Clear-cut beauty

West Vir­ginia: Watch glass be­ing made by hand at Blenko

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - DESTINATIONS -

MIL­TON, W.Va. — At Blenko Glass, you can watch glass be­ing hand­crafted the way it’s been done for more than 100 years. The com­pany’s fa­mous glass­ware has been bought, col­lected and rec­og­nized around the world. Blenko stained glass was used in New York’s St. Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral. Blenko table­ware is in the White House as well as in var­i­ous mu­se­ums. Blenko also de­signed the tro­phy for the Coun­try Mu­sic Awards. The Blenko fac­tory, lo­cated in Mil­ton, W.Va, a few min­utes off In­ter­state 64, has an on-site mu­seum dis­play­ing some of its in­no­va­tive de­signs, along with an ob­ser­va­tion area. Here vis­i­tors may watch, up close, as work­ers heat, shape, blow and cut colour­ful glass pieces into vases, bot­tles and other items. A se­ries of signs ex­plains the process. There are sev­eral jobs in­volved in pro­duc­ing a piece. One worker is re­spon­si­ble for gath­er­ing just the right amount of hot glass. An­other blows, shapes and moulds the glass. Then the piece is re­moved from the blow­pipe, and a finisher com­pletes the piece by cut­ting off ragged edges and work­ing with the soft glass so it matches a mas­ter de­sign. Be­cause each piece is made by hand, no two pieces are ex­actly alike. The com­pany was founded by Wil­liam J. Blenko, an im­mi­grant from Eng­land. He set up his first fac­tory in In­di­ana in the 1890s but was not ini­tially suc­cess­ful. In that era, Amer­i­cans did not want do­mes­ti­cally made glass; they wanted glass made in Europe. Af­ter sev­eral ups and downs, he moved to Mil­ton in the early 1920s partly be­cause of the abun­dance of cheap, lo­cal nat­u­ral gas, used to fuel the fur­naces. Blenko even­tu­ally ex­panded from pro­duc­ing sheet glass and

DOROTHY ABER­NATHY / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Glass­ware on dis­play at Blenko Glass in Mil­ton, W.Va. The com­pany is fa­mous for its stained glass and hand­crafted glass table­ware, which is rec­og­nized and col­lected around the world.

The Benko fac­tory has a mu­seum, gift shop and ob­ser­va­tion

area where vis­i­tors can watch the glass-mak­ing process.

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