MILTON, W.Va. — Blenko Glass Company, located in Milton, W.Va., will hold its Festival of Glass on Friday, July 31 and Saturday, Aug. 1.
Located at at 9 Bill Blenko Dr., Milton, Blenko, as the company is usually refered to, has been family-owned and operated company since 1893.
This American glass company began producing glass in 1893 when an Englishman named William John Blenko brought his glass making skills to the United States. Using what was known as Old World techniques, Blenko produced window glass in his Kokomo, Ind. studio.
At that time, he was unable to sell his glass because of a prejudice against glass made outside the continent. Most stained glass windows were made in European stained glass studios, and although the glass was the same, studios refused to use it. Blenko returned to England where he exported the same product he made in Indiana to the European studios.
Although Blenko moved back to the United States in 1899 and remained involved in the sale of glass, he did not attempt to produce glass again until 1921. He chose the town of Milton as the location of his new glass factory after the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad convinced him the town was an ideal location. According to rail road officials, there was a dependable source of sober, industrious labor and cheaply priced natural gas, the fuel used in all the glass producing furnaces.
The enterprise was a success, and Blenko Glass Company has been producing beautiful, colorful glass in Milton since that time. Skilled craftsmen and imaginative designs made Blenko well known for their hand-blown glass.
Today many glass factories are automated and able to mass produce pieces. Using newer and more efficient technology, American glass companies were unable to compete with this lower priced glass and as a result, forced to close their doors. Of the hundreds of original glass factories in the Ohio River Valley, Blenko is the only company still producing today.
Although much of the knowlege and art of hand blown glass was lost as a result of the closures, the craft is still going strong at Blenko. New colors and designs are produced each year to the delight of glass enthusiasts.
A guided tour of the factory allows visitors a glimpse into the world of hand made glass by giving them an opportunity to observe glass being made much as it was in the 1920’s. Viewers can see the hot melted glass take shape as they watch the craftsman at work.
Now in it’s 8th year, the Blenko Glass Festival is a time when collectors and novices come together to share their love of Blenko, traveling from all parts of the country for the opportunity to join in the festivities. For many it has become an annual event.
The event features glass blowing demonstrations and classes where students are able to make their own glass pieces. Students are guided by skilled craftsmen as they make a vase, ornament, a piece of jewelry or even a ring.
The festival also gives visitors an opportunity to learn the history of Blenko as told by the numerous pieces of glass in the Blenko Museum.
For more information about the festival, visit blenko.com or call 877 425-3656.
Lorna Hart can be reached at 740-992-2155 EXT.2551