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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.

 

FORM OVER FUNCTION AND VICE VERSA

Wayne Husted

Photo from Blenko Glass Company's 1965 catalog, showing three of my large scale, nonfunctional architectural pieces. The second from the left in tangerine is my 5929 "Chess Piece," 38" high, designed in 1959. The charcoal gray piece 5815L is a design I created in 1958, and the cobalt blue is another of my architectural pieces issued in 1961. In the numbering system that I pioneered at Blenko the first two numbers are the year and the next number indicates the sequence in which I developed the design.

Photo from Blenko Glass Company's 1965 catalog, showing three of my large scale, nonfunctional architectural pieces. The second from the left in tangerine is my 5929 "Chess Piece," 38" high, designed in 1959. The charcoal gray piece 5815L is a design I created in 1958, and the cobalt blue is another of my architectural pieces issued in 1961. In the numbering system that I pioneered at Blenko the first two numbers are the year and the next number indicates the sequence in which I developed the design.

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 Anderson, as a young design director at Blenko. His radical "Neck Decanter" is shown on the left, and a trio of 920s are shown on the right.

Winslow Anderson, as a young design director at Blenko. His radical "Neck Decanter" is shown on the left, and a trio of 920s are shown on the right.

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.

Peter Voulkos demonstrating at a workshop in Birmingham, Alabama, 1974, Courtesy of the Voulkos & Co. Catalogue Project. On the right, his "untitled Plate" plate (20" x 20") is an early example of a plate that is nonfunctional fine art. (Photo courtesy Duane Reed Gallery)

Peter Voulkos demonstrating at a workshop in Birmingham, Alabama, 1974, Courtesy of the Voulkos & Co. Catalogue Project. On the right, his "untitled Plate" plate (20" x 20") is an early example of a plate that is nonfunctional fine art. (Photo courtesy Duane Reed Gallery)

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.

My current Jazz in Glass Collector's Series

My current Jazz in Glass Collector's Series

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.

 

 

 

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