Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

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.

 

POPULIST vs. ELITIST GLASS

Wayne Husted

On the left: The Napolean Decanter, designed by me for Blenko in 1957. On the right: Victorian Hand Blown Cranberry Decanter. Photo: ParadeAntiques.co.uk

On the left: The Napolean Decanter, designed by me for Blenko in 1957. On the right: Victorian Hand Blown Cranberry Decanter. Photo: ParadeAntiques.co.uk

I have a new understanding of the term populist.

I was one of four presenters at this year’s Portland’s Rain of Glass Annual Convention in late May. VP of Marketing at Blenko, Dean Six, had a very interesting presentation titled "Flasks, Fruit Jars, and Soda Bottles." Another speaker, Sam Kissee, gave a talk on early cut glass and Victorian art glass.

Both Dean’s and Sam’s presentations surprised me with an AHA! moment when I realized the distinctions between populist and elitist glassware.

Simple and common as the antique flasks and jars were, they were well-designed and useful in the home—as decanters, for food storage and packaging, etc. Raised letters or other graphics on the surface were designed to be decorative, but also functioned as a grip aid on a liquor decanter, or, advertising for the company that made the product within.

On the left: A common flask in olive amber, mold blown at Stebbins and Stebbins in Connecticut, circa 1824. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass. On the right: An elitist cut and gilded vase, blown from four layers of glass, made by the New England Glass Company, probably for display at the 1853 New York world’s fair. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass.

On the left: A common flask in olive amber, mold blown at Stebbins and Stebbins in Connecticut, circa 1824. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass. On the right: An elitist cut and gilded vase, blown from four layers of glass, made by the New England Glass Company, probably for display at the 1853 New York world’s fair. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass.

Sam showed examples of elegant and intricate glassware from the Victorian era—formal designs created (and priced) for the elite classes. This shed a light on the important differences between ornamental glassware that reflected the upper class status of its owners, and the simple glassware typically found in homes of commoners of that era.

On the left: An elitist Tiffany ”Dragonfly” lamp, after 1902, Favrile glass with bronze vase. Base-stamped “262/Tiffany Studios New York. On the right: A populist Mid-century Blenko table lamp, designed by me in the 1950s.

On the left: An elitist Tiffany ”Dragonfly” lamp, after 1902, Favrile glass with bronze vase. Base-stamped “262/Tiffany Studios New York. On the right: A populist Mid-century Blenko table lamp, designed by me in the 1950s.

Glass for Masses

I remembered that in the 2002 PBS film “Blenko: The Story of Three Designers,” a curator from MOMA in New York described my designs as “populist,” and at the time I understood him to mean popular.

On the left: My punch bowl in copper bue, designed in 1957. On the right: Cut glass punch bowl, made by Indiana Glass in the 1890s.

On the left: My punch bowl in copper bue, designed in 1957. On the right: Cut glass punch bowl, made by Indiana Glass in the 1890s.

In my job interview at Blenko in 1952, I was seated across the desk from William Blenko, Sr., and he asked “what do you know about glass?” Without thinking, I blurted out “nothing.” Oops. That would have ended most job interviews, but Mr. Blenko responded “Great! You will try things that you wouldn’t if you knew anything about glass.”

My mid-century designs at Blenko Glass, influenced by the Bauhaus School of Design, WERE essentially populist—utilitarian and decorative, designed for middle class homes of the era.

Two of my 1960s populist decanters in a popular S&H Green Stamp promotion.

Two of my 1960s populist decanters in a popular S&H Green Stamp promotion.

Early in my career at Blenko, I was given carte blanche to do whatever I wanted, and I tried to do it all. Following Bauhaus principles, I tested what could be done with the material—glass. It can be pulled, pushed, twisted, stamped, pressed, spun. It can be made small or big, and molded into any shape.

One typical experiment resulted in the 5413, a free-form bowl, which some now refer to as the “Giant Spoon Rest” was both useful and sculptural. I took a blown shape and wound it with glass, crushed it, flattened it, and closed it with a bit at the top. We lost a lot of these, even after they made it to market, so they are more rare than many other of my experimental designs.

One of my early designs at Blenko, now known as "The Giant Spoon Rest."

One of my early designs at Blenko, now known as "The Giant Spoon Rest."

Following another Bauhaus tenet that form follows function, I was inspired by the milk carton on my breakfast table. I went to the factory, and designed the lidded bottles shown in the 1954 catalog, the 547, 548, and 549—new and elegant forms for ordinary daily function.

Form follows function with these milk and cream pitchers. Photo courtesy of Bob Porath.

Form follows function with these milk and cream pitchers. Photo courtesy of Bob Porath.

Again and again, following the “try everything” principle, we experimented with processes. With the 5419 decanter, we used sheers to cut a notch in the stopper. In 1957, I created the “Napolean” Decanter (seen photo at top and below), cutting the stopper twice. (If one is good, two is better.) Also in ’57, I created the “Big-Ass” floor pieces. This was my transition from the functional to just-to-look-at, non-functional pieces.

The one-notched 5419 decanter, and detail of the two-notched "Napolean" decanter. Photo on the left by Gordon Harrell.

The one-notched 5419 decanter, and detail of the two-notched "Napolean" decanter. Photo on the left by Gordon Harrell.

Collection of "Big-Ass" Decanters as shown in Blenko's 1959 catalog.

Collection of "Big-Ass" Decanters as shown in Blenko's 1959 catalog.

Ironically, some of my vintage Blenko designs have become “elitist” given the high prices that they’re selling for in the collectors market.

Fast-forward to today. One would be hard-pressed to actually use the decanters in my Jazz in Glass Series. Pouring wine out of the tiny spout of the “Night in Tunisia” decanter is a challenge. I’ve revisited the “big-ass” concept with the “Ruby My Dear” and “Take Five” decanters. Jazz in Glass is decorative in the populist sense, but in a totally different way than the Victorian style.

The "Night in Tunisia" genie decanter from my current Jazz in Glass Series (on the left) reprises the non-functioning, pulled-out spouts of the 1959 decanters. Photo on the right by Gordon Harrell.

The "Night in Tunisia" genie decanter from my current Jazz in Glass Series (on the left) reprises the non-functioning, pulled-out spouts of the 1959 decanters. Photo on the right by Gordon Harrell.

You can collect the Jazz in Glass series by visiting the Gallery Store on this website. We’re offering the line as a limited edition, hand signed and numbered, and delivered with a Certificate of Authenticity.

 

MODERNISM AND ME

Wayne Husted

1958 Blenko catalog, designed by me. I designed all of the catalog covers for every year that I was there, from 1952 through 1963. I also drew the glassblower figure on this cover. See if you can find my name (it's under the right arm).

1958 Blenko catalog, designed by me. I designed all of the catalog covers for every year that I was there, from 1952 through 1963. I also drew the glassblower figure on this cover. See if you can find my name (it's under the right arm).

Never in a million years did I ever dream of being mentioned in the same program as Charles and Ray Eames and James Dean!

Last month, I drove down to Palm Springs with Linda, through a raging rainstorm that nearly swallowed us up. We were headed to the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale at the Palm Springs Convention Center, where I was invited to be a featured speaker. The show was held from February 17 to 20.

The Modernism Show program with lecture schedule. I'm on the same bill as the Eames and James Dean!

The Modernism Show program with lecture schedule. I'm on the same bill as the Eames and James Dean!

It was an amazing experience. There were several thousand attendees and 80-plus exhibitor booths artfully displaying Modernist furniture, accessories, and art. 

On the floor of the show. Love that vintage model of a Chris Craft speedboat.

On the floor of the show. Love that vintage model of a Chris Craft speedboat.

I had an enthusiastic audience for my presentation on my career and work at Blenko from 1952 to 1963. I had my current Jazz in Glass line of decanters, and Sonoma Sun platter on display, as well as some of my vintage Blenko designs.

I had the Jazz in Glass line on display for my lecture.

I had the Jazz in Glass line on display for my lecture.

The Eames and James Dean

“Eames, an Affection for Objects” was the topic one of the other presenters, Daniel Ostroff, a film maker and author of a book about Modernist design dynamos Charles and Ray Eames. I spoke to him afterwards about meeting the Eames at the Aspen Design Conference in 1958, and also at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1960, when I was there for the opening of an exhibit of my Blenko designs. I was a big fan of their work.

You’re probably familiar with the Eames’ great and famous Midcentury designs like the Eames lounge chair. I learned that Ray was fascinated with WW2 Jeeps and combat helmet forms and that together, Charles and Ray made over 18 short films, including “Toccata for Toy Trains,” shown by Daniel after his presentation.

Ray and Charles Eames, and their famous Eames lounge chair. Photos © Eames Office LLC

Ray and Charles Eames, and their famous Eames lounge chair. Photos © Eames Office LLC

James Dean memoirist Lew Bracker gave a talk (“Jimmy and Me”) about his close relationship with Dean.

My Modernist Influences

My time as Design Director at Blenko was smack in the middle of the Midcentury Modern era. I was immersed in the styles of the day, mostly Bauhaus-inspired. For me, the Bauhaus was a major influence... it was indelible in my mind that all product design is dependent on how the product is made. It drove me to invent centrifugal casting at Blenko and to find new ways to make metal molds from foam plastic carvings. I admired the Midcentury icons who were a generation older than me at the time. I drove a Buick three-holer (Bauhaus founder Marcel Breuer drove one), we had an Eva Zeisel teapot and a Russell Wright cream-and-sugar set on our table.

Breuer, one of the founders of the Bauhaus and a master of Modernist architectural design, was indeed influential. In the summer of 1951 between my senior and graduate school years at Alfred University, I actually helped to build the famous McCord House, a butterfly-roofed split level house with free-standing fireplace that Breuer designed in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. More on that experience in a later blogpost.

The Robinson House in Williamstown MA, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1946, has a "butterfly roof" similar to the roof of the McCord House that I helped to build.

The Robinson House in Williamstown MA, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1946, has a "butterfly roof" similar to the roof of the McCord House that I helped to build.

I was also impressed by the sleek lines of Constantin Brancusi’s “Bird in Space” that I’m sure influenced me when I started pulling out the necks of Blenko vases in creating the “big ass” architectural pieces.

A spread from the 1962 Blenko catalog, showing the popular "big ass" architectural pieces.

A spread from the 1962 Blenko catalog, showing the popular "big ass" architectural pieces.

The Toledo Museum of Art has a permanent collection of vintage Blenko designs. Jutta Page, its curator, said of my architectural pieces “Not only was their heft and scale too large to be displayed on furniture, they were conceived as architectural elements that related to the built environment in which they were placed. The Architectural Series was a strictly American phenomenon that dovetailed with Midcentury open-concept architecture and split-level floor plans.”

Palm Springs, City of the Futuristic Past

Have you been to Palm Springs? It’s an extremely chic and affluent city! It was Modernism Week, and the schedule of events included daily bus tours of the iconic Modernist Show Houses in the city and surrounding areas.

One collector who attended my presentation showed us a photo of a Warhol painting that he owned. "It must be worth a million bucks," I remarked. His response: he had LOTS of them, all originals. Alfa Romeo had three late-model and a vintage car on display in the huge lobby, all for sale and under discussion with apparently serious buyers.

Magazine and program featuring one of Modernism Show Houses in Palm Springs.

Magazine and program featuring one of Modernism Show Houses in Palm Springs.

The Modernism Show and Sale is an annual event in Palm Springs. It’s put on by Dolphin Fairs Group, based in Chicago. Thanks to director, Rosemary Krieger, and media director Gordon Merkle. And great thanks to Steve Stoops, owner of Stevens Fine Art in Phoenix, who introduced me to Rosemary and recommended that they invite me to speak at the show.

I first met Steve when he contacted me to inquire about the “Id Vase” ( as shown in my last blog post) that I designed at Blenko. Steve’s booth at the show featured many amazing ceramics, including a Gallé vase and other vintage glass, ceramics, paintings and late 19th – 20th century prints. You can see his collection at stevensfineart.com. Steve now is the owner of the Gamboni plaque that I featured in my August 7 blogpost “The Antigua Line and My Excellent Italian Adventure.” (He bought it at the show.)

There was lots of vintage Blenko, which made me happy to see that its popularity is still up there.

 

THE ID AND THE OLD

Wayne Husted

I designed the "Id" vase at Blenko Glass Company in 1954.

I designed the "Id" vase at Blenko Glass Company in 1954.

Recently, Blenko glass collector Steve Stoops of Stevens Fine Art (Phoenix, AZ) sent me an inquiry about a vase that he’d acquired. It was the Id vase that I’d designed at Blenko in 1954, and he asked me what had inspired the design.

THE ID

The Id vase is three-sided, about 23 inches tall, in charcoal gray, with a freely blown out relief of abstract figures. It’s a rare find, as not many were made.

“Glad you asked, but it’s a long explanation,” I replied. In the summer of 1954, I went to Black Mountain College in Ashville, NC, to visit with my friends David Weinrib and Karen Karnes, who were teaching ceramics. (More about them in a later blogpost.) Black Mountain College brought in famous avant-garde people like Albert Schweitzer, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Annie Albers, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham to conduct workshops and give lectures. At the time of my visit, Marie-Louise von Franz, a Swiss Jungian psychologist, was there as a guest lecturer. She was very approachable, and I introduced myself to her and had many conversations with her during that week.

The Id vase was inspired by those conversations. ML von Franz preached that there are two levels of reality—the psychological inner world of dreams and myths, and the outside world of daily experiences. And she explained the Freudian concept of the Id. Here is a simplified explanation from Wikipedia:

The id (Latin for "it"), is the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human's basic, instinctual drives. Id is the only component of personality that is present from birth. It is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives. The Id contains the libido, which is the primary source of instinctual force that is unresponsive to the demands of reality. The id acts according to the "pleasure principle"—the psychic force that motivates the tendency to seek immediate gratification of any impulse—defined as seeking to avoid pain or unpleasure (not 'displeasure') aroused by increases in instinctual tension.

Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz, and Carl Jung's popular book about images from the subconscious.

Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz, and Carl Jung's popular book about images from the subconscious.

When I returned to Blenko after my week with von Franz, I was determined to create a piece that would explore my id, the personal dark images that I harbored in my subconscious.

Back in the outer world of daily reality, I brainstormed in the Blenko shop with an electrician-welder about how to make a mold for the piece I imagined. We went out to the yard where there were some junk iron plates and selected one. I drew the figures that I conjured up from my id onto the iron plate with chalk. The welder cut each of three figures out of pieces of the plate with an acetylene torch, and then these pieces were hinged together on two sides to make a mold that could be opened after the figures are blown through the cut-outs. It was a lot of fun!

That Bill Blenko, Sr. let me put this design into the Blenko line is oh so typical of how this man appreciated and respected the work of the artists he hired from Alfred University.

 

One of my "Horse and Rider" vases.

One of my "Horse and Rider" vases.

The Jungian influence is still strong, and 60 years later, I created what I call the “Horse and Rider” vase pictured above. Jung’s interpretation of dreaming of a horse was that you usually were dreaming of your own basic animus or self. How you commanded the horse of your dream told of how you were commandeering your life. I had the horse and rider figures cut out of sheet glass using a waterjet cutter, and then these were heated to 600 degrees, and applied to the side of the vase during the glass blowing process. This is an uncommon process in blown glass, and only six Horse and Rider vases were made, each in a different combination of colors.

CREATING NEW USES FOR OLD STUFF IS FUN

Like the Id vase, another of Blenko’s very popular designs was cut from rusted scrap metal. A stone’s throw from the Blenko plant, in the same pile of junk metal we used for the Id vase mold, I found an abandoned cornhusker.

A cornhusker is a machine that has a metal tubeabout the size of a barrel, cut full of holes. Dried corn husks are shoveled into it and as it tumbles, driven by a small motor, the dried kernels are stripped from the husk and into a pan below. “Hot damn!” I said to the welder, and before he had even taken off his welder’s face shield we were making a mold from the junked corn husker. The holes were already in the tube so all we had to do was cut out two sections and hinge them into a mold. When molten glass was blown into the mold, it flowed freely out of the holes. The size of the “bubble” varies based on the thickness and temperature of the glass. I named that vase “Vintage”, but now I call it the Cornhusker vase.

The Vintage, or Cornhusker vase in tequilla sunset that I designed at Blenko in 1960. On the right, a hobnail pattern in cranberry over opal is vintage and by Fenton Glass.

The Vintage, or Cornhusker vase in tequilla sunset that I designed at Blenko in 1960. On the right, a hobnail pattern in cranberry over opal is vintage and by Fenton Glass.

The Cornhusker vase was a very successful design for Blenko. It was made for many years in several colors, and I think we made it in two sizes.

The “Hobnail” vase, pictured next to it, has a similar bubble pattern, but the hobnail texture, a traditional Victorian pattern, is in the mold, which is made of cast metal.

In case you were wondering, I did not invent bubble wrap.