Terri Stonesifer's Second Chance Bottles

Last Updated on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:45pm | Arts & Culture

"Artistically Speaking" is a regular feature of The Lake-Front magazine, in cooperation with the Garrett County Arts' Council, and is being reprinted here in its entirety with permission. This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue.
For most people, empty wine and liquor bottles are something to toss in the recycling bin. For Terri Stonesifer, whose art form is recycled bottle art, they're a source of artistic inspiration. She uses all shapes, sizes, and colors of bottles to create an array of functional and decorative pieces.
Terri's signature items, and most complicated works, are her slumped bottles. She transforms them into cheese trays, spoon rests, candy dishes and even Christmas tree ornaments. "I make a lot of customized bottles for people. They're mostly bottles that have sentimental value - a wine bottle from a wedding, a special trip, a major life event, or one collected through the years. Turning their special bottle into something that can be used in a functional way means a lot to that person." Repurposing bottles to create the forms she desires involves a series of multi-step processes requiring technical skills, intense attention to detail, and a constant regard for personal safety.
Slumping bottles usually takes at least four evenings from start to finish. Describing her process, Terri "starts by soaking a few bottles in very hot water for 30 to 45 minutes. Then, using a razor blade, I lift off each label as carefully as possible trying not to damage it, so that I can use it later. Next, I scrub the glue residue off each  bottle and clean it inside and out. To make sure it is squeaky clean, I blow each bottle dry on the inside and give it one more wipe down with alcohol to remove any dirt and finger prints on the outside."
The next evening, Terry slumps the bottles using three older kilns for this purpose. She places each bottle in a mold or on the kiln shelf to shape it; four regular size wine bottles fit into each kiln. The molds and shelves are all coated with a glass separator to keep the bottles from fusing to their surfaces during the firing process. "I've had bottles fuse themselves to the molds or shelf. When that happens, I usually end up breaking the mold and the bottle. Molds and kiln shelves are quite expensive to replace." The actual firing takes up to five hours with the kiln reaching temperatures well over 1400 degrees when the cycle is complete. It takes at least 24 hours for the kilns to cool down in order to remove the bottles.
After the bottles have been slumped, the original labels are reapplied with several coats of glue. Some labels go on smoothly, while others take a bit of maneuvering to get them to adhere to the bottle without bumps and bubbles. When the labels are completely dry, Terri sprays them with a sealer to protect them. Once the sealer is dry, she wraps the neck of each bottle with wire and beads that coordinate with the color of the bottle and label. She then places rubber bumpers on the bottom of each bottle so that it will rest securely on a smooth surface and won't slide off and break during use.
In addition to her slumped works, Terri cuts and slices old bottles, turning them into wind chimes, hanging lanterns, hurricane candles, napkin holders, electric lamps, bird feeders, and other interesting pieces. "I use a wet tile saw with a diamond tip blade to cut the bottles. They do break from time to time, so safety glasses are a must! Cutting glass is also an outside project since the saw sprays a mist of water as it cuts." Once the bottles have been cut, Terri sands and polishes them to remove sharp edges and assembles the components to create the piece.
Always alert for new glass ideas and concepts, Terri frequently researches new ideas on the internet. "My husband also chimes in on thoughts about new items. I keep most of the remnants of bottles that I have collected and used over the past six years. Sometimes studying and rearranging these parts and pieces inspires me to develop something new."
Terri also recycles wine corks to make complementary items such as key chains, napkin ties, wine glass charms, wine cork garland, and tree ornaments. Last November (2014), the Christmas tree that Terri decorated and donated to the annual Garrett County Festival of Trees event, a fundraiser for the Dove Center, won "Best of Show." It was festooned with slumped wine bottle ornaments, wine cork garland, and other decorations that she created by hand.
Branching out into another area of glasswork, Terri has recently started recycling old windows for use as primitive decorations. "So far I've only created a couple of window pieces, but I really enjoy the new train of thought! As an artist, I am always trying to perfect my art. I strive to present high quality work."
Terri's works are available for purchase at The Gallery Shop, 206 East Alder Street in Oakland, Four Storm Artists Gallery near Swallow Falls State Park, Sister's Corners Emporium in Frederick, Maryland, as well as online through the Four Storm Gallery website. She also participates in several annual arts festivals, including Art in the Park, which takes place at Deep Creek Lake State Park in mid-July, the Deep Creek Art and Wine Festival in September, the Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival during Autumn Glory in October, and the Festival of Trees in November. This year, Terri hopes to participate in a couple of arts festivals across the border in West Virginia.
For more information on local artists or to become a supporting member of arts programming throughout Garrett County, contact the Garrett County Arts Council at (301) 334-6580 or visit www.garrettarts.com.