I had not planned to write about Blenko two weeks in a row. Among my myriad collections, Blenko is the newest, and I'd hate to be accused of succumbing to the recency effect. Lord knows, I have hundreds of objects that have been in my possession for decades that would make worthy subjects for this blog.
Then I stumbled upon Blenko #551.
Actually, that's not quite true. A few weeks back, Paul had to travel to Krakow for work, and his passport was about he expire. He went down to the passport center in Stamford, CT, to expedite his renewal. After he took care of business, he stopped at some of the numerous antique shops in the area and started sending me photos of beautiful furniture, art, and ceramics. Then came a wave of photos of large-scale Blenko items. Image after image of drool-worthy glass. Among them, Blenko #551. It was priced over my post-Christmas budget, so I didn't have him pick it up for me. But it never quite left my head.
Last weekend, we decided to meet up with our friends Michael and Ken from New Jersey to do some antiquing. Stamford, as it happens, is halfway between us. We agreed to meet there.
We went through several stores, with Paul dropping tantalizing hints about where he remembered seeing Blenko. The way we wandered through this particular shop, the Blenko booth was in the second-to-last aisle. But it was worth the wait - so many impressive, architecturally scaled pieces. But the one that drew all four pairs of eyes was Blenko #551.
"That's the most magnificent piece of Blenko I've ever seen," said Michael, who doesn't collect Blenko but literally wrote the book on mid-century dinnerware. He's seen his share of mid-mod objects.
"I want it so much," I said, transfixed.
I held it up to the light. Though a fine layer of dust had settled upon its surface, the piece was blemish-free. And it was in one of my favorite Blenko colors: 1950s teal, which was produced from 1954-58.
As I surveyed the vase and did mental calculations about what I could afford, Paul, who feels the encroachment of Blenko on his living space like the hapless citizens of Downington, PA, experienced The Blob engulfing their town, said, "I think you should get it."
With permission granted, I asked for and received a discount for cash/check, and never looked back.
Known as the "medallion vase," this 1955 design by Blenko's second artistic director Wayne Husted has a mysterious majesty. Not quite large enough to be architectural at 13" tall, it would still decimate a small garden if you used it to display a bouquet. The thickness of the glass varies, making the teal more concentrated around the rim and base. The surface is gently textured - little pock marks from the mold create a subtle effect that makes the vase temptingly tactile.
But it's the medallion, I think, that gives the piece its aura. Placed off-center, it gives the vase movement; it sets the vessel on edge. You look at it and it feels unbalanced, yet it's so large and massive, it seems stolid. You can't figure out the tension.
The design of the medallion itself is unusual and abstract. I've seen sellers describe its design as a "stick figure," and it looks to me like a rune or character from some lost alphabet. I asked Mr. Husted via Facebook what it was, and he told me it was "Jungian inspired."
I know very little about Jung and his symbols, but I can see in the medallion an abstraction of the tree of life. As Jung noted, "No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell." That's enough to spend a lifetime pondering. I'm not saying that this is what Husted intended, but it's how I'm accessing the symbol, and how it draws me into the vase. Its enigmatic essence has a power over me that a more literal symbol or figure would not.
I am happily beguiled by this new addition to my collection.