This colorful West Virginia cowboy greets passersby with a glassy stare.
When the Museum of American Glass reopened in 2007 in its new location, a friable fellow made from iconic West Virginia glass took pride of place. Blenko Man, a celebrity of silica, was the brainchild of Rock Wilson, an avid collector of Blenko glass. He commissioned the renowned sculptor John Zidek to assemble unique pieces from his collection into a tribute to a once-ubiquitous industry in West Virginia.
The Blenko Glass Company, located in Milton, some 130 miles west of Weston, was founded in 1893 by English immigrant William Blenko, who made rundels for stained glass windows. Although he struggled for many years, today his artistry can be found worldwide, including in the rose window at Reims Cathedral in France.
The company moved to Milton in 1921 and was one of nearly 500 glass companies in the state during the heyday of the glass industry. As one of only a handful of glass companies left in West Virginia, Blenko artists continue to make hand-blown glass using traditional techniques, although their designs can be more whimsical than traditional, as Blenko Man attests.
As guardian and greeter for the Museum of American Glass, Blenko Man oversees a vast collection of practically every type of glass one can imagine. Row after row of thoughtfully arranged cabinets displays objects from the mundane to high art. The museum also features the largest single collection of Steuben crystal as well as the National Marble Museum within its collections.
Blenko Man, meanwhile, is clearly happy to stay seated in his window box reflecting on his dominion, which is probably wise, since keen observers will note that a manufacturing quirk has left him with two right feet.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open daily and admission is free. The website notes that GPS directions will sometimes take you the wrong way on Main Street so it’s best to plug the latitude and longitude coordinates into the GPS. Guided tours of the museum can be scheduled in advance.
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