Dave Fetty Master Craftsman for Fenton
Ruby Blenko Basket
Exclusively Designed for
The Bronze Look, LLC.
© Only One Look All Rights Reserve
Blenko Fire and Ice Vase
Exclusively Designed for
The Bronze Look, LLC
by Ron Hinkle
From window glass and simple green glass bottles to the sophisticated art glass of today, more than 500 factories have manufactured glass in West Virginia throughout the state’s history. West Virginia was attractive to glass manufacturers because it offered great quantities of silica sand, stone and other chemical compounds necessary to produce glass and vast reserves of natural gas for fuel. This paired with the state’s network of rivers and railroads for the transportation of raw materials to factories and finished wares to customers made West Virginia an ideal location to spawn the glass industry.
Through the simple process of making basic blown glass bottles, glassmakers have been able to produce cheap containers for liquids for centuries. In order to produce many bottles of exact measure, the process of molded blown glass was developed. Eventually, automatic machinery was created to make blown molded containers. In 1827, Deming Jarves, a New England glassmaker, invented the press-molding machine. Using this device, glassmakers pressed molten glass into an iron mold using an iron plunger. The mold gave the glass both its shape and any decorative pattern, eliminating the need for hand decoration. This process reduced the time and skill needed to produce glass objects. Formerly expensive glass tableware, bottles, lighting fixtures and decorative items were then available at an affordable price. Pressed glass became commonplace in most homes. Early glass molds were made of iron and cast by factories with no particular connection to the glass industry. Often these companies sold the same molds to different glass factories, resulting in different glassmakers offering the same glass product patterns and designs.
After 1900, glass factories began to make their own molds on site. This allowed them to create patterns unique to specific companies, although designs were often liberally “borrowed” by other manufacturers. Mold makers then became the skilled artisans that hand decorators once had been. Glass blowers use a few simple tools to make blown glass. Originally, every primitive glasshouse made the same type of green glass based on the use of the blowpipe, pontil rod, pucella, shears, wet blocks, calipers, and battledore. The advent of window glass heralded the beginning of modern life and history. In the beginning, window glass was made by opening the bottom of a large bubble and spinning the sides into a circular flat piece. In the next stage, the glass was blown into long cylinders that were laid open and flattened. Finally, glass was poured molten on a lake of molten tin, which gave it a super-smooth finish. The latter method is in use today. From the original primitive hand-blown containers to large turn of the century manufacturers to today’s cottage industry art glass, West Virginia has seen a rich history of glassmaking.