The whole idea surrounding whiskey makes me feel warm & fuzzy inside. I love the way it smells. I love hearing the ice clink in a glass. I love the color and look of it and how the light shines through it in a glass. I love the pretty bottles some fine whiskey’s come in. The only thing I don’t love about it is the taste. Sadly. Or maybe that’s a good thing. I tend to go to extremes with the things I love and hate. That’s the gemini in me. Or the Latina. Or a mix of both I suppose or neither one. Whatever it is, I just don’t love it.
I’m a wine drinker. Wino, some might say. I have been collecting wine corks for 10 years now and have amassed a few hundred (yes, hundred). It’s actually fairly easy to do, if you drink a lot of wine that is (see above notation about extremes). I have them in a huge glass vase that is sitting on my dining room floor. It makes for a pretty nice decorative piece in itself, but for years I’ve been wanting to figure out a clever and useful way of using all those corks. I thought of a push board or a tray. A wreath or coasters. There are lots of great ideas out there on how to upcycle corks, but nothing really inspired me. Or maybe I was just being lazy.
Meanwhile, I have been on the look out for the perfect lamp for my bar. I’m not the kind of person who just buys something I need to be done with it, I want to get the perfect thing I need. So I’ll go without it for a while until I find that perfect thing or can figure out a way to get my mom to make it. My mom is an expert at making everything. She can make the most amazing things out of what the rest of us would consider nothing. So finally it occurred to me that my mom and I could make a lamp out of all those wine corks. Brilliant! So I proposed the idea to her and she agreed. But as it often happens with my very creative mother, when talking about one idea a million others spring into her head and somehow we went from making a lamp out of my wine corks to making a lamp out of an old whiskey jug.
Now as I stated before I don’t love whiskey, but I did like the idea of turning an old timey whiskey jug into a lamp. I’m talking about the ones from way back in the day that were ceramic. You know what I’m talking about. Like the kind Johnny Depp would drink out of in Pirates of the Caribbean if he had been drinking whiskey instead of rum. Like the jugs with the tiny little handles so you could hook one figure in and just upend the whole bottle right down your throat. Or so I imagine that’s what swashbuckling roughians did. Anyway, that would make the perfect lamp for my little bar in my girly little condo.
So now I was on the look out for that perfect old timey whiskey jug. And as I mentioned before, sometimes it takes me a while to pull the trigger on something. And also, oddly enough it’s not so easy to find a whiskey bottle from the early 1900s (unless, of course, you are normal and search the web, but I like to make things harder for myself sometimes). The second Saturday of every month in south Atlanta there’s an amazing antiques market called Scott’s. It’s enormous and takes over two huge warehouses on either side of interstate 285. They have everything. I mean everything. From antique furniture to silver to new furniture made by hand from reclaimed wood to jewelry to books to art to fabrics to rugs…you get the idea, they have everything. But there’s one thing I couldn’t find there: an old whiskey jug! So the look out continued over the next few months.
In November I flew down to Argentina to visit my family and meet my newest cousin who was about 6 weeks old at the time. His birth made him my 40th first cousin. To say I have a very large family is an understatement. There are many amazing stories about my family but that’s for another time. When I visit Buenos Aires I go from house to house visiting as many of my family members as I can as they are scattered all over B.A. My aunt Cecilia has a house that sits on a property that is street level from the entrance but as you walk through the main floor of the house and out to the deck, you are floating above the trees with a clear view of the Rio de la Plata, which is the world’s widest river, 140 miles across at it’s widest point. The property slopes down significantly with the bedrooms being on the next level down, the pool a level below that and the garden even further down. On a pretty day you can see the river dotted with sailboats and kite surfers.
Below my aunt’s property by the railroad tracks is a little flea market held every Saturday. There is a fair amount of junk to be found but mostly the merchants at this flea market have truly beautiful and antique things. My mom bought a set of silver there once. I happened to be staying with Cecilia one weekend so she, my grandmother and I walked down to the market to pass the time. I had no high expectations for anything, it’s just fun to stroll through the stalls as it’s all outdoors and it was a beautiful day. I also didn’t take my phone or camera so sadly, no pictures to share of the pretty flea market.
And lo and behold in a small flea market in Buenos Aires I came across a stall full of old ceramic liquor bottles! I spotted a beautiful light blue and cream colored tall bottle with a lovely seal stamped into the ceramic. I asked the lady who kept the stall how much it was, so ecstatic to finally find what I had been looking for for so long and that it was so beautiful, and was quickly deflated when she told me it was $100. Turns out the bottle was from a very rare shipment of liquor from who knows where with the Argentine flag colors from the 1800s and that’s why it cost what it did. Figures I would pick the most expensive bottle there to fall in love with. None of the other bottles were that interesting and just as I was starting to get dejected, I spotted a stout green and cream colored bottle. Tentatively I asked her how much it was and was overjoyed when she told me it was $10.
Much better! And in the end the green of the bottle works better with the colors in my dining room than the light blue would have. I ended up getting that and 10 pretty little pink glasses for $2 each that Anthropologie would sell to us for $18 each. Gotta love a good exchange rate when it’s in your favor! Lots of newspaper was used to wrap each article up and tuck safely in my suitcase for my return flight to Atlanta. I also traveled with an antique chair that was bequeathed to me by my great aunt upon her passing. Not the normal souvenirs from traveling abroad I’ll admit.
So, here’s how I turned this awesome old whiskey bottle into a lamp. Let me tell you: it wasn’t easy. Not that it’s super complicated but it was fairly time consuming.First, I had to drill a hole through the bottle so that I could pull an electrical wire through it and through the opening of the bottle. The darn bottle was a lot thicker than I thought it would be. It took me probably a total of three hours spread over the course of a few days to finally get through. I rested it on some styrofoam from a package so it wouldn’t move around.It helped to wet the drill bit a touch every now and then. Because the bottle was so thick I went through three drill bits as they kept stripping.When I finally got through the next part was the electrical portion of building the lamp. I’d like to say I’m pretty handy and with my mom’s help she and I pretty much fixed up my condo when I bought it ourselves. But anything electrical my dad always handled for us. Whelp, my dad wasn’t there so I was on my own unless I wanted to wait till his next visit so I decided to just figure it out. I went to Home Depot and literally bought a “Make a Lamp Kit”.They could not make it any easier for a gal to make her own lamp!The beaded chain was so I could tie it to the electrical wire and run it through the hole I drilled so that it could fall out of the bottle opening so that I would be able to just simply pull the wire right through.The rest was just a matter of following the directions in my kit to putting all the parts together. I’m not going to pretend I know what all the parts are called, so if you try to make your own lamp, I would just recommend buying the kit and following the instructions! The hardest part about this was getting the right copper wire around the right charge. That took a little figuring out. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing and was trying to wrap the wires around the wrong place until I finally realized you just have to wrap the wire around the screw and screw it in a little tighter so it doesn’t move. Pretty simple once you know what you are doing.Ta da! So proud of my lamp, if I do say so myself.And I did find a use for one of my wine corks…as the finial!
I used portions of this YouTube video to help me get a better idea of what the heck to do about the electric portion of making the lamp www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqvGeQ59sA0