Wayne Husted, whether you realize it or not, is probably the designer whose work comes to mind when you think of Blenko's golden age. He served as design director from 1953-1963, during which period he created over 600 designs, including some of the most iconic forms Blenko ever produced.
There is something quite magical about that decade. It was a true renaissance, with fresh, bold, and innovative concepts across all fields of art and design. Today, as a collector, we have the lens of history and pop culture to describe the things that were created. We can throw around terms like "atomic," "Sputnik modern," or "Jetsons-esque," and a mental image immediately starts to form. What, I wonder, was it like then, in the 50s, when designers like Husted were generating their designs without that frame of reference? They were creating the frame!
Husted was actually the last of Blenko's three historic period designers I became acquainted with, but his designs immediately became my favorite - for exactly the same reason that I am drawn to Charles Murphy's designs for Red Wing Potteries from the same period. Both Husted and Murphy seem to be pushing their respective medium into new and uncharted terrain. They were exploring the qualities inherent in their materials, testing their limits, asking them to be more than what they had always been.
Extravagant, fanciful, eccentric, and highly tactile, Husted's designs seem to ask, playfully, "So, you think you know glass?"
Take the "blob vase" - #597 - pictured above in Nile. Designed in 1959, its spherical yet somehow triangular form is beguiling on its own. Add to that the handcraft involved in applying discs of glass to its surface during the blowing process, and it is a wonder of handmade glass. This example, which Paul gave me as a birthday present last year, is my favorite Blenko object to date. It only slightly freaks me out that it resembles a highly magnified HIV cell.
One of Husted's major contributions was transforming everyday decanters into exuberant, sculptural flourishes for the home. So many of his decanters are on my wish list, but at this relatively early stage in my collecting, one has emerged as a favorite: the "shot glass decanter" (#6027) from 1960. The exaggerated neck of the bottle and the dual purpose stopper (it serves as a jigger) combine to make a thrilling piece of glass. How could you turn down a shot of whisky if your host pulled this Tangerine-colored beauty off the bar?
I cannot leave discussion of Husted without addressing his use of texture. Where the blob vase demonstrates technical expertise, and the shot glass decanter shows off the sleek and streamlined elegance of the glass, several of his notable designs - and some of his obscure ones! - reveal his interest in using texture to make the glass surprise and delight the viewer with the play of light. In the photo below are two Husted vases in Sea Green. On the left is a vase from the Vineyard line, sometimes referred to as a "bubble wrap" vase (#6041). Flat catalog images of this piece always made me think of it as some kind of lumpen horror. Seeing it in person, and the way that each bubble (grape?) catches and refracts light, made me enjoy it madly. Similarly, the #607 vase, with its peculiar coil-like body, demonstrates again Husted's impish experimentation.