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AP photo/Commercial-News, Mary Wicoff Kathleen O’Bannon adjusts a bottle top at her display at the Danville Art League holiday shop in Danville. O’Bannon started project about a year ago, almost by accident. She had planned to make a hummingbird feeder with a wine bottle, and was searching the Internet for directions. However, she stumbled across a site featuring lighted bottles, and decided to try her hand at the art.
The Associated Press
DANVILLE (AP) — When Kathleen O’Bannon looks at an empty wine bottle, she envisions a twinkling work of art. A coat of frosted paint, a few flowers or decals, a glass stopper and she’s transformed the bottle into an illuminated thing of beauty.
“It’s a hobby that’s turned into more than a hobby,” she said. “I could do a show every weekend.”
O’Bannon started the Rescued Glass Project about a year ago, almost by accident. She had planned to make a hummingbird feeder with a wine bottle, and was searching the Internet for directions. However, she stumbled across a site featuring lighted bottles, and decided to try her hand at the art.
She collects empty bottles of all shapes and sizes, cleans them, drills a hole in the bottom for the cord, inserts a string of Christmas lights, applies the paint, and then the details that make each bottle unique.
O’Bannon said she had to teach herself each step of the process, and learned by trial and error. For example, she had to learn which glues would work the best on glass.
Once she had a few bottles finished, her daughter urged her to participate in the holiday market in Urbana. O’Bannon was surprised when she sold all 12 bottles.
From there, the hobby took off, and she keeps busy replacing the bottles, which she sells at art shows and at Rabbittown Antiques.
“I’ve been so blessed and I’m so humbled by the response I get,” she said.
Not only is she saving the bottles from the landfill, but she also recycles other items for decorations. She loves to go to thrift stores and rummage sales, where she finds drawer knobs, for example, that become stoppers. She also turns unique salt-and-pepper shakers into bottle stoppers.
O’Bannon comes up with her own designs, and also takes custom orders. A person gives her an idea — for example, a bottle in memory of someone or a special cause or hobby — and she’ll do the rest.
Bottles with a Harley-Davidson theme are among the biggest sellers, followed by John Deere and Farmall. In October, she created bottles for a Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser. One customer with multiple sclerosis requested a bottle, and O’Bannon used a “fight for the cure” theme.
O’Bannon uses a frosted painting technique, which she says is unique.
She replaces the bottle caps or corks with items such a glass penguin, a star, bell, snowflake or small baseball. She applies decorations, such as felt cardinal, silk flowers, crystal gems, ornaments, rub-on transfers and stickers.
“I can have a table of 60 bottles and no duplicates,” she said.
O’Bannon also said with a laugh that women customers come up and admire the beauty of the bottles, while the men turn the bottles upside down, examining how they were made.
O’Bannon said she easily created more than 300 bottles in the past year. She usually spends Sundays on the drilling, cleaning and painting, and then adds the embellishments throughout the week, creating about 30 bottles at a time.
She usually has no trouble finding empty bottles, as her co-workers at Quaker Oats keep her supplied.
She’s also starting to experiment with wine glasses, which hold tea lights, and later might try lamps.
She sells the bottles year-round, and they make nice gifts for Mother’s Day, birthdays, holidays (Halloween, Easter and Fourth of July, for example), and special occasions, such as graduations. She can create bottles for all of the universities, sports teams and military branches.
One of O’Bannon’s fans is Jacqueline Sisson, a member of the Art League who’s in charge of its holiday shop in Towne Centre.
“She’s my favorite bottle lady in the world,” Sisson said. “There are none who do the details and go the extra mile. She’s incredible.”
Sisson, who likes pansies, said O’Bannon gifted her with a pansy-theme bottle. “This is a woman with such an incredible heart,” she said. “This woman has a heart of gold.”
She also noted the bottles are safe and don’t get too hot from the lights.
O’Bannon said she appreciates all the support she’s been getting from people who buy and admire her work. She appreciates that Rabbittown welcomed her, and that her co-workers at Quaker Oats have been supportive.
“I love hearing back from the customers,” she said. “That makes me feel so good. I love getting suggestions.”
O’Bannon also gift-wraps each purchase in a wine bag, and will ship orders. She gets approval from the customer before shipping, adding, “I always make sure the customer is happy.”
Her artwork also will be getting a wider audience, as a shop in Gatlinburg, Tenn., bought some to resell.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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