Put a Cork In It

Darrin and I just finished watching Season 2 of the hilarious Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein sketch show, Portlandia.  If you haven’t been watching it, you’re missing out.  They provided this notorious commentary on the DIY/Craft movement in season 1.

Love it!  When my favorite DIY/Crafty gal over at Young House Love announced the latest Pinterest Challenge, I decided to take on a project I pinned a long time back, but I’d been seeing a lot of lately – wine cork projects.  With DIY cork projects popping up all over the place, it seems that they’re about to jump the shark, just as Fred & Carrie so effortlessly proved that birds did (or at least that there was some crafty-bird overkill).  So, I figured I should get this project done before it was too late.  And instead of “Put a bird on it,” my mantra for this project was “Put a cork in it.”

A long time ago, I originally pinned this photo.  The pin is so old, that when I tried to trace the origins of the photo, I hit a dead-end (if anyone can find it, please let me know).

Two things I love - letters and wine.

Since then, however, my interest in cork projects ventured beyond the simple monogram and into other creations.  I started to wonder how I might incorporate cork decorations in our wedding.  This is an especially fitting decoration given that our reception is in a backyard surrounded by a vineyard.  I stumbled upon these other photos (click photo to be taken to its original source).

A heart of cork from Lovely Morning.

An intricate design from Anthropologie found at House and Home.

Cork planters in honor of Earth Day at Anthropolgie.

All of these designs inspired me to put a twist on the regular monogramed letter.  So, first I gathered the corks (I scored about 250 from Freecycle a while back) and then laid out a pattern until I was happy with the spacing.  Then, I photographed the letters to help me remember the layout.

Pre-arranging the corks into the desired shape also helped me to know how many I needed for each letter. An 'M' for Mellissa and a 'D' for Darrin.

I started with the ‘M’ for Mellissa (I figured I’d rather do the testing on my letter, so that everything would come out perfect on Darrin’s).  I mixed a few different shades of blue and began painting the corks, one at a time.  However, I really liked the faded look as seen in the heart photograph above.  So, after I painted the top of the cork, I stamped it on a piece of newpaper to give it a distressed look.  After painting a handful or so corks one color, I mixed a little white paint into the color to lighten it up.  Then, I painted that color on a few corks.  After that, I would add a little more white paint to lighten that shade, and so on and so on.

A view of my workspace shows my color mixing as well as my stamping surface (newspaper) for a weathered look.

Once the corks were dry, I rearranged them into the ‘M’ design until I liked how the colors flowed (a little darker at the bottom, lighter at the top).  I then used a glue gun to glue each cork to the next.  I found that it was helpful to put glue on each cork before pressing together.

Rearranging the corks to prepare for gluing. I apologize for the bikini shot. I used a Target ad for my workspace and didn't realize the shot until after the fact.

The final product!

What do you think?  These are the colors for our wedding – blue and green.  So, we will be able to use the letters as decor at the wedding and to hang up in our home.  Not too shabby!

What about you?  Do you have any projects you’ve taken on recently that can pull double duty (decor for a party and your home, or have function and decoration purposes)?  Do tell!

Don’t forget to check out what the pros made during this round of the challenge.  Visit Young House Love to see Sherry’s homemade bean bag chair.  Go to Bower Power to check out Katie’s watercoloring.  Cassie over at Hi Sugarplum! made faux antlers.  Finally, Erin at The Great Indoors stole my heart with a homemade mason jar chandelier.

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Thanks for That

You might remember a few months ago when my favorite blogger at Young House Love put out a call to her readers for a Pinterest challenge and I answered.  Well, it’s that time again.  Last week, Sherry announced round two of the Pinterest challenge and I was all too happy to get involved.  On the surface, the challenge is quite simple – choose something you’ve pinned, try to recreate it putting your own spin on it, and share it with the world.

For a while now, I’ve had my eye on a particular pin that welcomed the Fall spirit and Thanksgiving season and the challenge was just the thing to get me going on this project.  First, check out my inspiration photo:

I loved how warm this up-cycled project looked.

The original creator used recycled root beer bottles and vinyl letters (much easier than the route I took – see below) made on a Cricut machine.  To see her detailed instructions, simply click on the photo above to be taken to the original post at choosetothrive.blogspot.com.

Step #1: Collecting Supplies

The supplies I used were amber colored bottles, painters tape, acrylic paint, Hard Coat Mod Podge, a sponge paint brush, a crafter’s knife, and a selection of dried wheat and other flowers.  The first items to gather were the bottles.  Darrin was all too happy to play his part here.  I was able to collect six Samuel Adams bottles, however, after Darrin brought home a pack of Sierra Nevada pale ale I decided that I liked the shape of the Sierra Nevada bottles better.  I saved the Sam Adams bottles for another Pinterest inspired project down the road.  I found that removing the labels from bottles can be quite easy.  I only had a couple bottles to clean at a time so I would let them soak in hot soapy water while I was doing dishes.  By the time I was done washing all  other dishes, the glue on the bottles was weakened to the point that I could easily peel off the labels.  I then scrubbed any excess glue from the outside of the bottle, rinsed it, and left it to air dry.

Some of my starting supplies: six clean bottles, a craft knife, painters tape, and letters. Notice the clean bottles.

Step #2: Preparing the Stencil

After collecting and cleaning my bottles, I needed to prepare my stencil.  I do not own a Cricut machine so I needed to be able to paint on my letters.  I first chose a font I liked (Harrington) and printed out my letters at my preferred height and width.  Next, I cut out each letter.  Then using painters tape, I taped off a section of the bottle, careful to make sure the area I taped was about the same height on each bottle.

Preparing to trace the letter.

The letter is ready to be cut.

The stencil is complete! Now just five more to go...

I then positioned one of the letters over the taped surface where I wanted it on the bottle; I secured the letter with two small pieces of painters tape (the painters tape worked well because I could reposition it as necessary).  Using a thin marker, I outlined the letter.  When the letter was outlined, I used a craft knife to cut out the letter from the tape on the bottle.  What remained was a stencil of the letter on the bottle.  I repeated each step on every bottle.

Step #3: Painting the Letters

Once I had the stencils completed on all of the bottles I was ready to paint.  I used acrylic paint and mixed a little yellow into white paint to create a light butter color.  I was concerned that plain white might be too bright against the amber of the bottles.  I then mixed in a little Hard Coat Mod Podge to ensure that the paint would stick to my surface over time.  Next, I used a sponge brush to apply the paint to the bottles with a light tapping motion to give it an even coating.

Here's a close-up of the texture of the paint on the bottle.

After a few hours of drying, I very carefully removed the painters tape on the bottle.  There were some areas where the paint on the bottle and the paint on the tape were stuck together.  So, when I tried to pull the tape, the paint on the bottle tried to come off, too.  Since the paint was still soft, I was able to place my finger on the paint on the bottle and pull the tape away.  This worked to separate the paint and made sure that the paint left on the bottle would stick.  The next day, all the paint on the bottle was secure and there was no sign of peeling.

The paint dried nicely with a rustic like finish.

Step #4: Adding Decorative Flowers

The final step of this process was to add the floral decoration.  The inspiration photo used stalks of wheat in each bottle.  However, when I went to the craft store to buy the wheat, I was inspired by the different colors and shapes of dried flowers they had for sale.  All I had to do was trim the stalks to my desired height before inserting into the bottle.

The final product on our mantle.

I’m so proud of how this turned out.  I love the warmth this brings to our mantle, which is naturally cool in tones.  I’m also thinking of bringing this decoration back out for our wedding next year, since it will be an early fall wedding.  I can see this display on the sign-in table or somewhere where our guests can see it so they know we are thankful for their attendance and for sharing in the special day with us.

As far as costs, the only thing I spent money on was the wheat and flowers.  I bought them at Michaels and I used a coupon!  The bottles were recycled, I already had the paint, glue, craft tools, and painters tape.  So, all in all, I’m also quite pleased with the cost of this project.  If someone had access to wheat on their property, I’d think they could pull this project off for close to free.

What do you think?  Do you have any projects you’re working on that you’re particularly proud of?  Share!  Share!

Also, be sure to check out what the pros produced during this round of the challenge.  Visit Young House Love to see Sherry’s homemade Christmas ornaments.  Go to Bower Power to check out Katie’s antiqued window project.  Erin over at House of Earnest made a super cool gold lined lamp.  Finally, super-builder Ana White built a pocket bookshelf for a little girl’s room.

Signing Up and Signing In

So it’s been an exciting week or so at the Jessen Hiser House.  It started off with some of our favorite house guests – Darrin’s younger brother Derek and his children – and ended with our engagement party/housewarming open-house!  It was so fun to finally get a chance to entertain and welcome people into our home.

In the midst of all the excitement, my home-style-guru over at Young House Love (is anyone keeping count of how many times I mention these people…it might be borderline stalker) Sherry announced a summer Pinterest Challenge.  Sherry and some of her friends are challenging themselves and their readers to actually attempt to make something inspired by a pin on their personal Pinterest page.  If you’ve been following my blog at all, by now you know I’m mad about Pinterest and have been soaking-up all kinds of ideas for our wedding and the house.  This challenge could not have been more timely.  I had already planned to try out a couple of things at our party this past weekend.  What I wasn’t necessarily planning on doing was sharing the progress of the projects.  But, thanks to the challenge I’ve been inspired…so here we go!

It all started with the following photo I found on Pinterest.  It’s a twist on the traditional guest book.  Guests leave their fingerprint behind, as opposed to signing their names.

A twist on the traditional "guestbook" has guests making fingerprint balloons.

There were three things that I instantly loved about this project.  The first was how unique and interactive it is – allowing guests to engage in a mini-art project.  The second is that it creates a piece of artwork that can hang in the house for years.  The third is that it reminds me of the Pixar film, “Up.”

When Darrin proposed, he asked me two questions.  The first was, “Are you ready for an adventure?”  The second was, “Will you marry me?”  When we talked about it later he explained that he was inspired by Up.  For those of you who saw the movie, do you remember this part?

I thought the sentiment was so sweet and it melted my heart.  So, of course I’m now trying to tie in subtle references to the film in our wedding.  However, one thing I don’t like about the “guestbook” above is that the fingerprints are only distinguishable to a trained CSI professional.  How am I supposed to tell the difference between my dad’s fingerprint and sister’s fingerprint?

So, I decided to try something a little different and work in my other current obsession.  I thought, what if the fingerprints weren’t fingerprints but letters?  Still with me?  Then guests could stamp their initials and we could (theoretically) deduce that RJ is my dad and TB is my sister.  So, I set-up a table at our party with a water color board, a selection of ink pads, letter stamps, and instructions.  Here are some photos of the set-up.

A cheery hydrangea and a photo of us, taken right after we got engaged, helped set the scene.

The instructions let guests know what to do without requiring someone to staff the table.

I bought a pack of letter stamps with two different fonts at Michael's using their 40% off coupon from the Sunday paper.

All in all, I was really pleased with the set-up.  I used a compass to draw circles on the board and asked guests to stamp inside the circles.  I imagined that I would eventually draw a dark line around the circles to turn those into large balloons (keeping with the Up theme) that would connect to a monogram at the bottom of the board, representing Darrin and me.  When the party was all said and done, this was the final product:

Our guests in letters.

When I first saw it, I felt a little deflated.  I think I even heard that “wop-wop” sound somewhere in the distance.  Looking back, I think I should have done some more prep work to my canvas.  I also should have bought a smaller canvas as I feel like there is too much white space.

But, all is not lost.  I’m simply going to consider this a work in progress.  I’ve got some ideas about what I can do to finish this piece and bring it to life.  I really want to keep to my original intention, which is to have a piece of art featuring the contributions of our friends and family – our loved ones.  What a great way to start turning our house into our home!

So, what about you?  Have you had any big ideas that didn’t exactly turn out the way you hoped?  How did you end up making it work?

Update: To see some real pros at work, checkout the Pinterest Challenge pages of Sherry at Young House Love, Katie at Bower Power, Emily Henderson, and Lana at Making a House a Home.