Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

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.

 

THE YEAR IT RAINED ON MY PARADE

Wayne Husted

Spread from the 1960 catalog featuring the new Raindrop line.

Spread from the 1960 catalog featuring the new Raindrop line.

In my seventh year as design director at Blenko Glass, I decided to try something fresh and new for the company’s 1960 line. I would eschew the bright rainbow color palette and introduce three new lines, the Rialto line in translucent white, the Regal line in ruby, and the Raindrop line in clear crystal with bubbles. I christened the lines “the three R’s”.

I designed about fifty new shapes, created branding for the three lines, and samples were made. Blenko had an annual sales meeting in November 1959, and all of its US sales agents assembled in the board room, including Ed Rubel from New York and Chicago, Lee Kennedy from Atlanta, Sam Johnson from Dallas, and Ed Dillon and Jack Wells from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Bill Blenko, Sr. and Bill Blenko, Jr. sat behind a great mahogany desk at the front of the room. Bill Jr. held the ledger with records of how many of the designs could be made in an hour and costs for each item. The reps sat around the boardroom table, and I set out one piece at a time. They looked them over, asked questions and commented.

Their interests varied—some agents favored large pieces, and for others, the brighter the colors, the better. New York and Chicago were the most price conscious and liked more conservative grays and purples. (In one lurid example, Leslie Pina in her book BLENKO COOL relates an anecdote about the time that Winslow Anderson introduced the color chartreuse in 1952, Ed Rubel declared that he would not have any piece in that “frog shit green” in his showroom, but he acquiesced and it sold well.)

The reps’ first question was usually “What’s the retail price?” Bill Jr. would consult his ledger and a discussion of costs, margins, and what the market could bear ensued. Each piece was priced separately, but the retail prices on average for these new lines ranged from $6.50 to $15. Remember, these are 1950s prices.

 “Thumbs up!” for the shapes but a “Thumbs way down” for the Rialto white opalescent group and Raindrop crystal seeded lines, each with about twenty designs. The reps were unanimous: Buyers for gift shops and department stores want Blenko glass for its bright colors. Forget the opalescent and bubbly crystal look.

Talk about a bad day. I was devastated. As soon as the reps left, I was called into a meeting with the dour looking Blenkos. Blenko had always given their designers free rein, so this experience created a new dilemma for them. The admonition went something like this: “Obviously the reps didn’t like your new lines, but we’re stuck with them.” They even suggested that I might want to “move on”. But I stayed for another three years. The reps put the lines in their showrooms and buyers bought the ruby Regal line, but shunned the opal Rialto and bubbly Raindrop.

With 53 years of attrition and breakage, Rialto and Raindrop are some of the rarest examples of Mid Century Modern Blenko available.

For example the website 1stdibs offers a Raindrop bowl for $850 that originally retailed for $15. I’ve also seen the “Here’s looking at you” decanter of the Rialto line priced at $3500.

Photo from 1stdibs of a vintage Raindrop bowl priced at $850.

Photo from 1stdibs of a vintage Raindrop bowl priced at $850.

In 1960, I was fascinated with developing a way to use sodium bicarbonate to produce the bubble texture in crystal. I loved this new look I had developed. I had never seen glass with bold bubbles like these. Bubbles in most glass had been achieved by indenting the hot glass in molds with nail-like spikes. This was the way the Ericksons, two Swedish brothers and the first glassblowers at Blenko, made bubble textured tableware. Their texture was was controlled and formal and evenly spaced which was very different than the organic looking texture of the saturation of bubbles in my Raindrop line.

Early Blenko tableware with evenly spaced "bubble" texture. Photo courtesy of blenkocollectors.com.

Early Blenko tableware with evenly spaced "bubble" texture. Photo courtesy of blenkocollectors.com.

Prototype bottles of my current "Pacific" line. These are 13" tall x 11" wide. With the fish stoppers, they'll be about 18" tall.

Prototype bottles of my current "Pacific" line. These are 13" tall x 11" wide. With the fish stoppers, they'll be about 18" tall.

Now, with the attitude that everything old can be new again, I’m developing new pieces in colored bubbly glass for a line that I’m tentatively calling the Pacific line. The piece shown above is a very heavy large bottle that was made at Slow Burn Glass last week. I’m sculpting a solid cast abstract fish for its stopper, so stay tuned.

My sketch of the Pacific bottle with fish stopper.

My sketch of the Pacific bottle with fish stopper.

What do you think? The blue is very sea like…Mermaid?

Subscribe to my blog below.

Name *
Name