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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.

 

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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FAIR TRADE

Wayne Husted

 Left: 1960 cover for Chicago Tribune Magazine, featuring the city’s exhibition hall McCormick Place. Right: Inside the hall at the Chicago International Housewares show at McCormick Place.

Left: 1960 cover for Chicago Tribune Magazine, featuring the city’s exhibition hall McCormick Place. Right: Inside the hall at the Chicago International Housewares show at McCormick Place.

Over my 65 years of designing everything from glass to plastic to automotive accessories to food packaging, I must have attended more than 200 trade shows and consumer fairs that have ranged from ten-foot booths to a huge 60-foot booth with a second floor and a snack bar.

During my ten years at Blenko, there was at least one major show every year. In 1952 when I joined the company, trade shows were held in hotels. At the Pittsburg China and Glass Market, every room in the William Penn Hotel was occupied by exhibitors. Buyers from Macy’s and Gimbel’s, small gift shop owners whom we affectionately referred to as “Minnie Twitches,” and writers from House Beautiful and House & Garden roamed the busy floors. That first year, Cary Grant was a celebrity guest at the show.

 Blenko’s exhibit at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburg, showcasing their new lines designed by me, circa 1954.

Blenko’s exhibit at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburg, showcasing their new lines designed by me, circa 1954.

Blenko stood out, attracting special attention by offering 30 or 40 new “out there” designs by me each year, while larger companies like Lenox China might only feature one or two new dinnerware designs.

I had both triumphs and failures over the years. The big pitcher with a loopy Rococo handle (shown below) was a hit in 1954, the year that I introduced charcoal as the new color for Blenko. Other designs, like the Sun Face and Jigger Bottle also created excitement at the shows, and were very successful mainstays in the catalog year after year.

 Left: Charcoal pitcher with Rococo handle that was introduced in 1954. Right: Sun Face decanter.

Left: Charcoal pitcher with Rococo handle that was introduced in 1954. Right: Sun Face decanter.

After several years of hits, I finally had my comeuppance.  My three "Rs" Raindrop, Regal and Rialto lines were introduced in 1960. Raindrop and Rialto bombed. (Buyers and editors shrugged and walked away with comments like “It doesn’t look like Blenko.”) My mistake was not recognizing that color was a hallmark of my wild forms, and without color it just wasn’t Blenko enough. That Monday after the show, I was summoned to the office of “King” William and “Queen” Marion Blenko (as the workers and townspeople of Milton called them behind their backs), and told “Wayne, maybe it’s time for you to move on.” My heart sunk. I never learned why they didn’t follow through, but I went on to spend another three years creating 50 to 60 new designs every year.

 We introduced my "Three Rs", Rialto, Raindrop and Regal lines in 1960. Only the Regal line (lower right) was a hit. Sadly, the Raindrop and Rialto lines were not. Only a limited number of items were made of the latter two. Buyers didn't find them to be "Blenko enough."

We introduced my "Three Rs", Rialto, Raindrop and Regal lines in 1960. Only the Regal line (lower right) was a hit. Sadly, the Raindrop and Rialto lines were not. Only a limited number of items were made of the latter two. Buyers didn't find them to be "Blenko enough."

It’s sad to realize how many of the great glass factories that spread along the Ohio River—Fenton, Indiana, Viking, Pilgrim, Imperial, Bischoff—gone now, or Kokomo Glass up the river, like Blenko, reduced to a very small presence compared to what they were. It just became too hard to compete with imports from Eastern Europe, Mexico, and China, and later, studio glass shops making more decorative art glass.

 The Imperial Glassware factory closed its doors in 1984.

The Imperial Glassware factory closed its doors in 1984.

Trade shows grew in scale in the 40 years after I left Blenko in 1963. In the 60s and 70s, the age of conglomerates, I worked for Lancaster Colony Corporation, who sold everything from salad dressing, to car mats, to dish drainers. In 1965, I introduced the Optica line, repurposing optical lenses from Lancaster Glass into sculpture and dinnerware. This was also the era of great growth in plastic. (Remember the line “plastics, my boy” from the movie “The Graduate”?) I designed the first plastic dish drainers that had tongue-like clips that could hold cups, a fold-over plastic facial tissue box holder, and a line of bath mats and waste baskets that were featured in the Miss USA beauty pageant. All of these products succeeded due to the willingness of the companies to invest heavily on expensive molds.

 Lancaster Colony Annual Report of 1972, showing my Lens Art sculpture on the cover.

Lancaster Colony Annual Report of 1972, showing my Lens Art sculpture on the cover.

In 1967, the venue for the International Housewares Show in Chicago, McCormick Place, burned to the ground with its hundreds of booths and all that merchandise. While it was being rebuilt, the Housewares Show took place in a makeshift building next to the Chicago Stockyards. In August, when temperatures can typically rise to the nineties, the smell from the stockyards was sickening, which made this one of the more memorable trade shows for all the wrong reasons.

 McCormack Place where the Chicago International Housewares Show is held, burned down in 1967.

McCormack Place where the Chicago International Housewares Show is held, burned down in 1967.

After Lancaster Colony, I was retained by Anchor Hocking Corporation as a consultant. For 15 years, their VP of Marketing and I would cover the Milan Trade Fair, and the international trade show or “Messe” in Frankfurt, Germany. These shows were so large, it took days to “walk the show” as the saying goes. I was required to observe new trends and report on them.

 Exhibition hall at the Fiero Milano (Milan Fair).

Exhibition hall at the Fiero Milano (Milan Fair).

The Italian and German fairs were as different as their cultures. The reputation that the Italians have in the design world is one of “coraggio” or courage so evident in their new products. They were bold enough to build a mold as big as a car for the earliest fully injection-molded plastic chair. In the 80s, I was impressed and influenced in my designs by Ettore Sottsass’ radical Memphis designs for Alessi (pictured below).

 Left: The Ibebi stackable polypropylene chair is an early fully-injection molded Italian design. Right: Memphis-style room divider designed by Ettore Sottsas.

Left: The Ibebi stackable polypropylene chair is an early fully-injection molded Italian design. Right: Memphis-style room divider designed by Ettore Sottsas.

The German designs are more formal, but wonderful in their detail, as you can see in Rosenthal’s Pompadour dinnerware set, and the mid century Schott Zweisel glasses shown below.

 Left: Mid century glassware by Schott Zweisel. Right: Pompadour Rigoletto dinnerware by Rosenthal.

Left: Mid century glassware by Schott Zweisel. Right: Pompadour Rigoletto dinnerware by Rosenthal.

Walking the streets of Frankfurt, I was amazed to see German gentlemen with three-inch-long fencing scars across their cheeks like in WWII movies (they were elite graduates of Heidelburg University). One year my Dutch client, Zilverstad Schoonhoven, booked me into a German guesthouse in a room decorated with a huge, musty, stuffed eagle and portraits of Nazi officers.

 A line of silver and ceramic candlesticks and bowls that I designed for Zilverstad Schoonhoven

A line of silver and ceramic candlesticks and bowls that I designed for Zilverstad Schoonhoven

I met brothers Arne and Arie Pluut, who ran the silver gift company Zilverstad Schoonhoven, at the Frankfurt fair. I traveled to Schoonhoven, Holland many times to create new designs and we became life-long friends. In fact, the Pluuts convinced my wife, Linda, and I to have our wedding in Schoonhoven, and we were crazy enough to take them up on it. Amazingly, many friends and family came over from the US to share in the adventure.

 Our wedding reception at the Hooiberg (Haystack) Restaurant in Schoonhoven

Our wedding reception at the Hooiberg (Haystack) Restaurant in Schoonhoven

Last year, I was a featured speaker at the Modernism Show in Palm Springs, a hustling, bustling annual event that impressed upon me how popular mid century design is still.

vintage Cincinnati.jpg

This year, I had plans to attend the 20th Century Cincinnati Show and Sale that is featuring Blenko as its special guest. Show policies, and an unexpected boycott threatened by someone in Blenko management, forced me to abandon my plans for this year’s show. It created a quick storm of protests from collectors (Thanks for your support!), but the storm blew over, and for the better—I can now concentrate on next year’s show, where I’ve been assured “special guest” status. In addition to a better venue, I’ll finally be able to meet in person some of the collectors of my work.

I’ll also have time to further develop my current projects, including the Jazz in Glass Collection, the “Sonoma” big platter series, a new tech-age Tiffany lamp and clock combination, a giant public sculpture of a bunch of glass grapes on a copper leaf, and who knows what else.

 

 A portrait of me with my “Sonoma Sun” platter. On the right, a sketch for my new “tech-age Tiffany lamp/clock”

A portrait of me with my “Sonoma Sun” platter. On the right, a sketch for my new “tech-age Tiffany lamp/clock”

I was recently featured in the Designer issue of Atomic Ranch Magazine. You can see the article at this link: http://pocketmags.com/us/onlinereader/html5_reader/false/159445

As always, I’d really like to hear from you with feedback and questions.