West Virginia: Watch glass being made by hand at Blenko
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
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.