One of the things I love about doing what I do is working with passionate people. Five minutes with Carol Lundquist, the owner and artist behind Wine Bottle Art, will show you how passionate she is about her work, and give you the perfect example of merging what you love with how you live.
Q: How did Wine Bottle Art get started?
A: “I became interested in glass work in 1997 when I bought a house in Maryland with a large sidelight and transom around the door. I decided I wanted to fill the space with stained glass so I began taking classes and working with another stained glass artist to learn about design. It took a while but by 2008, I had completed the glass for the door and additional glass for a railing.
While learning how to make stained glass for my house, I had to learn many different types of techniques to work glass such as glass fusing (melting glass into new shapes), cold working (using grinders and drills to alter the shapes of glass), and glass painting. In 2009, I started Wine Bottle Art to turn my hobby into a business.”
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: “I started as a business in 2009 by selling at craft shows. It took a while to adjust my processes from being a hobby to being a business able to make a large number of items quickly. I began selling to stores and eventually became an all wholesale business by 2019. I also retired from my day job in 2019 and moved to West Virginia taking Wine Bottle Art with me. I had a new house built in West Virginia with the entire basement set up as a workshop. I designed the new house so it could also accommodate the stained glass panels which I moved from the Maryland house. I now do glass work full-time while living in the West Virginia mountains.”
Q: Why wine bottles for your medium?
A: “While learning about glass work and participating in the early craft shows, I observed that many people doing glass work commercially went out of business fairly quickly due to the high cost of art glass. Art glass is glass specifically made for doing glass work and it is beautiful with vibrant colors but expensive.
People have been recycling bottles to make flat cheese platters for a long time but these tend to be just a flat bottle or a flat bottle embellished with wire and beads. I had been experimenting with recycled glass and wanted to see if I could apply art glass techniques to recycled bottles. The physics of the glass make this complicated because different types of glass expand and contract at different rates when heated and cooled and combining incompatible glasses can cause the glass work to crack. One of the reasons art glass is so expensive is that each piece is tested to determine its coefficient of expansion (COE). Recycled glass has variable COEs and it can react in unpredictable ways when it is heated and cooled.
Based on my experiments, I worked out a process to combine art glass with recycled glass. The results are the speckled wine bottle cheese platters. I also worked out the process to imprint designs into the backs of the wine bottle cheese platters.
The result of applying art glass techniques and materials to recycled glass is affordable glass art anyone can enjoy.”
Q: How many people work for Wine Bottle Art?
A: “Wine Bottle Art is very small and only Sarah and I work for it.”
Q: Where do you get the wine bottles?
A: “I get wine bottles from local wineries who save the empty bottles from their tasting rooms. Glass recycling is not economical in most parts of West Virginia due to the long distances glass would need to be hauled to be recycled so most glass ends up in a landfill. The wineries are happy to save their bottles for me so I can recycle them.
Two years ago, I began making mini ornaments from the bottoms of clear beer/malt beverage bottles. My neighbors enthusiastically help me obtain these bottles by giving me many feed sacks full of empty bottles.”
Q: How long does it take you to develop a new design? How do you go about that process? How often do you introduce new design? Do you get inspiration from anywhere in particular?
A: “I generally introduce new designs in January and July to coincide with the trade shows with designs for Spring coming out in January and designs for the holidays coming out in July. Many of the new designs are based on customer requests where a customer will ask a store if they have any ornaments that have ___?__. This is how the nurse and police snowmen ornaments were added last year and a teacher snowman was added this year.
Other ideas come from things I see in my gardens or from stuff done by Sarah or the cats. Once I have an idea, it usually can be turned into a workable design in a couple of hours.”
Q: What’s next for the business?
A: “I continue to look for new materials and techniques I can incorporate in the glass work to expand the range of what can be done with recycled glass. A new transfer medium has been developed that allows images printed on this medium by a metallic oxide laser printer to be permanently applied to glass. This means photos, logos or any other type of graphics can be put on glass. If it can be printed, it can now be applied to the glass. This process allows for extensive customization of the glass work by allowing everyone to make their own designs which I can then apply to the glass.”
Q: What do you think is the most exciting part of the business?
A: “The most exciting part of the business is getting in touch with people who like my work.
I’m now reaching people all across the USA as well as Canada and Europe. I also really like finding ways to use my business to support my community. I was one of the first artists to sign up to participate in a new gallery starting in a nearby town. By shipping through the local post office, I’m helping to reinforce the case to keep this vital community resource operational when many rural post offices are facing pressure to close and consolidate into larger towns.”
Q: Do you have a favorite item to make?
A: “My favorite items to make are the new painted and fused ornaments. Introduced last year, I take a fused ornament made from cut and shaped glass and then paint it. Stocking ornaments were first but hearts and easter eggs came out this year. I’m planning on making stockings in other colors for this upcoming holiday season.”
Q: What do you like best about being in business?
A: “After working for other people for 32 years, I really like being in business for myself and being able to follow my muse in trying out different techniques and making new designs. Living on a mountain in West Virginia gives me the quiet needed to be creative and each day brings something new whether it is a large flock of wild turkeys parading past my workshop window or a herd of deer fawns frolicking on my lawn.”
Q: What is something you want customers to know about you or your business?
A: “I’m always looking for new ideas so if there is something you would like, just ask and it may be possible.”