Thursday, September 18, 2008

Something old, something new....

...something molten that someone blew.

I have not gone crazy and decided to rewrite the old poem about what a young lady needs for her wedding, although I think any young woman getting married would love to get some gifts from where I was today.

I am not much of a collector, except for stamps (don't judge me. I know y'all have stamps stowed away at your collective residences!), but I have always loved pretty glass. Having lived in West Virginia myself for the better part of 9 years, I learned about and loved Fenton glass. I have a few small pieces myself that I treasure. I had, however not heard of Blenko glass until this past year.

Blenko Glass Company is located in Milton, WV. You have to go a little off the beaten path to find the place, but it is worth it. When you get there, you see the visitor center settled right next to a pristine pond that is surrounded by beautiful maple and oak trees. The company was founded in 1893 by a young glassmaker who immigrated to the United States from London, where he began learning the art of glassblowing at the age of 13.

He tried starting his company in Point Marion, PA, which is incidentally the city that my DH and I lived in until we moved to Austin, and it failed. He finally settled in Milton, WV and the company became a success. They create not only amazing blown pieces, but also the most intricate stained glass windows you will ever see. When you first arrive, this is the view of the visitor's center, also known as the place where Kim spent some stamping money today.

As you walk up to the front of the store you cannot help but notice the flower beds. They are outlined in glass bricks, and feature some of the glass art that is produced inside, half buried in the dirt! I could not believe that they would put them outside like this, but I guess I can understand. The glass bricks were amazing, in every color imaginable. If I thought I could lug them through the airport I would have brought home a ton of them.

Then, you walk inside and are greeted by the sight you see above. Hundreds of pieces of handblown, original glass everywhere. I think my heart skipped a couple of beats when I got hit with the color cornucopia that is the Blenko Glass Store. I don't think I need to tell y'all that before the door was ever opened I gave Little Miss a set of instructions that puts the flight attendant pre-flight check list to shame.
"Welcome to Blenko glass. My name is Mommy and I will be watching you like a hungry hawk eyes up a mouse for the duration of your visit today. There are emergency exits here, here, and here, and if I have to take you outside it will not end well for you. In the event of any overwhelming desire to touch anything, two hands will appear out of nowhere, even if I am 10 feet away, and remove you from the situation immediately. Let me remind you, Mommy has eyes in the back of her head and the penalty for not following my instructions involves you never seeing another Littlest Pet Shop until you are old enough to buy them for your own children. Now, welcome to this lovely store and have a wonderful visit."
Every other sentence ended in the phrase, "and everything is a NO TOUCH". She is very good about keeping her hands in and by her side in situations like this, but she is also 4, so I figured a little extra insurance was worth it.
After pausing for a few minutes we decided we would do the tour first before I started my favorite sport, competitive shopping. If they would only have that one at the Olympics I would be right up there with Michael Phelps for number of gold medals. I have a special gland just for shopping hormone. It is a curse, but it is one that I have learned to live with. Sort of.

We go upstairs and follow a little walkway to part of the production plant. Now, let me tell you something about glass production. It is HOT!!! I mean, these guys are working in a room that had no fewer than 10 kilns burning like the sun on steroids in it. We find this guy, who I am going to call "Bob the Brave", working a fresh piece of glass. See how pretty and red it is? That isn't the color of the glass. That is the color of fire. The glass is so hot that when he starts working with it it is actually glowing. Now, take a moment to look at the proximity of said molten piece of lava-hot glass to Bob's leg. You think that the material between him and the glass would be Nomex or asbestos or something, but I don't think it was. So Bob starts doing what any normal, rational human would do when handed a stick with a piece of 2000 degree melted sand on it.

He puts his MOUTH ON THE OTHER END OF THE METAL TUBE AND BLOWS INTO IT. "Hi! I'll take 'Jobs I'll never do' for $1000, Alex!" I mean, what if you forget your chapstick? What if you are sick to your tummy? What if, God forbid, right at the very moment you lock lips with this tube you get the hiccups? Oh, the humanity!

However, Bob is very brave and continues to blow and shape this piece of glass until it forms a perfect little sphere. Then he rolls it back and forth and sprinkles some nice, cool water on that little "waistline" in the glass. At this point, another guy that I wasn't able to get a picture of comes over with another big

stick that has a tiny little piece of blazing hot glass on it, pushes it onto the end of Bob's piece of glass, and Bob taps his pipe and the glass snaps off onto the other stick. At this point they put it back into the kiln and fire it again, then it moves onto another guy who is equally as brave as Bob and he does more work to it. This glass actually ends up looking blue when they are done.

So, after watching these guys work for about 45 minutes, I went back into the store section and did some shopping. I don't have pictures of all the pieces I bought, but I did find this picture on Blenko's website. This is exactly like a bowl that the DH got for me from their "Strata" collection. I was amazed at how gorgeous it was, and cannot wait to get it home and find it the perfect place to live within my abode.

I have to give some serious kudos to the lady working the front of the store. She wrapped my pieces in so much bubble wrap I think I could throw them to the ground and they would still survive, although I am not risking them under the plane. I don't know how I am going to carry all of it on, but rest assured when my plane lifts from Columbus on Saturday until it lands in Austin, this and my other treasures will be safely within arms reach at all times. I can already feel about 10 different card designs coming out of this I am ready to get it home.

One last picture before I go, a gratuitous shot of my baby, my hubby, and his daddy. What a great crew these 3 are! I hope everyone has a great night, and until next time, Happy Stamping!


Lydia said...

OMG!! This is sooooo cool! And that BLUE one!! ALL the blue ones!!! I would be completely dangerous in a place like that, and I am completely intrigued by the glass bricks!!

And could she be any cuter? And I'm pretty sure the FIL is going to miss her a lot - look how hard he's squeezing her. Is the DH recovering?

Kim Williams said...

Yes, the blue was particularly hard to stay away from! Those are the first ones Little Miss gravitated to as well. I am trying not to think about how bad they are going to miss each other, Little Miss cried last night when I tucked her in because she knows today is her last day.

The DH is still extremely sick. I will be calling the family MD back home today to get him an appointment for Monday.