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DayCreek Journal

August 23, 2003

The Great Bottle Debate

For the most part Jo and I agree on most subjects related to the house. There are occasions though that we have our artistic differences. One of these "occasions" occurred when we started discussing the glass bottle design to be located in the center wall of our master bedroom. But before I get into our artistic differences, I digress.

The bottle design was created back in 2001 when I was mortaring the exterior walls. Back then, life was simple. All I had to do was line up a bunch of clear glass bottles in the wall to resemble a sun-ray pattern. (See DayCreek Journal - July 1, 2001) At the time I was bit naive thinking that I could find some nice yellow or red bottles for the inside wall once I got around to it.

Since 2001 I have been on a quest for yellow and/or red bottles. I asked all of our friends and relatives to keep an eye out for uniquely colored bottles. We got our share of some rather ugly yellowish wine bottles that looked better full rather than empty. Finding brightly colored yellow or red bottles was becoming a challenge.

Low and behold, Nick Nichols (Houston County Recycling Coordinator) came to me one day with a bright, red bottle that someone had thrown away. This certainly was a red-letter day. But not so fast— the original label was missing. Any hope for tracking down more of these bottles seemed to be "trashed". Months went by and no sign of any more red bottles. Hope for finding more of these red bottles seemed to be fading.

But then one fateful day another bottle ended up at the recycling center and again there was no label to be found, but the neck of the bottle had the original wrapper on it. It read: DOOR PENINSULA WINERY. This was the break I had been waiting for! Door Peninsula is another name for Door County which is a famous resort area in Wisconsin. I now knew where to find the red bottles.

Strangely enough, my Dad was about to take a trip up to Door County so I asked him if he try to find the winery. Two days later, my neighbor Mandi said she was going to Door County with some friends, and she would look for the place too. And then my brother Jim and his family decided to take a trip up there. Before I knew it, I had collection of red bottles. (Some had to be emptied.)

These red bottles aren't really red. They have a red coating over clear glass that makes it appear red. I wondered why there aren't any real red bottles? From what I have learned it is extremely hard to make red glass and it requires gold or copper to make the glass red. I guess that is why red bottles are so rare. Even if these bottles aren't really red, they are quite pleasing to the eye.

The Great Debate
So now that we had red bottles for the wall, the question became how to strategically place the bottles to make the sun-ray appear like a sun-ray. I had a total of 12 red bottles, but the design required a total of approximately 30 bottles. Some other color and/or clear bottles would have to be used to make the design complete.

I started playing around with different combinations of bottles and emailing photographs to Jo so we could discuss the different patterns. At first there were two, then four, then eight...well, you get the idea—I kept trying different bottle designs and neither one of us were happy.

So after about a week of emailing photographs I came home and I used the computer to simulate different bottle colors and patterns. (Virtual bottle-end designs!) That didn't help either. We just couldn't decide on a pattern that we liked. I suggested to Jo that we should pick the best patterns and let our readers decide. We could have an Internet vote. That didn't fly either. Defeated, I went about doing other walls and working on other aspects of the house.

Finally, I decided that this was the week for the bottle-end wall. I emailed Jo a couple more photographs when I got up to the point in the wall that I could go no further without mortaring in the bottles. (That certainly helped force the issue.) Needless to say, this last attempt at the sun-ray design was quickly clouded over and rained upon.

I told Jo that I could just mortar over the holes and not have any bottles. Why was I putting these goofy bottles in the wall anyway? Just because Rob Roy did it doesn't mean I have to. What's their purpose? I've got plenty of windows to let light into the bedroom. It might have been the "cool thing to do" back in the 60's but now it's the 00's!

I then came to realize that I was suffering from "bottle-end heat stress." (It's not very common in Minnesota, but it does happen occasionally.) It was in the upper 90's on Wednesday and the heat was getting to me. No sense in getting all worked-up over some goofy bottles.

I went to sleep that night while visions of red and blue bottles danced in my head. Thursday morning the weather was quite pleasant and cool heads prevaled. I was in a good mood and ready to tackle the problem. I stuck with the primary colors of red, green and blue and came up with a design that we both liked. I would have liked to have found a few bright yellow bottles, but I could never find them. All and all, we are both pleased with the outcome.

Was it worth it? I think so. The colors really do add something to the wall and it does look quite beautiful when the sunlight shines in through the bottles—the colors are quite vibrant.

One final note, there is an "advantage" to building an outside and then later inside wall. It allows the builder to plug-and-play different colored bottle combinations before doing any final mortaring. And for those of you planning on building a double-wall with bottles, you too can have one of those "great debates" with your partner.

The following is a list of bottle contributors that made this wall possible:


Henry Stankevitz
Jim, Kathy, Mark and J.J. Stankevitz
Bill and Mandi Niebling


Ronald Gjertson
Deborah Thomson

*The red bottles can be found at the Door Peninsula Winery. Look for their Red Christmas Wine.

*The blue bottles used in this wall are Arizona Ginseng Iced Tea bottles. Ron has provided me with over 100 bottles that he personally drank himself. If you ever see Ron on the street, chances are he's looking for a bathroom.

Santa's elves are busy making gifts for Christmas. I wonder who might get this year's Mortar Man?