If you’re anything like most enthusiastic wine drinkers, you’ve got a stash of corks. If you’re anything like me, you hold onto your stash of corks for sentimental value, planning to do something nifty to commemorate that bottle of super special wine you drank with someone super special on some super special night…and then you find yourself lacking the necessary energy to turn your grand plans into even a modest reality, and end up tossing your corks into the recycling, feeling guilty and hoping for the best.
However, you—and I—have options. Cork is an important, renewable, sustainable and currently depleted resource. As wine-lovers, earth-lovers and righteous humans, we have better choices than tossing corks into the garbage. We can reuse and recycle—or we can make art. Here are a few suggestions on what to do with those corks you’ve been hoarding, ranging from the very silly to the very baroque, from the very utilitarian to the extraordinarily fanciful. Read on, and you too can live life beyond the cork wreath.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do with your cork is to recycle it. Two dinner conversations among wine producers that I was privy to while staying in Montalcino were entirely devoted to the declining production of quality cork. Recork.org is an organization devoted to promulgating the growing of and encouraging the recycling of cork. Their website is terribly helpful. You can even check out which bottlings and estates use natural corks and which don’t on their mobile app. You can also send your corks to this firm in Missouri, who will then turn them into tiles.
If you have a green thumb and want to reuse your corks in your garden, you can stick them on bamboo skewers, write the name of the plant in question in pretty yet legible script, and stick them in your garden soil to mark your rows of herbs, lettuces and carrots. You can also run them through a food processor to make mulch, although I’d be wary of hurting my Cuisinart.
There are a ton of crafty-type cork projects for those of you who heart your glue-gun. I find many of them skew either to the incredibly labor intensive and strange (cork bath mats in multiple varieties; cork curtains that remind me of the episode of the Brady Bunch when Peter gets his own room in the attic), or they skew to the insipidly simple and strange (cork trivets; cork Christmas tree ornaments; cork decorations that look like mice or men). There are some things that look like it’d be fun to make with kids, you know, if you have kids and want to introduce them to the joys of wine.
But let’s say you’re a serious artist, or a person who aspires to be one. No fear. You too can find a medium in cork. You can “paint” intensely lush cork portraits as Scott Gunderson has (the video is pretty cool)—or up the ante and make murals out of cork as Saimir Strati is doing. You can cover your truck with 50,000 corks and make a ball gown to match as Jan Elfmann has done. You can craft a really groovy chaise lounge out of cork, as artist Daniel Michalik did; however, it looks less like he made the chair out of recycled wine corks than he fabricated it out of cork itself—perhaps you can recreate your version from your own cork stash. Actually, this post from Urbanist curates the best of the cork art available (it also includes a couple of duds for compariso
Of course, you can always cut your corks in thirds, artfully arrange the corks on a board, and glue them in place to make a corkboard. It’s a classic for a reason. These posts from Dr. Vino and Wisebread have further inspirations for your cork repurposing. All you need is your imagination, a sharp knife, and an unquenchable thirst for wine.