Many people might assume that a wine bottle has no further purpose once its contents are emptied and consumed, but Gerald Adams has found a way to give bottles artistic new uses.
Adams, a resident of Knightdale who is an exhibitor at the Autumn Leaves Festival, hand-paints decorative designs on discarded wine bottles and installs lights within them which can be plugged in to brighten up virtually any room in the house.
The designs include birds, such as a cardinal perched on dogwood and owls, lighthouses, daffodils and Christmas characters. Adams likes to employ bright colors that really come to life in the glow of the light from the bottles.
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that is kind of how the craft enterprise known as Gerald’s Bottles got started about 13 years ago.
“My introduction to painting bottles was unusual,” recalled Adams, who lives in a suburb of Raleigh.
“I complained a little too loud about the price my wife paid for some wine bottle lights,” he continued. “She told me that if I was so thrifty I could make some myself — this is how I began painting wine bottles, and on my third try I came up with something that was satisfactory to her.”
The rest is history.
Adams’ wife and daughter began giving the decorative bottles to friends for presents at Christmas.
“These recipients then wanted to buy them for gifts and in about four years I went from painting 20 to 50 a year to painting 400 to 500 per year.”
That led to offering the bottles at craft shows and festivals such as Autumn Leaves, according to Adams, who in a good year will do about 10 such events.
“This will be the third year in a row coming to the Autumn Leaves Festival,” he said Tuesday while preparing for the trip to Mount Airy.
Adams gets his wine bottles from a variety of sources.
Several restaurants save bottles for him, and others come from a woman who runs the wine department of a Harris Teeter grocery store. Adams also sometimes taps into wine-tasting events, which can produce numerous crates of empties that participating wineries otherwise would have to recycle — so he steps in and recycles the bottles in a special way.
The labels are soaked off, said Adams, who prefers bottles of clear glass but also works with blue or green ones.
He uses a medium called gallery glass paint, which produces a stained-glass appearance. The paint takes about five to six hours to dry to the touch and 24 to 48 hours to cure, depending on atmospheric conditions.
The shape of a bottle determines the design that will be applied, with Adams pointing out that narrow bottles can’t accommodate butterflies with wide wingspans, for example, but are perfect for lighthouses.
“Doing this requires some patience,” he said of the precision work involved.
“I’m not a natural artist,” admitted the Knightdale resident, who is grounds superintendent for the Centennial Campus at N.C. State University and before that held the same position at the Governor’s Mansion. He also has been involved with a plant nursery and garden center in recent years.
Although Adams is not an artist, he has become well-versed in the use of color and attributes that to his landscaping background. He has learned “what colors pop when they’re used together.”
Adams’ hand-painted wine bottles tend to find their way onto kitchen counters and hearths, into bathrooms or in bedrooms for use as night lights.
He is happy to once again participate in the Mount Airy gathering.
“The Autumn Leaves Festival is of my favorite events each year — great crowds, great crafts, great food and, of course, lots of bluegrass music,” Adams said.
“It reminds me of how the old-fashioned festivals used to be that have kind of fallen by the wayside now.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.