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Raindrop Vase #26-DR, designed by Wayne Husted in 1960,
made for 1 year only. Signed
Measures 7.5 inches tall x 4.25 inches diameter.

Below: additional Raindrop designs available



Offered here is arguably the ideal example of the 23 piece Raindrop Specialty line produced only in 1960 and in limited quantities. Raindrop was like nothing the Blenko Glass Company had produced before - it is a barometer of Wayne Husted's sophistication as an artist and skills as a designer. More importantly, it demonstrates his depth of knowledge in the field of glass design. The best designers perpetually sample from history and feed off the zeitgeist, as Husted so expertly did with Raindrop.

(full Raindrop line)

The concept of the 'Specialty Line' was introduced by Husted in the 1960 catalog, which designated them as "three special groups of designs." A Specialty Line is a themed group of designs that are special - technically different from Blenko's normal production. Exciting and new, they were an important departure and indicate an impulse to innovate and experiment in spite of the risks. The Specialty Lines are also a testament to a company in its prime.

On its own, the introduction of these lines meant a significant increase in production as it added 50 new designs to Blenko's then standard line of about 140. In addition to increased quantity, the new designs were both more difficult and more costly to produce. This new endeavor was a daring expansion for a company its size, and is a good indication of the success and resulting confidence the company enjoyed. These exceptional new lines sold at a premium and demonstrated that Blenko was indeed a design leader willing to take significant risks with bold new ventures. The experiment, however, was an unmitigated financial disaster; few pieces sold because Blenko's sales representatives were not interested in promoting a relatively small body of work so dissimilar from the standard offerings. As a result, very few examples were produced as Blenko made items based on demand.

(rock crystal vase, Paris, C 1475, Metropolitan Museum)

This beautiful Raindrop vase offered here, evokes the most glamorous of materials associated with the 'objet de vertu'; rock crystal with its natural striations and inclusions (see vase, above). Across many cultures and centuries, this difficult-to-work material has been used to create important and valuable objects of ceremonial and fiscal value. In fact, the origin of Venetian glass is tied to rock crystal. 'Cristallo', or clear glass, as it was known, was created to emulate it, as this excerpt from the text for the Corning Museum’s exhibition on the topic makes clear:

"In the late 17th century, European glassmakers scored two major successes. In Bohemia, the British Isles, and Germany, they produced crystal glass vessels that resembled natural rock crystal. And in Brandenburg, Germany, they also manufactured red vessels—from gold ruby glass—that looked as if they had been carved out of colossal rubies. The imitation of precious stones, especially ones as clear and colorless as rock crystal, had always been a goal of glassmaking. While paper-thin cristallo, a Venetian specialty during the Renaissance, had been praised for its perfection, it eventually gave way to this thick-walled Baroque crystal"

Cup (rock crystal covered cup, German, C 1580, Metropolitan Museum)

While rock crystal is the earliest historical reference for Raindrop, it is also strongly connected to three major precedents in 20th century glass. Maurice Marinot is widely regarded as being among the earliest precursors to the practice of studio glass, having focused his energy on the independent production glass objects as early as 1913. As the Corning Museum of Glass’ Regan Brumagen writes, "Once Marinot began to make his own glass, he also began to experiment — purposefully introducing bubbles in the glass and playing with colored glass thickly encased in clear glass." In fact, his most recognizable and important pieces are similarly infused with bubbles, like Raindrop.

(vase by Maurice Marinot, C 1923-25, Metropolitan Museum)

In recorded interviews, Husted acknowledges that his initial inspiration for Raindrop came from the work of Erik Hoglund and Kaj Franck. As a curious and engaged artist, Husted kept abreast of new trends and held in high regard the work both Franck and Hoglund, who were at the forefront of European glass design. Much of their work involved exploring the natural qualities of glass, in particular celebrating imperfection and naturally occurring elements rather than suppressing them. Both working in Scandinavia, renowned for pure and perfect crystal, Hoglund at Boda (aka Kosta Boda) and Franck at Iittala (and Nuutajarvi), both, in different ways in the 1950's, chose to celebrate imperfection and create vessels that exaggerated naturally occurring bubbles in glass. Franck was first to introduce intentional and irregular bubbles as a design element, placing them precisely in the lower portions of thick vessels whose upper bodies were otherwise clear and pristine.

Kaj Franck
(vase by Kaj Franck for Iittala, C 1948-1954)

Hoglund’s more rustic and irregular finely bubbled glass, introduced circa 1953 as a provocation and reaction to the tyranny of 'pure' glass, was, in fact, a reincarnation of a more subtle concept first explored (and almost immediately discontinued) at Kosta by Edvin Ollers in 1917. Hoglund’s greatly exaggerated reinterpretation of the technique gained recognition and international exposure when it won the Lunning prize in 1957 and thereafter appeared in the American publication Craft Horizons in 1959. While inspired by both bodies work, Husted's contribution to the concept was entirely unique and heretofore unexplored in American glass. While Husted’s Raindrop line revels in a wider variety of forms, many quite novel, they all exploit the dramatic and random distribution of bubbles by either contrasting it with a geometric shape or embracing it with an organic shape. The net result is the same; emphasizing the frothing and flowing bubbles.

Erik Hoglund
(bottle by Erik Hoglund, for Boda, circa 1960, Corning Museum)

On a technical level, the thickness of the glass and quantity and variety of bubbles was, typical for Husted, a striding step beyond previous explorations. Husted relates in interviews that, like Rialto, technical difficulties seriously curtailed production, resulting in a disastrously small production run for the company; bubbles often burst through deforming the shape, and clarity in the glass was often impossible to achieve. The true success and importance of Raindrop rests not in technique but in its testimony to Husted's irrepressibly and daring creative exploration.