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Depression-era glass show focuses on Blenko

| Thursday, March 1, 2018, 8:55 p.m.
A selection of Blenko vases from the company's catalog.
Jim and Leora Leasure
A selection of Blenko vases from the company's catalog.
A hard-to-find Blenko penguin.
Jim and Leora Leasure
A hard-to-find Blenko penguin.
A display set up during the New Kensington show in past years.
Submitted
A display set up during the New Kensington show in past years.
Andrea Sweeney, of Bethel Park, looks at one of the dozens of vendors at the Three Rivers Depression Era Glass Society Show at the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Andrea Sweeney, of Bethel Park, looks at one of the dozens of vendors at the Three Rivers Depression Era Glass Society Show at the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Customers look over  items at a previous Three Rivers Depression Era Glass Society show and sale.
Valley News Dispatch
Customers look over items at a previous Three Rivers Depression Era Glass Society show and sale.

The past continues to speak colorfully to the present and future as the 41st annual Three Rivers Depression Era Glass Society Show and Sale takes up residence March 3 and 4 at the Quality Inn, New Kensington.

The show, drawing dealers and collectors from several states, is a celebration of American glassmakers and their products, says Leora Leasure, show co-director, with husband Jim Leasure, of Eighty Four, Washington County.

The dealers represent over 100 years of glass making. Whether a collector's interest is in early pattern glass, Depression or elegant glass, art glass or glass that is mid-century modern, it will be here, Leasure promises. There also is pottery and some china.

“We always think each show is better than the previous shows. We are proud of our dealers and their integrity,” Leora Leasure says. “The quality of the wares they bring constantly astounds us.”

This year's spotlight exhibit, “All About Blenko,” features Dean Six, vice president of the company based in Milton, W.Va., since 1921. Leasure says this will be “a great opportunity for mid-century modern collectors to learn about and buy some great glass.”

Blenko produces a wide variety of items, including water pitchers, tumblers, vases, decanters and bowls.

“They are mostly bright, beautiful colors and unusual shapes and, personally, they each bring a smile to my face,” Leasure says. She believes this is the first time the show has presented a display from a company that still is in business.

Dozens of companies once made glass locally, including in Tarentum and Jeannette.

Nostalgia is a significant factor in the interest in Depression glass. “This is what grandma used, and now younger people are using it in their homes,” Leasure says. “It creates such a nice atmosphere in the home.”

An effort to build interest among young people in the glass is reflected in free show admission for those under age 30.

As for trends in glass collecting, Leasure says while everyone has their favorites, “If I have to say that something is hot I would say the mid-century-modern years are ‘hot.' That's the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s. If you ask a younger person what they remember in their parents and grandparents homes, this is what they saw.”

A portion of the show's proceeds benefits the glass society, which makes annual donations to various glass museums and organizations. “Donations are what they count on,” Leasure says.

“The industry is fast leaving this country but it is up to us to preserve its history. It's important to remember that history is not just dates and places; it is the people who worked there, who created this beautiful, useful and needed product,” she says.

“One of my favorite things about all of this is meeting a former worker and sitting with them, listening to their stories. This is life. That is all history is, the life and times of your relatives and ancestors. Celebrate it!”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Tips for first-timers

It is easy for first-timers to be overwhelmed at the glass show, co-director Leora Leasure acknowledges.

“We hear this comment often,” she says. “First relax and enjoy the beauty you see around you. Then if you think you have an interest in a certain type of glass, concentrate on it.”

Her suggestions for getting the most out of the show experience:

Enjoy the memories: “Perhaps you are looking for memories because grandma or mom had this glass. Enjoy the memories while also perhaps looking to fill in a pattern.”

Don't rush through: “There is no time limit!”

Take it in threes: “Most people I know wander through the show at least three times. One time, they start right to left, then they go left to right. Then, after sitting and thinking about what they saw, they do a more thorough look and perhaps buy that special piece.”

Baby come back! “You can always come back the second day at no additional charge.”

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