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17671 Candlewood Court
Penn Valley, CA, 95946
United States

415.433.4656

Back in the 1950s, when he was fresh out of college, Wayne Husted was hired as Director of Design at the venerable Blenko Glass Company in Milton, West Virginia. During his ten years at Blenko, he created over 60 new designs every year, resulting in over 600 unique designs, many of which are included in museum collections and sought after by private collectors nationwide. Think of mid-century modern glass design, and you picture Wayne’s distinctly sculptural, often nonfunctional “architectural scale” designs.

 

Now, at the age of 88, Wayne is still designing in glass, working with glass studios nationwide, developing new techniques that push the properties and capabilities of hand-blown glass in the creation of big and colorful art glass. He is currently working with Effetto Glassworks, Slow Burn Glass, and Public Glass in the San Francisco Bay Area on the new Jazz in Glass Collectors Series of designs that recall his work of the 1950s, as well as other new art forms in glass.

 

This website will have a blog “Can We Talk?”, written by Wayne Husted, and a store in which Wayne’s current designs, including the Jazz in Glass Collectors Series line of art glass, will be sold.

Can We Talk?

Wayne Husted writes about his experiences and career beginning as design director of Blenko Glass Company from the 1950s to 1960s, and subsequently as a product designer for many U.S. and international manufacturers. He also discusses his current work, including the Jazz In Glass Collectors Series, and invites readers to ask questions about his designs and their art glass collections.

 

UNDERCOVER AT BISCHOFF

Wayne Husted

These are designs that I created at Bischoff in 1963. They were introduced in Bischoff’s 1964 catalog.

These are designs that I created at Bischoff in 1963. They were introduced in Bischoff’s 1964 catalog.

Recently a collector posted on Facebook that he’d discovered how much some Bischoff glass looks like Blenko designs of the time.

Here’s the story…

Bischoff Glass Company was founded in Culloden, West Virginia in 1922. In 1963, the company was sold to Lancaster Colony Corporation, based in Columbus, Ohio. I left Blenko in January 1963 when I took on the new and challenging job as Director of Design and Product Development for Lancaster Colony.

New sales offices with a corporate show room in New York City, where I would have new digs, were under construction and wouldn’t be ready for at least three or four weeks.

Here I am with a group of Lancaster Colony corporate executives at their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. That’s me on the far left.

Here I am with a group of Lancaster Colony corporate executives at their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. That’s me on the far left.

To keep me busy until I could move into my New York office, I was assigned to create new designs at Bischoff in Culloden, WV.

A senior vice president joked that LCC was spending fifty grand “so Wayne could have something to do,” which of course ignored LCC’s overall plan to move Bischoff molds, with the designs I would develop, to the much larger, all pressed-ware Indiana Glass factory in Dunkirk, Indiana. LCC’s larger hidden plan was to create a new product line styled like Blenko and to be called Greenwich Flint Glass.

The first Greenwich Flint Glass catalog, with my designs mixed in with some of Bischoff’s earlier lines.

The first Greenwich Flint Glass catalog, with my designs mixed in with some of Bischoff’s earlier lines.

There was much work involved in making this complex move. The financial story would take another blog. Everyone involved in the move was advised to keep LCC plans close to the chest, as news travels fast in small towns like Milton, WV.

So began my several months going underground and up the road to work at Bischoff. There, I met the new manager Charles Sloan who’d been hired by Lancaster Colony to keep Bischoff open until the new handcraft shops could be opened at Indiana.

Some of the first amber, or as they later named them, “burnt honey” pieces that I designed at Bischoff are very rare because of their unplanned and unreproducible green halos. The cause is a mystery but the best guess as to how it happened, is that the batch at Bischoff was contaminated, probably with traces of the metal chromium, which is a colorant for green. This phenomenon couldn’t be recreated at Indiana when the molds were moved there, so any amber piece that you find that has this green halo was made at Bischoff in 1963.

These are burnt amber pieces with the mysterious green tint that were made at Bischoff.

These are burnt amber pieces with the mysterious green tint that were made at Bischoff.

When we moved the molds and designs to Indiana, we improved the quality of the amber color. The “honey amber” color, shown in designs by Tom Connally (below) was a unique and rich shade of amber that Indiana was able to achieve. The amber color is made with carbon.

These are some designs by Tom Connally in the honey amber color.

These are some designs by Tom Connally in the honey amber color.

At Indiana, I enjoyed the challenge of being able to work again with Harry Thompson, one of Blenko’s most skilled glass workers. I suspected that Harry was jumping ship when news in town was that he was leaving Blenko because my choice of charcoal for a new color was such a bad decision that it would bankrupt Blenko. That excuse may have assuaged his fellow workers and local gossip but, like me, Harry was pursuing an enticing opportunity to set up the first handblown glass shop at Indiana.

Especially significant are designs in the Bischoff catalog pages (shown above) that were made in aluminum alloy molds from the lost foam process (that I developed at Blenko and lead to my leaving Blenko). The distinctly new look from this process sparked the interest of the pros at LCC, who recommended that LCC hire me to work in all their divisions. Four of the first designs and molds I created are also in the tangerine color that I had introduced at Blenko. The tall blue and green decanters (shown below) were also made in my lost foam molds, and typical of my midcentury designs. To distinguish the designs from my Blenko work, I created the unique twisted stopper.

From left, two tangerine pitchers, a blue and a green decanter, and a tangerine decanter and vase, all made in the lost foam process that I created.

From left, two tangerine pitchers, a blue and a green decanter, and a tangerine decanter and vase, all made in the lost foam process that I created.

 

My undercover role to create a Blenko look at Bischoff Glass to enhance LCC’s marketing coup at Indiana paid off. Buyers in Indiana’s wider markets loved the line when it was introduced at the 1964 show in Atlantic City. Indiana could now offer a colorful product to florists, and wider chain and mom-and-pop markets at better pricing than Blenko. It also corresponded with Indiana’s very successful foray into the home party craze of the times with the very popular TIARA sales division.

 At Indiana, I worked with designer Tom Connally to continue creating the Greenwich Flint Glass.

Tom Connally’s designs for the first all-Greenwich Flint Glass catalog in 1965.

Tom Connally’s designs for the first all-Greenwich Flint Glass catalog in 1965.

During my eight weeks underground at Bischoff, I also enjoyed working with Anita Johnson, Indiana’s graphic designer in creating their new up-scale catalog. It was a new experience to relinquish the sole design power and share it with not just the design teams in the divisions, but have to justify and accept compromises under the new plant managers. (More on this in the story to come of Optica, and my wonderful adventure at Lancaster Glass, the Lens Division of LCC).

On the left, the catalog cover that I designed with Anita Johnson. On the right, the first all-Greenwich Flint Glass catalog.

On the left, the catalog cover that I designed with Anita Johnson. On the right, the first all-Greenwich Flint Glass catalog.

Eventually in 1997, the Bischoff factory closed. Indiana Glass under Lancaster Colony had peak sales in the 1970s and continued operating in Dunkirk, Indiana until 2002, when, due to the competition of cheap imported glassware, the factory closed. I moved to my New York office in early 1965 and worked as Design Director at Lancaster Colony for ten years.

CINCINNATI HERE I COME

On February 23-24, 2019, I will be the special guest at the 20th Century Cincinnati Show of vintage modern art and furniture. I’d love to meet you in person at the show, and discuss your collection and sign any vintage Wayne Husted designs that you bring to the show. My booth will be a gallery of vintage and current work. Go to https://queencityshows.com/20th-century-cincinnati/ for more information about the show.

WAYNE'S WORLD

Wayne Husted

Opening two pages of Andy McConnell’s five page article in  Antique Collecting  magazine.

Opening two pages of Andy McConnell’s five page article in Antique Collecting magazine.

In my last blogpost, I introduced you to Andy McConnell, a highly respected antique glass expert on the Antiques Roadshow, and author who just completed his twenty year project, the book The Decanter, Ancient to Modern. Andy had hunted me down in cyberspace after finding the mysterious “Face Decanter” at an auction house in London.

To quote him from his recently published Antique Collecting magazine article “Wayne’s World,” “Click, click, then suddenly, bang! Right before me was the most extraordinary decanter, formed as a Henry Moore-esque head in the profile.” On it was a silver Blenko sticker, and after a difficult search, he posted a query on the Blenko Collectors Group Facebook page, and was advised “Why not ask Wayne Husted?”

On the left, the purple Face Decanter that Andy, right, found at a London auction house.

On the left, the purple Face Decanter that Andy, right, found at a London auction house.

I was found! Thus began a frenetic back and forth of emails and even overseas phone calls, as Andy says in the article “Not only had I found him, alive and kicking in California, he turned out to have a vivid memory and loved to share his stories. Over the next few days the transatlantic airways buzzed with Wayne’s witty, stream-of-consciousness memories and explanations.”

Andy gathered all of my decanter designs that he was able to find and emailed them to me in a pdf, along with his draft captions. He asked me to confirm his facts and fill in any details for every one of them—no small task. (A few of these were actually designed by Joel Meyers: the tall tangerine one third from the left in the top row, and all three green ones on the catalog page at the end of the first row.)

Andy gathered all of my decanter designs that he was able to find and emailed them to me in a pdf, along with his draft captions. He asked me to confirm his facts and fill in any details for every one of them—no small task. (A few of these were actually designed by Joel Meyers: the tall tangerine one third from the left in the top row, and all three green ones on the catalog page at the end of the first row.)

I was especially intrigued by that purple Face Decanter that Andy discovered in the London auction house. It was one of two or three that were made at Blenko in 1962. Again, to quote Andy: “…one in blue with a nose so thin it broke, and the purple one with an ersatz stopper and improvised eyes made by Blenko after Husted left the company.” Actually, I believe it was made in the original session in which I was present. One nice surprise is that Andy has included the purple Face Decanter on the back cover of his decanter book.

Front and back covers of Andy’s book. There’s the purple Face Decanter in the lower right corner on the back.

Front and back covers of Andy’s book. There’s the purple Face Decanter in the lower right corner on the back.

RAISING LAZARUS

Seeing it again, I really liked the design, and was inspired to recreate it—to bring it back from the dead like in the parable of Lazarus, a bible story I remember from when I was a kid in Sunday school. Here was my poor abandoned design, lost to memory and the cullet bin, mysteriously back to life in the faraway land of London, England, over a half century later. So I named my current face vase Lazarus.

The new Lazarus Face Vase in three color combinations—opal, daffodil, and teal.

The new Lazarus Face Vase in three color combinations—opal, daffodil, and teal.

The new Lazarus story began several months ago, on a drive in the Central Valley of California, looking for a source for cherry logs with which to make molds, I found a cherry farmer who had put up his land for sale and was removing the old cherry trees. He offered to give me as many of the freshly cut logs as I wanted, since he was just going to have them hauled off any way. Cherry wood is actually the best wood for glass molds because of its sap content. Old  logs that have been setting around to dry are no good—they must be fresh.

The cherry logs that I brought back from the orchard in Lodi, and the Lazarus mold that Don Augstein made from one of them. It was great to find logs this large from mature cherry trees.

The cherry logs that I brought back from the orchard in Lodi, and the Lazarus mold that Don Augstein made from one of them. It was great to find logs this large from mature cherry trees.

I trucked four big logs home and asked my cabinet maker/sculptor friend, Don Augstein, if he’d like to collaborate on making a mold for the new design based on the vintage face decanter. Don had the perfect skills and tools to make the mold. Once the mold was ready, we took it to two different glass studios before we finally got a great looking artist’s proof of the Lazarus Face Vase in opal (pictured above).

Don Augstein beginning to carve a mold in his shop in Grass Valley.

Don Augstein beginning to carve a mold in his shop in Grass Valley.

Like the original face decanter that we attempted at Blenko in 1962, the current Lazarus was challenging to blow even though I increased its width by a half inch or so and changed the proportions of the nose and mouth.

Alex Abajian of Glow Glass Studio in Oakland is the very talented glass artist who is making the numbered editions of the Lazarus in five different color options. We are also working on a Lazarus Face Decanter with stopper.

Alex Abajian of Glow Glass Studio heats the Lazarus vase just before applying the eyes and decorative wrap.

Alex Abajian of Glow Glass Studio heats the Lazarus vase just before applying the eyes and decorative wrap.

The forty plus Blenko decanters in McConnell’s book have become highly collectible by serious antique collectors as well as those just enjoying the search through antique malls and eBay. 

CINCINNATI HERE I COME

On February 23-24, 2019, I will be the special guest at the 20th Century Cincinnati Show of vintage modern art and furniture. I’d love to meet you in person at the show, and discuss your collection and sign any vintage Wayne Husted designs that you bring to the show. My booth will be a gallery of vintage and current work. Go to https://queencityshows.com/20th-century-cincinnati/ for more information about the show.

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A FACE FROM THE PAST

Wayne Husted

Close up detail of my 1962 sun face decanter.

Close up detail of my 1962 sun face decanter.

The year is 1961, I am 34 years old, and I’ve been creating designs at the Blenko Glass Company for nine years. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in the small house that I built in Milton, West Virginia in the year that I moved there from New York to take the job as design director. The television is on, I’m watching “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” and when the show breaks for a commercial, the iconic sun face comes up on the screen. And an inspiration enters my mind.

Sun face logo of CBS Sunday Morning show that inspired my sun face decanter design.

Sun face logo of CBS Sunday Morning show that inspired my sun face decanter design.

On Monday morning, back at work, I cut my own version of the sun face into one half of a styrofoam block, and a sunburst on the other half. I invented the process for making glass mold patterns in styrofoam. It allowed me to carve different looking textures than those carved into wood. I had the styrofoam patterns cast in an aluminum alloy. I chose the color tangerine. This color is produced by selenium, which only turns red when it is heated and cooled twice, a process called “flashing” by glassworkers. Years later, Blenko renamed the color “tequila sunrise.”

The sun face decanter first appeared in Blenko's 1962 catalog. Note the textures on all of pieces pictured, which were all carved in styrofoam.

The sun face decanter first appeared in Blenko's 1962 catalog. Note the textures on all of pieces pictured, which were all carved in styrofoam.

I introduced the color after consulting with the editors of House and Garden magazine, during a trip to New York. House and Garden had a huge wall chart showing trends in home products, and orange and charcoal were emerging to replace avocado green and harvest gold that had permeated the market for products from stoves and refrigerators, to drapes and pillows.

I contemplated making the sun face design as a round vase but decided that would interrupt the circle too much, and went with a flat-faced decanter. Why a pointed stopper? Maybe because the sun was worshipped by ancient cultures, and I saw the stopper as a kind of spire. Or maybe because the sun face idea came to me on a Sunday morning, with the sun rising over the American landscape behind thousands of rural churches like the ones in which my father preached.

My sun face decanter, vintage 1962.

My sun face decanter, vintage 1962.

This design, number 6218, (18th design of my 1962 line) became, and still is a favorite of knowledgeable collectors. Making the sun face decanter requires great skill—the base must be free-gathered and dropped onto a smooth iron plate, then the stick-up boy (that’s the term they used) guides the blown sun face onto the molten foot, making sure it doesn’t sag. And if that isn’t enough of a challenge, the foot is attached at the thinnest part of the sun face which creates more stress than just about any other place for attaching a foot or handle to hot glass. We ended up with a lot of seconds—with the sun face tilting forward or backward. I asked the Blenko VP about four years ago, “Why aren’t you making the sun faces which were so popular, when you’re making so many of my other vintage designs?” He answered that they were too difficult to make well.

My textured molds are still evident in the Blenko line 50 years after I invented lost styrofoam patterns. Regrettably, the texture was picked up by many plastics manufacturers to make molds that were much cheaper than polished ones, and became ubiquitous in popular houseware designs.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON AND THE PAWPAW MYSTERY.

About ten years ago, I was surprised to see that a Blenko employee had taken my suggestion and used my sun face mold to blow a blue moon. How great was that? But it disappeared quickly, as I suspect that it was made on the QT.

On the left, the blue moon face decanter, made from my sun face decanter mold. On the right, the "pawpaw" sun face decanter, made in 2018. (Photo from the Ebay website.)

On the left, the blue moon face decanter, made from my sun face decanter mold. On the right, the "pawpaw" sun face decanter, made in 2018. (Photo from the Ebay website.)

A new pawpaw version (shown above right) really tweaked my curiosity. I first noticed it when it appeared on EBay with a curious caption:  “…only seven would be made and numbered and each would be sold to the highest bidder.” When I clicked on it to make a bid, it had already sold. I was able to contact the buyer, who promised to let me know who’d listed it but I never heard back from him. The graffiti-like etchings on the bottom are really intriguing, including the date of 2018, the inscription “First Edition,” and Walter Blenko’s signature. I’d like to have one, and of course learn the story of its origin.

Incidentally, the sun face design, like all my Blenko creations, were work for hire, so Blenko still holds all the rights. Those that are over 30 years old, I am advised, are free for anyone to copy.

THE TURQUOISE HEAD BOTTLE

Two months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from British author and authority on antique glass, Andy McConnell. Andy has been working on a book about glass decanters through the ages, from the earliest civilizations up to present day.

When he got to Mid Century Modern designs, of course Blenko appeared on his radar, and in researching information about this American company and its designs, my name popped up, Andy sought out Jim Heffner (of Blenko Collectors Group on Facebook) who gave him my contact info. In his first note he expressed surprise: “Lo and behold, you are still alive!” Thus, began a flood of emails which continues to this day. McConnell is an expert on the British Antique Road Show (which actually began in England). He sent me thumbnail photos of over 40 of my decanters asking me to identify and comment on each and every one of them.

It reminded me of that old tv show that began with “There are eight million people in the Naked City and behind every one of them is a story.” I have enjoyed recalling the stories that inspired many of the decanters, including identification of the mistakes—mismatched stoppers, and otherwise poorly made pieces. As is true of all good authors, getting it all perfect takes time, and in this case, we ran out of it. Andy had reached the publication deadline for his book. So what was to be a whole chapter on my decanters did not make it to the printers in time. Nevertheless, the chapter about my decanters will be published as a separate magazine article and used to bring attention to the book. If you send me your name and email address, I will try to see that you get a copy of the article and info on the book.

The purple Head Decanter that was recently sold at auction in London.

The purple Head Decanter that was recently sold at auction in London.

Andy was especially intrigued by one of the designs, shown above, that he found in purple at an auction for Ł70. I WAS able to solve the mystery of the Head Decanter. A turquoise version of it (below) appeared in Leslie Peña’s book BLENKO COOL 50s AND 60s GLASS. It was mistakenly credited to Blenko designer Don Shepherd. But the truth is, I created the design for it in 1962. The mold was seriously flawed, and we couldn’t blow good samples. The mold cavity was too shallow and the nose and back of the head too thin. We never attempted to make a stopper. Only a few were made, and we never put it into the line or catalog.

Who knows how it made it to a London antique auction. It’s amazing that it survived the trip.

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With the help of a new friend and super talented artist and craftsman, Don Augstein, I am creating a new mold, and will have new Mystery Man Head Decanters made. Let me know if you’re interested in placing an order. It will be offered on this website, and also on chairish.com.

AND FINALLY, THE MAN-IN-A-HAT

One day back in 2015, I was working with Guido at Effetto Glassworks. He was blowing the Jazz in Glass “Green Dolphin Street” decanter. We decided at the end of the session to try something different. Make it shorter, don’t pull it out at the top, add facial features to it. Maybe even a moustache. What about a hat for a stopper? And there he was, the man-in-a-hat. Get him here, in the Gallery Store.

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