While most people build collections of things with intrinsic value such as coins, stamps, or rare post cards, I collect wine corks—the natural ones, not the plastic kind. Corks are a natural product harvested from the cork oak tree. It takes the better part of 10 to 12 years before a tree can have its bark manually removed for the production of cork. Thankfully, no tree is harmed in the process and in 12 years, the tree bark can be harvested yet again.
My increasingly growing collection of natural corks has required me to find creative uses for these one-and-done closures in order to keep my obsession from filling endless boxes in my garage. Serious oenophiles (and collectors) out there can sympathize.
Thankfully, there are many artistic and practical uses for the cork hoarder in you. Here is a selection of creative decorations using corks and even a few non-decorative uses that may surprise you. All these ideas are easy to make at home and will alleviate you of impending guilt when you bring another stray closure home from your next holiday party.
The internet is full of traditional decorative uses for wine corks. Christmas is when many of these old soldiers relive the holidays in the form of cork Christmas trees, cork wreaths, and cork garland. However, one of the easiest uses of corks is in the form of a place card or name holder. If you are inviting a group of friends over and insist on a boy/girl/boy/girl seating arrangement, you can make yourself a set of 12 in a matter of minutes by simply hot gluing two corks together and nestling the place card in between.
Do you fancy a particular bottle for olive oil but the cork or screw top has long since disappeared? Then make your own cork closure. Simply find the decorative top of your choice (I like little plastic carrots), and adhere the top to the cork of your choosing.
Need a quick, simple gift that is traditional in name, yet not traditional in spirit? Make a cork Christmas tree ornament for next year. If you know a friend's favorite winery, and happen to have a cork from it, then you are in luck. However, any nice cork will work and your gift will certainly evoke a pleased smile.
Do you have a wine snob in the family or a friend who simply loves everything wine? With very little time you can put together great, last-minute holiday gifts for them that are both thoughtful and decorative.
A clear vase filled with corks is the perfect gift for someone who likes wine but also likes to decorate their home in a more nontraditional manner.
If you have been clever and in pre-planning mode, perhaps you have been collecting the corks from a friend or spouse. Wine snobs especially love to reminisce about their past, great bottles. Saving the corks and displaying them on a simple wooden board is an easy, very thoughtful gift they will enjoy hanging about their home for many years to come. And the gesture will probably get you future glasses of great wine!
But perhaps my favourite use of corks is to repurpose an old frame. Especially a frame that features my cats.
A homemade cork trivet is easy to make and you will never have to worry about scarring your counter top again. But what if you gave away your homemade trivet and you need to put down your hot sauté pan ASAP? If you have a handful of corks lying about, simply scatter them on the counter top and voilà, you have an instant trivet... or what I like to call "a trivet in a minute."
If you are not a cook, but just received a cork trivet as a gift from someone who "thought" you liked to cook and are now wondering how to tactfully "regift" this new kitchen addition: think again. Your trivet makes a great wall cork board for post-it notes and your car keys.
And don't forget the young ones. My favorite way to use up stray corks is to give them to my kids to use for the various craft projects they have kicking about.
I also keep a few handy to use as a shim and a fishing bobber. When I find myself fixing something that requires something between a slow drill bit and pair of pliers, a cork is the perfect disposable tool. When you need your window propped open a couple of inches, an old wine cork will get the job done.
But of course, the best part of finding all sorts of creative uses for corks begins when you retire the cork from its original job! For more ideas on how to get more use out of wine corks, click here.