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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.