Blenko’s WV Piece 2015: Behind The Scenes

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Blenko West Virginia Birthday Piece, 2015. H: 13"

Blenko West Virginia Birthday Piece, 2015. H: 13″

Designing and sampling Blenko’s West Virginia Birthday Piece is a privilege and a pleasure. Yet there are also challenges that grow each year. It all starts a whole year earlier. If I’m able to be at the factory for the Saturday morning Visitors Center opening, I’ll spend a happy hour or two visiting with the collectors who have camped in the parking lot. This year they started lining up on Tuesday afternoon. “Any thoughts on what you’re going to design next year?”, I am asked. Many follow this up quickly with suggestions. Their questions get me thinking, and thinking leads to ideas.

Arlon Bayliss in Blenko Design Studio. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Arlon Bayliss in Blenko Design Studio. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Drawings and Model WV 2015

Drawings and Model WV 2015

Even in the factory, and this I love, the folks who make these limited editions are always interested in what challenges next year’s design might bring. Not that they’re afraid of the challenges, quite the reverse. They love to show what they are capable of. And so it grows.

Daniel Chapman, Blenko Mold Maker

Daniel Chapman, Blenko Mold Maker

Cherry Wood Mold, Blenko WV Piece 2015. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Cherry Wood Mold, Blenko WV Piece 2015. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Nine years now and counting. I see this special project as an opportunity to play with new techniques and push the skills of workers. Sometimes we create WV Birthday pieces that would not be sensible for long-term production, other times we discover things that we can apply to new line items. Most importantly, I want each West Virginia Birthday Piece to be different from its predecessors and at the same time express the skills and style that only Blenko can offer.

Fresh out of the lehr,  Blenko 2015 WV Pieces,

Fresh out of the lehr, Blenko 2015 WV Pieces,

Gaffer Randy Rider with WV 2015 Piece. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Gaffer Randy Rider with WV 2015 Piece. Photo: Tom Hindman, Charleston Daily Mail

Since 1980 Blenko Glass has produced a limited edition piece to celebrate the state’s anniversary. Each edition total is equal to the years anniversary. In 2013 there were 150 produced as the state celebrated it’s sesquicentennial. Collectors line up and camp at the company’s Visitors Center days in advance of Saturday’s sale time. Some come from as far away as the West Coast and Texas. To my knowledge, only 5 complete collections exist. For more check out this year’s editorial in the Charleston Daily Mail