Welcome to my new blog. I’m organizing it into chapters because they will in fact become a book. Blogging opens up a convenient way to “crowd edit” my book as I write it. I welcome your feedback, comments and corrections, and you may quote me without permission. I may also quote you, unless you ask me not to.
Does the world need another book on glass? Good question! I have been convinced by others that the answer is yes, because my work enjoys a unique place in the history of glass, and while I am mentioned in myriad books and articles, I would still like to tell my story.
There’s another compelling reason for making my blog into a book. Facebook and other social media make it easy today for input and criticism by and for any and all who have a common interest. I’ve joined the Blenko Collectors Group on Facebook, which is open to all Blenko glass collectors to share and discuss their collections. The group was founded by Blenko collector and authority Jim Heffner. I’ve found it fun and interesting to respond to questions about my Blenko designs and the unique adventure of living and working in the little town of Milton-on-the-Mud in West Virginia in the 1950s. It never occurred at the time that my designs for Blenko would be classified as seminal and outstanding examples of the now universally coined “Mid to Mod” or Midcentury Modern period of American design. It’s been gratifying to hear from so many of you that you’re really interested in some of the information I have in my head.
For better or worse I am best known for the over 600 designs I created from 1952 through 1962 at the venerable Blenko Glass Company. However, this period of my life represents only a fraction of the hundreds of other designs I created in the 60 plus years since I left.
How I got to Blenko
In 1952, after graduating from Alfred University (SUNY), I was chosen to succeed a ceramics professor at the University of Illinois. The appointment fell through when the professor who had intended to leave to teach in California, changed her mind, and I got the then very distressing news that I was not to get the job. Then, a professor of mine, Charles Harder, happily informed me that Winslow Anderson, Blenko’s first professional designer, was moving to New Jersey to design for Lenox China. He was recommending me to replace Winslow, also an Alfred graduate. (Professor Harder was an early founder of the Bauhaus style of teaching at Alfred.) Harder’s exact words were: “If you succeed at Blenko you can write your own ticket.” It was a unique and unexpected opportunity.
After leaving Blenko
Professor Harder’s advice proved prescient, as after my 10-year stint at Blenko, I designed for large and small companies everywhere. Since leaving Blenko at the end of 1962 at the age of 34, I’ve created designs in the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as consulting on and creating new product designs for Bischoff Glass and several large U.S. consumer companies like Rubbermaid, Anchor Hocking, Lancaster Colony, Viking Glass, and Indiana Glass. I’ve designed a diverse range of products—everything from mass produced plastic products (One, the Portions Line, won the Silver Medal from Newsweek Magazine’s international competition with the Industrial Designer Society of America.), peppermills, cookware, housewares, lamps, glass packaging (liquor bottles, food packaging), auto accessories, and a very special high-end outdoor barbecue. In 1970, as a board member of the IDSA, I was selected to represent America at the International Council of the Design Societies in Barcelona, Spain and, in 1972 in Dublin, Ireland.
My work has been exhibited at Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Pompidou Center in Paris, and is in the permanent collections of the Huntington Gallery in Huntington, West Virginia, the West Virginia Glass Museum in Weston, The Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis, The Corning Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As an advocate of the Bauhaus principle that design must best reflect the process by which the design is rendered, and as the recipient of over 30 design patents, I continue to try new processes and techniques in working with exceptionally talented glass artists, so stay posted.
Currently, I’m working to refine and perfect the new Jazz In Glass Collectors Series that you see on the pages of this website. I have some other concepts in development that I’ll share in future blogposts.
The blog will be organized into what will be called chapters, each with vintage and current photos. I plan to post a new “chapter” every 2-3 weeks. After each post I will follow up with responses to comments from readers.
Future topics include: How my creations at Blenko (a factory) portended the studio glass movement; how I worked with the men in the six-man shops at Blenko and what their roles were in the glassblowing process; the big “architectural” (or “big ass” as they’ve been called) glass designs that I invented during my time at Blenko; my work with Italian glassmakers, like Stelvia and the Antigua line, the centrifugal glass designs I initiated at Blenko; later work at Blenko—the Olana, Atlantis, and Kaleidoscope lines; and the making of the “The Story of Three Designers” video for PBS. I’m also open to your suggestions for topics that interest you.
Thanks for your interest. I’m looking forward to talking with you.
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My posts for "Can We Talk?" are the basis for a crowd-sourced book project, and I welcome your comments and input for inclusion in the book. You will receive credit.