The Blenko Glass Co. offers tours of its operation Monday through Friday. Plus, the company hosts several events throughout the year, including in 2018: the Blenko Warehouse sale (March 17-20); 3rd Annual Garden Party (March 18); Glass-a-Palooza (May 19); and the 11th Annual Festival of Glass (Aug. 3-4).

Fine Figural Examples Adds to Line

8 Figural glass sculptures are also prominent items of the Blenko line. During Rago Arts’ August 26, 2017 auction, two such pieces realized $687 when sold as a group lot. Furthermore, the pieces included a “Monofiori” pear form sculpture with a stem-shaped stopper and a tall gourd-shaped sculpture in gold, by Italian glassmaker Laura de Santillana.

9 Did you know Blenko’s architectural glass is present within the design of some well-known public places? These include, but are not limited to, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio; Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Va.; St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, Calif.; the Mormon Temple, Washington, D.C.; and the Air Force Academy Chapel, Colorado Springs, Colo.

10 Vintage and modern examples of Blenko glassworks are often an affordable option for starting a glass collection. In addition, during auctions in 2017, the prices paid for Blenko glass listed on LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable realized prices of $10 to $700.