Glass Convention Attracts Collectors
MILTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Matt and Jane Shafer love collecting hand-crafted glass pieces so much, they spent their honeymoon last year in this western West Virginia town that’s the home of Blenko Glass Co.
But once wasn’t enough. For their one-year anniversary, the couple from the Toledo, Ohio area came back to Milton for the first Blenko Collectors Society convention.
``It was something we did together,″ Matt Shafer said Thursday. ``It’s going out together on a winter Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee and just hitting a few antique shops.″
The 43-year olds, dressed in matching blue Blenko Collectors Society T-shirts, said they have 130 pieces in their glass collection.
``It’s kind of like a sport for us,″ said Jane Shafer. ``We like to find the diamonds in the rough, the flea market finds.″
The Blenko Collectors Society was formed in response to a heightened interest in glass collecting since PBS began televising Blenko documentaries five years ago. At least 60 collectors showed up for the three-day convention that began Thursday.
Dr. John Sazy, 46, from Fort Worth, Texas, estimates he’s spent $750,000 acquiring 3,000 pieces of Blenko glass.
``It’s beautiful,″ he said. ``It has a lot of historical value with documenting the various design phases that’s evolved over time in America.″
Society President Tammy Kosla, who lives in the Chicago area, carried around a glass gavel at the convention. She said she has more than 1,200 Blenko pieces.
``We have Blenko in our bathroom,″ said her husband, John Kosla, an iron worker who showed off a tattoo of a glassblower on his arm.
Tammy Kosla’s collection started with a vase she and her mother purchased years ago and some thrift store purchases. She later checked eBay, an Internet auction site, to find out more about Blenko and got hooked.
Kosla, 39, estimates she and her husband have spent more than $150,000 on glass pieces and displays.
Blenko fans at the convention displayed pictures of their personal glass collections and got autographs from the company’s first resident designer, Winslow Anderson, who on Thursday unveiled his first piece for Blenko in 50 years _ a large blue decanter.
Anderson, who worked at Blenko from 1946 to 1953, said employees shared a good camaraderie.
``It was like going back to your club every day,″ said Anderson, whose 86th birthday is Saturday. ``They were wonderful men.″
Sazy said he likes Blenko because the family-run company ``demonstrates true American spirit.″
William J. Blenko founded the company in 1893 in Kokomo, Ind., and struggled for years. Similar business ventures in Point Marion, Pa., and Clarksburg also failed, according to the society’s newsletter. He found success after moving to Milton in 1921.
``He never gave up his dream,″ Sazy said.
West Virginia had about 450 handcrafted glassmaking companies in 1921, said fourth-generation President Richard Blenko. Today, there are only a handful.
``It’s a very rare happening to have a handcraft glass company still in existence,″ Anderson said.