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Specialty Lines
Raindrop Regal Rialto Charisma
Blenko's Specialty Lines are among the most important and rarest designs produced by the company. A Specialty Line is a themed group of designs that are technically "special" - different from Blenko's normal production - and consists of multiple shapes that are conceived and labeled as an aesthetically related and cohesive group. Specialty Lines were an official genre at Blenko; they were always identified as such and separated from the year's annual offerings in the catalogues.

The term "Specialty Line" is often confused with the more common "thematic lines" (ex: Vineyard in 1960). Unlike Specialty Lines, thematic lines are never identified within Blenko's catalogs. They are comprised of a series of original designs with a common aesthetic them and are usually named by the designer or company, thus ascribing intent to produce a cohesive line.

In the Historic Period the concept of the Specialty Line proper was created by Wayne Husted and introduced in the 1960 catalog which designated them as "three special groups of designs." Husted's exciting new Specialty Lines were an important departure for Blenko and indicate an impulse to innovate and experiment in spite of the risks. The Specialty Lines are a testament to a company in its prime.

The experiment however was an unmitigated financial disaster; few pieces sold and Blenko's sales reps did not have any interest in representing the line as they were too dissimilar from the normal line. Very few were made as Blenko produced items based on demand.

Pre-Cursors
web specialty line "Web" line
circa 1936, so-named for its cobweb like decoration.
Heavy Swedish type specialty line
Heavy Swedish Type
attributed to Carl Erickson, circa 1940, produced for several years.
Blenko Bubble Glass Specialty Line
Bubble Glass
attributed to Carl Erickson, circa 1940, produced for several years.

A Note on Colonial Williamsburg Reproductions: This is neither a Specialty Line nor a thematic line; as the name makes clear these were reproductions - not original and not true Blenko designs. Their significance is primarily an economic and marketing one to Blenko and the historical and design value is limited to a footnote at best.

Raindrop

Designed by Wayne Husted in 1960, made for only one year and in limited quantities.

The Raindrop Specialty Line consists of 23 designs executed in thick clear leaded glass seeded with irregularly sized bubbles. All 23 designs were available only in Raindrop, and were never issued in other colors. Production was limited not only because of low demand (clear glass was not a market Blenko developed) but also due to technical difficulties. An usually high number of failed pieces had to be discarded due to large open bubbles, annealing problems and a tendency for the glass to discolor.
Blenko Raindrop Specialty Line

Regal

Designed by Wayne Husted in 1960 and expanded in 1961.

The Regal Specialty Line was the most commercially successful of the three Specialty Lines. The Ruby color was chosen precisely because it was always well received and sold well. The line was created in two parts:

1960: 12 designs executed in Ruby with all handles, stem and feet, in Crystal. Most bodies employ and optic rib effect.

1961: 5 of the original 1960 designs plus 3 unique new designs (14, 15 & 16-RE) and 4 pre-existing designs issued with the Regal Line designation in the design number ("RE"); however, it was not identified as "Regal" in the 1961 catalog and these shapes were also executed in colors other than Ruby.
Blenko Regal Specialty Line 1960 Blenko Regal Specialty Line 1961

Rialto

Designed by Wayne Husted in 1960, made for only one year and in limited quantities.

The Rialto Specialty Line consists of 15 designs executed with translucent white bodies, often fading from nearly transparent to completely opaque in places. All applied bands, handles, decorative elements and stoppers are in Ruby. All shapes are unique to the Rialto line except #1-TO which was issued in Regal and regular line colors in 1961 only.

Rialto is perhaps the most unusual and rarest of all three Specialty Lines. At no other time in the Historic Period did Blenko ever produce a translucent glass, and never again a white glass. The white glass acts as an ideal surface for highlighting Blenko's signature Ruby color.

Technical difficulties with annealing combined with a high loss rate as the result of being particularly fragile due to the tin oxide used for coloration conspired to result in the lowest production rate of all the Specialty Lines. In addition, the fragility has undoubtedly resulted in higher losses of the existing examples over the years.

Blenko Rialto Specialty Line

Charisma

Designed by John Nickerson in 1972.

The Charisma Specialty Line consists of 10 designs, each of crystal bodies with internal Ruby garland pattern colorway. All these shapes were also available in the standard line colors. Circa 2000 #7239X and #7222X were reissued. Note that although perhaps 80% of the reissues are signed they can nonetheless be distinguished by poor, brownish, coloration and often sloppy execution.
Blenko Charisma Specialty Line

Post-Historic Period (after 1974)

The increased number of Specialty Lines in the Post-Historic Period is noteworthy; these premium lines were intended primarily to re-capture a market segment that had been lost to Studio Glass. Essentially, the Specialty Line became market-driven rather than design-driven. No longer a true innovation, it became a marketing tool for Blenko by superficially emulating Studio Glass, indicative of Blenko's decreased relevance in this period.

Post-Hostic Period, Don Shepherd produced a number of Specialty Lines:
- The Designer's Group, 1976
- Blue Top Mountian Glass, 1977 (the altered 1978 version excluded)
- Designer's Studio Series, 1980
- Balloons, 1982 & 1983
- Big Sky, 1982 & 1983
- Rock, 1982
- Snow Drift, 1983
- Contempo, 1986




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