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......
.....as 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!)

42 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great experience!! You have almost a whole rainbow of water bottles, so pretty. I would go nuts in that store, good thing I don't live near it, LOL!!

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  2. Oh, how I would love to do this workshop!! I adore the Blenko you sent me!! I used it most recently at Christmas! You have a great collection!

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  3. You KNOW how much I'd love to do this. THIS IS SO COOL! I'd just love the process and I'm afraid I'd be a rather bad girl in the gift shop. I adore you decanters -- that antique green is so pretty and that deep cobalt? Oh, yes, I could get in some serious trouble there. Plus it looks like such a fun day! Love this to the max. What fabulous photos, too. Nicely done!

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  4. What a fun event! You have a great collection of Blenko. I have to find ours!!!
    Happy Valentine's Day!

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  5. I love Blenko and have had the Spring Green for 21 years. Joe would enjoy a workshop like this, and will probably take a class at Corning Glass here in NY. You have a nice collection, and I need to use mine more than I do.

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  6. I only know about Blenko through you. Really enjoyed following along! Got a kick out of the two pix of you making glass while your trusty tote was on your shoulder lol!

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  7. That looks like such fun! That kind of hand crafted work is becoming more prevalent again and I'm glad. It seemed like in the late 90's mass production was taking over for a while there.

    I loved the shot of you and your friend. The look says it all!

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  8. Good morning, Rita. This looks like such fun. I have always enjoyed watching glass blowing and I do love Blenko glass. The water bottles do make a perfect vase. Great post, Rita. Happy Valentine's Day!

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  9. Oh how fun Rita. I bet you had a blast! No pun intended lol! I love your collection especially that light green one. That is such a pretty color. I never heard of this company and their artful glass blowing until you introduced us. I love it. What history too! Have a great Valentine's Day.
    Hugs,
    Kris

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  10. Well you know I would love to do this! So jealous and appreciative of your beautiful collection.

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    1. Thank you so much, and I'm glad you enjoyed my sharing!

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  11. Rita, that class sounds interesting and fun. I don’t have any Blenko, I can never buy just one piece of anything, too often I begin a collection. You have a beautiful collection and I remember the tablescapes with the Blenko!

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  12. We've been to Blenko and watched the artists work their magic. We purchased a water pitcher for someone's wedding, although we can't remember who! We also purchased other little goodies in the retail shop. Glad you had fun! (I thought Blenko stopped production, but maybe they didn't or they restarted or I'm crazy!)

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  13. Wow, how cool Rita!! That must have been quite {scary} experience!! The bottles are just beautiful, and I love the blue rainbow of bottles in your collection, gorgeous!
    Jenna

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  14. I love this! Will have to keep in mind if I'm ever in your neck of the woods. Blown glass has intrigued me since I was a young girl!

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  15. Oh wow, I love your collection of decanters. What a fun experience, even if it wasn't perfect. I have always wanted to try glass blowing as we love to go to the glass blowing factory in Cabo. They just let me blow a big bubble, but even that was fun. We have a lot of their glassware here and down there.

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  16. That would be such a fun adventure!

    I love all the beautiful colors.

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  17. Oh, I love peeking behind the door and seeing a little of this factory with you. This workshop must have been such fun Rita. I do love these water bottles and the colors are beautiful. You certainly have a great collection. Happy Valentine's Day, hope you and hubs have a great weekend……
    PS; Rita, with some helpful information from our FairyBlog Mother I am can now post comments!

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  18. How WONDERFUL. I love the Blenko water pitchers. I am sure it was a lot of fun.

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    1. Thank you! I love how easy the water bottles are to handle for both righties and lefties, and the colors are amazing, especially when all together.

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  19. Oh how fun and what a great experience! We have a local store that sells Blenko. I haven’t made the investment yet!

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  20. Sounds like a fun experience but I'm sure mine would not be perfect either.
    I enjoyed seeing your older posts using the water pitchers. It's fun to look back.
    I'm still lamenting about letting a nice Blenko fish go that was my husbands mothers.

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  21. You are so funny! I see you trying to do this, with a purse over your shoulder! I am sure that is why yours didn't turn out perfectly! I didn't know about this place at all! Maybe this spring when we drive my hubby's car up to Ohio!

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  22. ohmygosh, how fun is this!!?? great pics of you creating your amazing piece of glassware. you have a beautiful collection and love seeing how you've used them in your tablescapes!

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  23. Now this workshop is something I would love! And I do love your collection of water bottles. They are all so pretty, and I love the colors, too, especially the greens!

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    1. Ricki Jill, thank you. As an artist, I'm certain you would thoroughly enjoy the creative process.

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  24. Oh, those are gorgeous! and so fun to be part of creating Blenko glass... this is my first introduction to the company! (Love those green ones!)

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  25. What a wonderful experience! When we look at a beautifully crafted piece of glass we have no idea the work involved in making it. Thanks so much for sharing your day with your friend. What a great memory!

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I hope this finds you doing well! Miss your blogging!

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  26. Well, how fun is that? Thanks for sharing this unique experience at Vintage Charm, Rita. I love how you incorporate these beautiful bottles in your lovely tablescapes! Pinning!

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  27. I'm glad to know Blenko is still in business! I have some Blenko pieces. Great colors and what a cool opportunity!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jeanne! I saw your late January post and how you love glass. I recognized some of those as Blenko!

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  28. Great post Rita. it looks so interesting. I love your collections. I don't own any blenko, but I can admire yours. I hope Will is recovering.

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  29. What a fun experience for you and your friend, Rita! I'd be right there joining you if I lived closer. Your collection is awesome!! I love the colors of the bottles, and the handy indention for holding. Thank you for sharing!

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  30. I have a Blenko bottle in the amber color that had belonged to my Mom. I adore it! I would love to do this class. I want one in every color. :-)

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    1. Lynda, I love the idea of having a piece of your Mom's Blenko. My mom had a few designer pieces, but with 9 kids, I was not one of the recipients after her passing, lol. Cherish the one you have!

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  31. I'm glad I got to see this post Rita! What a fun experience...no one can accuse you of being a blowhard. :) I remember your tables featuring your beautiful decanturs.

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  32. Just look at all those beautifully coloured Blenko glass decanters of yours. Each and every piece is so lovely. How fun to make your own glass decanter.

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  33. Rita, brilliant photographs and what an experience to share about making own water bottles. Love the font you used in your writing, it reminds me of calligraphy. Having a myriad with coloured water bottles is something I would love to collect too. Stay awesome, and do write more of your such adventures that instill a certain joy in the reader!

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    1. Thank you, Andrea, your comments put a smile on my face this morning!

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