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17671 Candlewood Court
Penn Valley, CA, 95946
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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.

 

MODERNISM AND ME

Wayne Husted

1958 Blenko catalog, designed by me. I designed all of the catalog covers for every year that I was there, from 1952 through 1963. I also drew the glassblower figure on this cover. See if you can find my name (it's under the right arm).

1958 Blenko catalog, designed by me. I designed all of the catalog covers for every year that I was there, from 1952 through 1963. I also drew the glassblower figure on this cover. See if you can find my name (it's under the right arm).

Never in a million years did I ever dream of being mentioned in the same program as Charles and Ray Eames and James Dean!

Last month, I drove down to Palm Springs with Linda, through a raging rainstorm that nearly swallowed us up. We were headed to the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale at the Palm Springs Convention Center, where I was invited to be a featured speaker. The show was held from February 17 to 20.

The Modernism Show program with lecture schedule. I'm on the same bill as the Eames and James Dean!

The Modernism Show program with lecture schedule. I'm on the same bill as the Eames and James Dean!

It was an amazing experience. There were several thousand attendees and 80-plus exhibitor booths artfully displaying Modernist furniture, accessories, and art. 

On the floor of the show. Love that vintage model of a Chris Craft speedboat.

On the floor of the show. Love that vintage model of a Chris Craft speedboat.

I had an enthusiastic audience for my presentation on my career and work at Blenko from 1952 to 1963. I had my current Jazz in Glass line of decanters, and Sonoma Sun platter on display, as well as some of my vintage Blenko designs.

I had the Jazz in Glass line on display for my lecture.

I had the Jazz in Glass line on display for my lecture.

The Eames and James Dean

“Eames, an Affection for Objects” was the topic one of the other presenters, Daniel Ostroff, a film maker and author of a book about Modernist design dynamos Charles and Ray Eames. I spoke to him afterwards about meeting the Eames at the Aspen Design Conference in 1958, and also at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1960, when I was there for the opening of an exhibit of my Blenko designs. I was a big fan of their work.

You’re probably familiar with the Eames’ great and famous Midcentury designs like the Eames lounge chair. I learned that Ray was fascinated with WW2 Jeeps and combat helmet forms and that together, Charles and Ray made over 18 short films, including “Toccata for Toy Trains,” shown by Daniel after his presentation.

Ray and Charles Eames, and their famous Eames lounge chair. Photos © Eames Office LLC

Ray and Charles Eames, and their famous Eames lounge chair. Photos © Eames Office LLC

James Dean memoirist Lew Bracker gave a talk (“Jimmy and Me”) about his close relationship with Dean.

My Modernist Influences

My time as Design Director at Blenko was smack in the middle of the Midcentury Modern era. I was immersed in the styles of the day, mostly Bauhaus-inspired. For me, the Bauhaus was a major influence... it was indelible in my mind that all product design is dependent on how the product is made. It drove me to invent centrifugal casting at Blenko and to find new ways to make metal molds from foam plastic carvings. I admired the Midcentury icons who were a generation older than me at the time. I drove a Buick three-holer (Bauhaus founder Marcel Breuer drove one), we had an Eva Zeisel teapot and a Russell Wright cream-and-sugar set on our table.

Breuer, one of the founders of the Bauhaus and a master of Modernist architectural design, was indeed influential. In the summer of 1951 between my senior and graduate school years at Alfred University, I actually helped to build the famous McCord House, a butterfly-roofed split level house with free-standing fireplace that Breuer designed in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. More on that experience in a later blogpost.

The Robinson House in Williamstown MA, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1946, has a "butterfly roof" similar to the roof of the McCord House that I helped to build.

The Robinson House in Williamstown MA, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1946, has a "butterfly roof" similar to the roof of the McCord House that I helped to build.

I was also impressed by the sleek lines of Constantin Brancusi’s “Bird in Space” that I’m sure influenced me when I started pulling out the necks of Blenko vases in creating the “big ass” architectural pieces.

A spread from the 1962 Blenko catalog, showing the popular "big ass" architectural pieces.

A spread from the 1962 Blenko catalog, showing the popular "big ass" architectural pieces.

The Toledo Museum of Art has a permanent collection of vintage Blenko designs. Jutta Page, its curator, said of my architectural pieces “Not only was their heft and scale too large to be displayed on furniture, they were conceived as architectural elements that related to the built environment in which they were placed. The Architectural Series was a strictly American phenomenon that dovetailed with Midcentury open-concept architecture and split-level floor plans.”

Palm Springs, City of the Futuristic Past

Have you been to Palm Springs? It’s an extremely chic and affluent city! It was Modernism Week, and the schedule of events included daily bus tours of the iconic Modernist Show Houses in the city and surrounding areas.

One collector who attended my presentation showed us a photo of a Warhol painting that he owned. "It must be worth a million bucks," I remarked. His response: he had LOTS of them, all originals. Alfa Romeo had three late-model and a vintage car on display in the huge lobby, all for sale and under discussion with apparently serious buyers.

Magazine and program featuring one of Modernism Show Houses in Palm Springs.

Magazine and program featuring one of Modernism Show Houses in Palm Springs.

The Modernism Show and Sale is an annual event in Palm Springs. It’s put on by Dolphin Fairs Group, based in Chicago. Thanks to director, Rosemary Krieger, and media director Gordon Merkle. And great thanks to Steve Stoops, owner of Stevens Fine Art in Phoenix, who introduced me to Rosemary and recommended that they invite me to speak at the show.

I first met Steve when he contacted me to inquire about the “Id Vase” ( as shown in my last blog post) that I designed at Blenko. Steve’s booth at the show featured many amazing ceramics, including a Gallé vase and other vintage glass, ceramics, paintings and late 19th – 20th century prints. You can see his collection at stevensfineart.com. Steve now is the owner of the Gamboni plaque that I featured in my August 7 blogpost “The Antigua Line and My Excellent Italian Adventure.” (He bought it at the show.)

There was lots of vintage Blenko, which made me happy to see that its popularity is still up there.