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WVU celebrates West Virginia’s 155th birthday with latest gift from the Blenko family

Blenko Glass vase designed for West Virginia's 155th birthday.

A new limited-edition piece from Blenko Glass will be added to West Virginia University’s art collection.

The company is continuing its tradition of providing WVU with the latest piece from the collection. The donation has become an annual occurrence on June 20 – the state’s birthday. Started by the company in 1980, the West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass Collection celebrates the state’s birthday with just the exact number of pieces as the state’s age made and sold each year.

This year, Blenko, located in Milton, has produced 155 original pieces to celebrate West Virginia’s 155th birthday.

This year’s piece is inspired by the Mountain State. Designed by Emma Walters and Andrew Shaffer, it celebrates the strength of the state’s mountains and its people. The vase has one companion piece.

Standing 22 inches tall, the vase with shades of blue and green represent colors found in West Virginia’s forests and water. A subtle wood texture represents the native Appalachian cherry hardwood. Each piece is signed by Blenko President Walter Blenko Jr., Walters and Shaffer.

WVU houses one of fewer than 10 known complete sets of the West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass Collection on display at Blaney House, home of the WVU president.

In 2007, Hillary Homburg, a 2009 WVU School of Dentistry alumna and 2000 Foundation Scholar, donated her set to the University. She became a collector through her parents, who started collecting birthday pieces in 1980.

“The folks at the WVU Foundation were instrumental in helping me decide how best to meet my career goals,” Homburg said. “Through contact with them, I came to realize how important it is for everyone to support our University. As a college junior, I decided to give the only thing of value I owned, 33 West Virginia birthday vases by Blenko Glass.” 

After graduating, Homburg went to Ohio State for a dental residency. She is now the dental program director of Cabin Creek Clinics oral health programs and is a dental officer in the West Virginia Air National Guard.

Homburg’s involvement with Blenko Glass stems beyond the donation of her personal collection. As creator of The Blenko Project in 2000, Homburg has spent years advocating for the preservation and appreciation of West Virginia glasswork.

She feels the collection should be viewed by the public with the hope that it encourages others to preserve and appreciate the works of the only remaining glass factory in the state.

“I felt the vases could be enjoyed by visitors to Morgantown and perhaps inspire visitors to either visit Blenko or google Blenko to learn more about West Virginia glass.”

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