By: Rita Villa

20140506_192317 If you visit Smidgens you will often find a collection of empty wine bottles sitting on the corner of my desk waiting to be washed. These are the ones my friends have graciously
sacrificed themselves to consume. There’s always a box or two in my trunk from Aunt Rita & her friends…who are avid wine drinkers. At home there is a collection of Kahlua and Vodka bottles Gary has managed to disguise as his “chocolate milk” at dinner. All this in the name of filling bottle trees.

I always loved seeing them in other people’s yards, but never had one of my own. That all ended last summer when I bought a few from the great folks at Big Country Bottle Trees. I carefully washed my collection of colored bottles and covered the trees. OMG, I was hooked. When the sun hit those bottles and the colored light filled my yard it was magical.

We live in Upstate NY, near Rochester. Our winters are cold and snowy. Last winter was one of the worst we’ve had in 30 years. But every time I went into my yard, even during the “polar vortex”, the bottle trees were shining brightly. Their colored light against the heaping mounds of white snow kept reminding me summer would eventually come, even if it seemed impossible.

20140506_180555Summer did eventually come and the first thing I did was design a bottle tree of my own. I started sketching on paper. After I decided on a design I drew it in AutoCad on my computer. Gary suggested 1/4” steel because it was heavy duty and would stand up to the weather. At the same time, it was still thin enough that I could bend the branches in any direction I wanted. I sent my files out to Roy, who operates our Mazak Optiplex laser. Within a few hours I got to see if it fit together…it was perfect.

After my father added a few welds, just to be sure the two sides were held together tightly, I bent the branches and started adding bottles. The only thing I did wrong was make 140 branches…now that’s a lot of bottles. Many of the branches on this tree are small so I used beer bottles, the single serve Kahlua, (which Gary happily drank in the name of filling the tree), tiny vases, etc. Luckily, I had been saving them for awhile. As the day progressed, the sun came out and filled the pink, purple, red, blue, and green bottles with light. I couldn’t believe I had made that! I grabbed my pencil and sketch pad and started the next one.