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Baugh ’53 decanter selected for Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum collection
4/23/15

A Blenko Glass Co. decanter and stopper, whose concept, design, and execution are attributed to Betty Baugh, AU Class of 1953, was selected for a Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collection this past winter. The Cooper-Hewitt, which was renovated and reopened in December 2014, is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Housed in the former residence of Andrew Carnegie, the museum has undergone a transformative renovation over the past three years to restore its historic splendor and create 60 percent more gallery space in which to present 210,000-piece collection and showcase major design exhibitions. The museum opened to the public on Dec. 12, 2014 with 10 inaugural exhibitions and new visitor experiences featuring breakthrough technologies.

The Cooper-Hewitt website notes: “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….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….. 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 ….

“The technical achievements of this decanter design, developed under Husted’s design direction, are ones of color and form. The tangerine-to-yellow effect results from the part of the heat-reactive glass going back into the fire to create the tangerine color while the part kept away from the fire remains yellow.

“The form comes from the glass being blown between two pieces of ornate crown molding, creating a flat form shaped by the negative of the molding. The tangerine and double color pieces became some of Blenko’s best sellers produced during Husted’s time, even though he may have preferred his designs with uniform color. This decanter’s striking colors, combined with its undulating narrow form and irregular surface, shows a sense of the budding Studio Glass movement.

“According to Husted, his ex-wife, Betty Baugh, was responsible for the concept, design, and execution of the decanter. Baugh, who trained as an industrial designer, produced glass designs for companies such as Anchor Hocking and Libbey. This is her only design for Blenko …. “

The decanter and stopper are dated 1956 and listed at the Cooper-Hewitt as Design # 566, glass, a gift of Damon Crain. 2012-16-5; it is currently on display in room 113.

Current work by Betty may be found on her website at: www.bettybaughdesign.com