Thursday, February 13, 2020

Blenko 'Blow Your Own Water Bottle' Workshop

At the end of January, a friend and I took the opportunity to participate in one of Blenko Glass Co.'s workshops they offer for the public. Glass manufacturing has a long history in West Virginia, and Blenko's been manufacturing glass in our state since 1921. It's a great experience to not only tour glass manufacturing, but to take part in the process! For one price, participants are allowed to go onto the glass factory floor and work alongside the veteran glassblowers, creating one of their designated production items, and take the item home (after a week of firing in the kiln). The January workshop was to make the iconic Blenko #384 (the 4th design originally introduced in 1938): the water bottle (decanter).
The first thing you do when going to one of these workshops is enter through the gift shop doors - temptation right off the bat!
We then moved in groups onto the glass factory floor, which is basically a huge, 100 year old warehouse with glass furnaces scattered throughout, heating up to 2400° in each. We dressed in layers but most workers were in t-shirts. I went first, and my friend followed after me.
We were shown a table display of colors to choose from that day. My friend and I both chose Azure blue. The master glassblowers led us through steps of guiding a wooden spoon dipped in water beneath the glass blob to cool it, coaching us on blowing the glass into the mold, using the tool to bend the spouts, and then walking alongside us as we put the decanter onto the lehr (a type of oven that cools the glass). They handled the more dangerous and delicate steps in between of heating the glass in the ovens, rolling and breaking off the excess glass from the molds, and the handing off tools used.
A very smart marketing move on Blenko's part is giving each participant a $5 coupon toward any purchase, good only for the day of the workshop. If you bought anything, you were then given the chance to spin a game wheel for a chance at another free item. I bought the water bottle in Elderberry, and won a mini water bottle (I chose Cobalt)!

We returned a week later to pick up our water bottles. So, how did my water bottle turn out? Let me preface my answer by saying that when we participate, we are told that not all products make it through the cooling process. In that case, you're allowed to choose a 'second' from the gift shop as a replacement. Well, mine made it through the cooling without breakage, but.....
Look closely at the dimple on the front of the bottle (L frame, above), and then look at the interior of the bottle (R frame, above). Evidently I didn't blow hard enough because the glass didn't fill out the mold completely! No problem, my friend gave me hers (same color), and she chose Elderberry (same color I bought the day of the workshop). It was all good!

I love the iconic Blenko #384 glass decanter, and I have been growing my collection, using each one frequently. They are 8" tall and hold 32 oz (minis are 6" and hold 16 oz), easy to handle with indented bodies, and have pour lips on both edges, great for either right-hand or left-hand grip. They are often colorful elements featured in my tablescapes, such as the Elderberry in this tablescape.....
.....the Cobalt Blue in this tablescape.........
.....the vintage color, Antique Green, from this tablescape...... well as this tablescape....
I also love using them in seasonal displays, such as the Antique Green one, below.....
.... and this one (Spring Green).
The water bottles can also be used very handily as flower vases. Below is a photo of my current growing collection of Blenko #384s: (L to R) Cobalt (including a 16 oz mini), Azure, Elderberry, Antique Green, Spring Green.
I participated in one of the earlier Blenko workshops in 2016, making Easter eggs. You can read about that here (btw, if you read that earlier post, you'll find I am 0 for 2 in success for end results, lol). If you're ever coming through West Virginia or making plans to, you really ought to check out the Blenko Glass Co. website and see if one of their workshops is being held during your trip. The workshops fill quickly, so keep that in mind! Here's a link to the official Blenko Glass Co. Facebook page also, where I first saw my workshop advertised.

Do you like Blenko or have any pieces, vintage or new? Do you think you'd enjoy a workshop like this? I love reading your comments, so do tell, and thanks for your readership today!

Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Cecilia of My Thrift Store Addiction's Vintage Charm Party #221 for featuring this post!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Purple Hearts for Valentine's Day

Hello, readers! Today's post is delivering inspiration for celebrating love with a tablescape - whether it's for Valentine's, Galentine's, or any other meal with loving overtones.
I've set a very simple table with a mix of masculine / feminine touches. The tablecloth is a classic paisley print, in shades of winter grays, and is my base for a start / slant toward a masculine appeal. I tend to gravitate toward less popular color schemes or themes for Valentine's tablescaping. The idea of purple hearts is a departure from the typical Valentine red or pink hearts, but they sparked memories of my father, a purple heart recipient in WWII, and my mother, who loved the color purple. For a related post, see "Love Letters From the Greatest Generation", here. Mr. P.'s birthday is in late January, so I certainly had him in mind with this styling also.
I have caught myself building a collection of purple elements over the past few years. I purchased the crackled stemware a few years ago, then added the purple placemats last year. This year, I added the mulberry heart bowls, elderberry glass decanter, and eggplant napkins. Don't you just love all the names for purple, masterminded for marketing appeal?
I am within driving distance to both Homer Laughlin China Company and Blenko manufacturers, based in West Virginia since 1903 and 1921, respectively. I called the HLC Fiesta factory outlet nearest me to see if they had the mulberry heart bowls, possibly in less expensive manufactured 'seconds' (no), but I found firsts, sale-priced, on the factory's website. Mulberry was HLC's 2018 color for new Fiestaware production.
The elderberry decanter was picked from among a lot of 'seconds' at the Blenko Visitor's Center in Milton, WV, and was their 2019 color for new productions. This decanter is the iconic #384 (the fourth design introduced in 1938), is still manufactured, and remains highly popular. It's so affordable to shop at the factory and be able to choose your own. I couldn't find any flaws with the one I picked.
The rest of the table elements were all pulled from my inventory: chargers, dinnerware, flatware, place cards, and centerpiece. My go to style is in a mix of not only masculine / feminine, but also a mix of new and vintage pieces.
My centerpiece is crystal candlesticks, flanking a crystal bowl filled with a trio of silver bocce balls, ivory buttons, an icy flower pick arching over, and little lights strung throughout. The intention was a simple, wintry look. Napkins were styled in the simplest of folds, a rose (for a links to Youtube video how-tos, click here or, alternatively, here).
For even more 'love'ly inspiration, have a look-see at all the stylists and links to their ideas, conveniently listed beneath the graphic below. I'd like to thank Chloe Crabtree of the blog, Celebrate and Decorate, for her lead in gathering all the stylists for today's tablescaping ideas.
I hope you've found a thing or two that inspires you today. I've included my source list just below for your convenience and retail interest (no affiliations, I am a non-revenue producing blog!).
Purple Hearts for Valentine's Day Source List
Tablecloth - Tabitha Webb - HomeGoods
Chargers, Placemats, Napkins, Stemware - Pier 1
Sterling Flatware - Prelude - Auction
Cream Dinnerware - Pfaltzgraff  Filigree - eBay
Mulberry Heart Bowls - Fiestaware - Homer Laughlin China Company Fiesta Factory Direct
Elderberry Glass Decanter - Blenko - Blenko Factory/Gift Shop
Crystal Bowl Centerpiece - Tiffany (gift)
Crystal candlesticks, silver bocce balls, ivory buttons, place cards - vintage finds
I will leave you with the following history on this holiday: The origin of Valentine's Day, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, ranges anywhere from an ancient Roman, "coming of spring" festival (Lupercalia), to a Roman Catholic bishop's martyrdom for defiantly marrying couples as a means of sparing the men from war, to a modern day celebration of romance. Just so you know, the idea of Valentine's Day was largely commercialized starting in the late 1700's. It's not that I don't like the idea of celebrating Valentine's Day (Mr. P. proposed to me on a Valentine's Day!), but I am sensitive to those who don't like the holiday. For all those struggling with Valentine's Day as a holiday for whatever reason, this one's for you:
Thank you for your readership today. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Valentine's Day. Feel free to leave your comments. I try to respond to each and every one.
Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Linda of Life and Linda's Love Your Creativity Link Party #31, to Julie of My Wee Abode's Tuesday Turn About #35, to Bev at the Eclectic Red Barn's Thursday's Favorite Things, and to Kathy of A Delightsome Life's Home and Garden Thursday #35 for featuring this post!)