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Blenko Functional Glassware & Art Glass

Updated on September 18, 2015

Every time we go back to my hometown of Milton, WV, we visit the Blenko Glass Company, a world-renowned hand-blown glass factory that produces elegant art glass, functional glassware & architectural glass.

Blenko makes art glass & more.

Blenko water bottles are reasonably priced, many at less than $20. Pictured: an array of carafes in the Blenko gift shop.
Blenko water bottles are reasonably priced, many at less than $20. Pictured: an array of carafes in the Blenko gift shop. | Source

Blenko Art Glass & Functional Glass

Over the years, numerous artists have designed for the Blenko Glass Company in Milton, WV. But no matter who the designer, Blenko glass invariably has a unique quality—a bold, clean style matched with a stunning color that makes every Blenko glass piece easily distinguishable from other hand-blown glass.

I love Blenko glass, and not just because I grew up in the town where it's made.

Blenko is a joy to have and to use.

Beautiful and Sturdy

This older piece of Blenko (probably from the '70s) is a salad bowl that bears a silver foil sticker.
This older piece of Blenko (probably from the '70s) is a salad bowl that bears a silver foil sticker. | Source

Blenko's functional glass pieces (drinking glasses, salad bowls, water jugs, mugs, pitchers, fruit bowls, etc.) are beautiful as well as sturdy.

They are made to be used. And there's something innately satisfying, even uplifting, about using a handmade thing of beauty in daily life.

Like its functional glass, Blenko's hand-blown glass sheets and glass slabs add gorgeous color to screens, windows and other architectural elements in the home and garden.

Wooden fencing inset with Blenko glass slabs screens off a small outdoor area that's accessible to visitors through the factory gift shop.
Wooden fencing inset with Blenko glass slabs screens off a small outdoor area that's accessible to visitors through the factory gift shop. | Source

How to ID Glass Made by Blenko

Charming Imperfections

Blenko glass products are typically heavy pieces with thick walls. They are also usually transparent.

If the rims of items are polished, they're typically fired polished rather than ground, giving them an uneven, wobbly appearance.

Source

Pontil Marks

Almost all Blenko glass is not molded or cold-worked but blown hot using a pontil rod (a hollow metal rod that's attached to the base of molten glass so that it can be blown and tooled into a finished product). For this reason, most pieces of Blenko have a pontil mark.

The mark, which looks like a raised circle, ordinarily appears on the bottom of the piece of glass. It's sort of like a glass belly button.

A pontil mark indicates that the piece was hand blown & finished on a pontil rod. Pictured: the pontil mark on the bottom of a Blenko drinking glass.
A pontil mark indicates that the piece was hand blown & finished on a pontil rod. Pictured: the pontil mark on the bottom of a Blenko drinking glass. | Source

Items called "pressed" are molded rather than hand blown.

I've never seen an art glass piece without a pontil mark, but Blenko salad bowls are generally pressed, so they don't have a belly button.

One of the more popular Blenko functional pieces, the water jug, is hand blown and has a pontil mark on its bottom.

Watch Hot Glass Blowing on a Pontil

Stickers

Unless it's been removed, Blenko glass will also have an identifying sticker on it. My grandmother always told me to leave the "tag" on Blenko, as that would increase the piece's value over time.

For many years, the Blenko sticker was a foil silver and black hand with the words "Blenko Handcraft" across it in black.

A close-up of a silver foil Blenko sticker. I've seen so-called vintage Blenko pieces in antique stores that have the newer stickers on them, so ... beware if you're looking for a really old piece of Blenko.
A close-up of a silver foil Blenko sticker. I've seen so-called vintage Blenko pieces in antique stores that have the newer stickers on them, so ... beware if you're looking for a really old piece of Blenko. | Source

Then the sticker changed to a giant "B" with an orange dot in the middle and the word "BLENKO" at the top and "HANDMADE" across the bottom.

Today, the silver and black hand is back, but now it has a clear surround on which the words "Made in USA" appear.

This contemporary Blenko water jug bears the silver hand sticker on a transparent background. Notice the slight unevenness of the thick rim.
This contemporary Blenko water jug bears the silver hand sticker on a transparent background. Notice the slight unevenness of the thick rim. | Source

Blenko Glass Outdoors

Blenko glass is gorgeous in gardens where sunlight can accentuate the beauty and clarity of its color.

Arrange glass blocks, slabs and drops among the flowers, or use them as borders.

Outdoor screens with dalle de verre glass slabs like the ones outside the factory's gift shop are stunning, too, particularly in sunlight.

These gardeners in Charleston, WV, have created a beautiful garden filled with Blenko glass.

Visiting Blenko Glass

Blenko's gift shop is downstairs, while an area that displays Blenko art glass through the years is upstairs, along with the walkway that leads to an overlook, from which visitors can watch the glass-making process.
Blenko's gift shop is downstairs, while an area that displays Blenko art glass through the years is upstairs, along with the walkway that leads to an overlook, from which visitors can watch the glass-making process. | Source

If you plug the Blenko Glass Factory address into MapQuest, the directions will lead you to believe that you enter the factory off Bill Blenko Drive across from the fairgrounds where Milton's annual Pumpkin Festival takes place each October.

But don't stop there. Keep going past the plant to the right. You'll go over a rough patch of road (old railroad tracks) and over a short, shady hill. Immediately at the bottom of the hill to the right is the visitor's entrance to Blenko's.

Drive past the factory to reach the visitor's entrance.
Drive past the factory to reach the visitor's entrance. | Source

Driving Directions to Blenko Glass in Milton, WV

A
Blenko Glass Company:
Bill Blenko Drive, Milton, WV 25541, USA

get directions

The Visitor Center

A view of another beautiful section of the Blenko gift shop in Milton.
A view of another beautiful section of the Blenko gift shop in Milton. | Source

The large paved parking lot is next to a fenced duck pond. At the far end of the lot is the Blenko Glass Visitor Center. (When you sign the guest book at the entrance, you'll be amazed at the number of people who visit from all over the country!)

The gift shop is on the ground floor of the visitor center. It has many more items than Blenko's online store, and the displays are a feast for the eyes.

Another shot of a gorgeous display in the gift shop. Notice the aqua decanter. While the decanter itself is hand blown, the stopper is pressed.
Another shot of a gorgeous display in the gift shop. Notice the aqua decanter. While the decanter itself is hand blown, the stopper is pressed. | Source
Source

From the gift shop, you can go outside into a small garden area by the duck pond or upstairs to a museum area where you can learn about the history of Blenko glass and see 19th and 20th-century examples of Blenko products.

Daily Demos

Free glass-making demonstrations occur daily from 8 AM to 3:30 PM, M-F (excepting holidays) with a short break for lunch from 12-12:30.

Most days, you can also tour the factory and watch glass being blown by hand.

I first saw glass blown during an elementary school field trip to the Blenko factory. Although the clothing has changed, the process looks the same in the video above as it did back then.

After the demonstration, we headed for the bus, passing through the gift shop which was run by Mrs. Blenko back then. (Before marrying, she had been a hairdresser and was a friend of my grandmother.) Pulling me aside, she pressed a glass paperweight into my hand and whispered, "You've got the best looking daddy in town!"

She was quite a character!

The Garden & Duck Pond at Blenko Glass

The small garden area outside the gift shop overlooks a large pond. Usually, it teems with ducks, but when we were there last, they were nesting.
The small garden area outside the gift shop overlooks a large pond. Usually, it teems with ducks, but when we were there last, they were nesting. | Source

Locals love the duck pond beside Blenko's almost as much as they love the glass, and if you visit the factory, you'll probably see visitors tossing bread to the ducks that live at the small lake by the factory.

When my niece was young, I often took her to Blenko's for picnics on the lawn. Afterwards, we'd feed the ducks (except for one memorable occasion when the ducks crashed our lunch, snatching potato chips and a sandwich!)

These days my mother takes her great grandson to Blenko's every week to feed the ducks. It's a local tradition!

When my husband and I visited last, the ducks were nesting in the fenced garden area outside the gift shop.

A charming duck motif glass panel graces the entrance to Blenko's gift shop.
A charming duck motif glass panel graces the entrance to Blenko's gift shop. | Source

The Annual Festival of Glass

Blenko holds an annual Festival of Glass each fall.

A new piece of glass art is released at that time and sold in extremely limited quantities.

Blenko Online

Can't make it to Milton, WV for a touch of Blenko glass?

No worries. You can shop Blenko at the company's online store.

Of course, the selection is not as good. And the glass won't be as cheap as it is in the gift shop. You'll miss out on the ducks, too, and the Blenko history lesson and the glass-blowing demonstration.

Hmmm.

Are you sure you can't drive to Milton just once?

© 2013 Jill Spencer

Comments

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Hi colorfulone. Many of the colors truly are vibrant. It's gorgeous glass. Glad you stopped by! --Jill

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      Awesome hub with beautiful art glass. They look like gems.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hope you do get a chance to go someday, Glimmer Twin Fan. If you like glassware, you'll love Blenko!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      How cool - I love different types of glassware and these colors are gorgeous. Would love to visit one day. I can picture a shelf full of the bright colors adorning one of my walls. Pinned.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Marsha! I appreciate your taking the time to comment. And thanks for posting some of the pics. Take care, Jill

    • Marsha Musselman1 profile image

      Marsha Musselman 

      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Nice hub, I live near the Dow Chemical Co and they make glass there too, or at least they did when I was young. I'm sure they don't do tours any longer so I don't know what purposes their glassware has.

      The company you are showcasing has gorgeous items on display. I've pinned a couple of the pictures and voted up.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      I'd love to visit VT. Thanks for the tip, Deb! (: --Jill

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This would be a great place to shop, have lunch, and spend time with wildlife. Another good place in VT is Shelburne Museum, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the VT Teddy Bear Factory.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much, Eddy. Amazing how glass can be so warm! I really love the heavy, chunky pieces.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      5 years ago from Wales

      Wow loved this one Jill. Well presented and so interesting.

      All those warm and vibrant colours amazing.

      Voted up.

      Eddy.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Londonlady, thanks for commenting. Yes, glass blowing is definitely an art. Wouldn't it be fun to try? (Although the work area is hot and noisy. Take care, Jill

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 

      5 years ago

      Glass blowing seems like such a good creative outlet, and in Blenko's case, functional too.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi ologsinquinto! Blenko glass is carried by many high-end gift shops, including some that are online. The sunflower salad bowls are sold in a museum gift shop here in Southern MD where I live, & I've seen Blenko in stores in San Diego and Texas, too. Usually, the price is pretty marked up! It's less expensive if you buy it in WV. Thanks for commenting! --Jill

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 

      5 years ago from USA

      This glassware is just beautiful. I've never heard of it, until now.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Liz. It wasn't that unusual for me to have some woman in town tell me my dad was handsome or a "sharp" dresser or the "best smellingest man" around. To this day it makes me roll my eyes. You just don't think of your dad like that! Thanks for commenting. Have a good one!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 

      5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Beautiful! I love these glass pieces--so bright and colorful. That story about your "best-looking daddy" prize is hysterical.

      -Liz

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Thanks a bunch, tillsontitan. A lot of people like to collect Blenko and display it on shelves in a window. The colors are incredible that way!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thank you for the introduction. I'd never heard of Blenko Glass. Your information made it very interesting and your photos are gorgeous. The different colored glass all together is just, well, gorgeous. Sounds like you have a lot of history with this factory. And who doesn't love to feed the ducks?

      Voted up, useful, beautiful (for your pictures), and interesting.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      It really is a nice place to visit. And I love the glass! Thanks for commenting. (: --Jill

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 

      5 years ago

      This sounds awesome. Great article.

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