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Object Timeline

1938

  • Work on this object began.

1945

  • Work on this object ended.

2012

  • We acquired this object.

2015

2019

  • You found it!

Design #R497 Vase, ca. 1940

This is a Vase. It was designed by Carl Ebert Erickson and manufactured by Blenko Glass Company. It is dated ca. 1940 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is glass. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

The Blenko Glass Company represents the combination of technological advances in glassmaking with original designs noted for their focus on color, a key element of the glassware’s impact.
Blenko originally produced flat glass for windows, including stained glass for the windows of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The company earned national recognition, especially for the creation of a strong ruby red glass that could be double fired. Red, a notoriously fugitive color in glass, was generally unstable could not be fired a second time. Blenko’s glass could be double fired without loss of color, which enabled enamel decorators to paint on it. William Blenko, the company’s founder, patented the formula in 1924, ensuring its popularity with enamellers. The subsequent decision to launch a glass tableware line meant this color entered a field previously reserved for ceramics.
Blenko’s first tableware catalogue appeared in 1929, and precipitated patronage by major department stores. Some of Blenko’s early pieces emulated Venetian glass with irregular shapes and textures to emphasize the handmade elements. Blenko explored how handmade craftsmanship and modern lifestyle could coexist in a design idiom. As a testament to the popularity of Blenko’s early tableware, the White House acquired a collection.
Although the work of the company’s first designers achieved much critical acclaim, the designers were largely uncredited until Blenko hired company’s first design director, Winslow Anderson, in 1947. The role of design director was progressive for its time, as it was unusual to have a full time in-house position providing overall design direction to a firm’s output. Subsequent design directors, Wayne Husted, Joel Philip Myers, and John Nickerson, were all involved in the Studio Glass movement, as innovators or practitioners.
Blenko’s production represents a major story of the American handmade glass industry. At its peak, more than 50 glass companies thrived in the industry’s base of West Virginia. After the industry’s decline, there are now only a few firms that create handmade antique glass.
This vase was one of 50 works selected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1950 exhibition, 20th Century Glass, American and European. It represented one of the few American companies, along with Louis Comfort Tiffany, to be shown on par with European counterparts such as Émile Gallé and Orrefors. The vase is listed in a Blenko catalog (ca. 1940) as part of the Heavy Swedish type series. It is the only object in this series with an applied coil and was almost certainly the design of Carl Ebert Erickson, the foreman and de facto chief designer of Blenko into World War II. Erickson had worked at the Pairpoint glass factory prior to Blenko and came from a line of Swedish glassmakers: both his father and grandfather were master blowers at the Reijmyre glassworks in Sweden. Erickson left Blenko to found his own company, Erickson Glassworks, in Ohio, which spurred Blenko to create the new position of design director, filled by Anderson.
This piece is part of a larger gift of Blenko glass proposed for acquisition. This proposed gift is from the collection of Damon Crain, one of the leading authorities on Blenko glass, and includes significant objects that tell the story of firm’s ingenuity and work of the firm’s designers, known for their use of hard-to-produce color and innovative forms. This is a rare opportunity to acquire not only the history of an innovative firm, but works by designers of significance in their own right. At the time of proposed acquisition, two of the designers represented, Wayne Husted and John Nickerson, are still active and successful Studio Glass designers. This gift represents a distinguished history of the firm not previously represented in the museum’s collection and also strengthens the museum’s holdings of American glass from 1930 to 1980.

This object was donated by Damon Crain. It is credited Gift of Damon Crain.

Our curators have highlighted 1 object that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 25.4 x 15.9 cm (10 in. x 6 1.4 in.)

Cite this object as

Design #R497 Vase, ca. 1940; Designed by Carl Ebert Erickson (Swedish, 1899 Reijmre, Sweden-1966 Ohio, active in the United States); glass; H x diam.: 25.4 x 15.9 cm (10 in. x 6 1.4 in.); Gift of Damon Crain; 2012-16-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460613/ |title=Design #R497 Vase, ca. 1940 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=24 May 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>