Amber Cowan and Blenko: Rebels With A Cause

James Arnett, Creative Director

We had the pleasure last week of inviting American glass artist Amber Cowan down to our factory to get a glimpse of how we – still! – do things here at Blenko Glass Company. It was a real honor to meet her: she is a major American artist, and her artwork is internationally recognized, celebrated, and exhibited. We were flattered that she had enough time to swing by our historical factory and see our traditional processes of making stunning handcrafted glass tableware. 

Amber Cowan’s sophisticated glass art takes American post-production and artifactual glass from the literal dust bins of history. Cowan’s large-scale works reclaim old American glass tableware and tableware colors from long-shuttered factories, and breathes new, maximal life into it. Her art always catches the eyes of critics and viewers alike, and she was recently the subject of two great articles that celebrate her work and point out what is so unique about it. 

Cowan’s work is art with a conscience and an ethos: in reusing materials that were cast off during the manufacture of art glass tableware, she is both physically recycling used glass(es) and also preserving the legacy of American, handmade glass – so much of which was located right here in West Virginia, as our former Vice President/General Manager Dean Six’s books carefully record. The author of the Smithsonian article points out why this work is important - and why you, as a Blenko collector, will grasp the beauty and value of Cowan’s art immediately. “In our current age, when many find their memories last only as long as the most recent social media trend or sensational news headline, it is rebellious to celebrate the relics of American design, and to honor an industry that has fallen from public interest in favor of NFTs and cryptocurrency trading.”

Amber Cowan and Blenko Glass Company – rebels with a cause. There is something undeniably magical about colored glass. People travel all over the world chasing the pleasure of seeing the sun stream through stained glass windows in gothic cathedrals. Meanwhile, here in little old Milton-on-the-Mud River, West Virginia, we clock in every day, still, to deliver that handmade, gorgeous glass that so many companies once made, but which have been replaced with the ephemeral pleasures of digital eye candy. 

If we have one quibble with these articles that celebrate Cowan’s work – it’s that the American handmade glass industry isn’t dead: it’s well alive and kicking here in West Virginia, at Blenko Glass Company, thanks to the passion and commitment of our customers and collectors. We take seriously that we here at Blenko are some of the last guardians of a moribund industry, but we have every intention of sticking around for the next one hundred years, making family heirlooms and cherished memories from little old Milton, WV in the ways and with the love we have always used.

Stay tuned to our Blog page for more reflections on glass, art, glass art, and art glass over the weeks and months ahead!