ByPaula Felps

Jan 13, 2014 ,

It took a bottle of vodka for Tim Gottschalk to find his true inspiration.

“My wife and I were having drinks one night, and I started looking at the bottle of Absolut,” he explains. “I thought it would make a pretty cool drinking glass.”

Gottschalk went online to find a how-to, and his research revealed more than just how to transform empty bottles into drinking glasses; he also found that companies were making money selling similar products.

“I thought if they were doing it, I could, too,” says Gottschalk, who works as a sales professional by day and crafts bottle art in the evenings and on weekends. “My wife was getting ready to go to nursing school, so I needed to find a hobby to fill up my time.”

His hobby has become a thriving business, Bottle Crafters. Based in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area, he has become a popular fixture at art shows, farmers markets and holiday market events. In his hands, discarded bottles are reborn as drinking glasses, lamps, jars, bowls, vases and more. After enjoying brisk sales on Etsy, he launched his website in 2012. Today, his popular cheese serving trays, dishes and candle holders made from melted wine bottles are not just used as expected but are also displayed as art.

Some of the wine bottles bear their original labels, but Gottschalk also puts his art skills to work making custom labels for the melted bottles. The labels include everything from monogrammed initials to clever sayings (“You had me at merlot”) to more intricately designed labels that commemorate events like an anniversary or special birthday. The cheese trays are among his best-selling items.

“A lot of people buy the monogrammed versions as hostess gifts, and they have done really well for the holidays,” he says, adding that he also makes custom pieces using special bottles that the customers provide.

Gottschalk depends on a network of friends, family, local bars and restaurants to keep him supplied with bottles, and says knowing they are giving old bottles a new life is rewarding.

“My wife and I have always been adamant recyclers,” he says. “But now it serves a dual purpose in our lives.”