Winslow Anderson was design director at Blenko Glass from 1948 until 1952, then in 1952, I came on board to take over as design director. Win, as everyone called him, was the first of the four Alfred University graduates who created the gold for Blenko’s golden years. His early designs were all functional—simple but elegant bowls, vases, and barware. But when Win learned eventually that people were buying Blenko just to look at and not to use, he took a more radical approach with his designs. His most iconic Blenko decanter, the 920, made in 1950 (shown in the photo below), is a design that is a work of art, and barely functional.
Winslow was hired away from Blenko Glass by Lenox China and returned to clay as the medium for his elegant dinner and tableware designs. Both Winslow and I started our artistic careers in ceramics and were hired by Blenko to design in glass, with Win returning to ceramics at Lenox.
In an early entry for Wikipedia about the Blenko Glass Company, the author states that “Winslow Anderson opened the door, and Wayne Husted blasted it wide open.” I became known for large architectural scale designs like the one that today is called the “Chess Piece” (shown in photo at the top of this post). Maybe subconsciously I was a frustrated architect, but I do know that I started thinking BIG at Alfred, where fellow students in the ceramics studio would compete for who could throw the largest pot. I threw vases three feet high—my favorite had a figure on it and cobalt glaze.
While I was at Blenko, I spent a week at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where Peter Voulkos, the famous sculptor, was a visiting instructor of ceramics. We became friends, and I saw firsthand how he was a pioneer in the historic movement in which craft became fine art. He’d throw a huge plate and then punch his fist through it. He was a showman, and left a deep impression on me, which is evident in the oversized and nonfunctional designs that I went on to create at Blenko.
Fast forward to today. My current work is more art than craft, and some are so large that they challenge the craftsman’s skills. My Jazz in Glass Collector’s Series of decanters are not functional, and most are 16 to 24 inches tall. A few years ago, a critic compared my vintage work to jazz, and that inspired me to name the series after well known jazz compositions of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I like to think that these new pieces really swing too.
The Jazz in Glass Collector’s Series is a limited edition of 50 each of six different designs. The pieces are hand signed by me, numbered, and shipped with a Certificate of Authenticity. Orders can be placed at the Gallery Store tab of this website.
I am currently working on a series of large glass platters, the “Sonoma” platters. The first in the series, “Sonoma Sun” (pictured below in the Healdsburg Center for the Arts) is 28” in diameter and hand blown in brilliant colors.
Form, shape, rhythm, color. Bauhaus principles of art and design that I learned at Alfred that still guide my work today.
Years later, in the late ‘90s, I spoke with Peter Voulkos again when my wife Linda contacted him for permission to use a photo of one of his sculptures in a book she was producing, “The Art of the State: California.” He advised: “You’re not getting any younger. You better start dancing backwards.” I’ve followed that advice. I still do a damn good backwards Lindy Hop at 89.