Monday, March 24, 2008

Cork: Not Just a City in Ireland

Saturday March 22 had all the makings of one of those beautiful, relaxing, productive gems-of-a-day. I woke naturally. Not my normal routine of waking from a death-sleep to shrill buzzing and flurried yet efficient chaos. Nope. Naturally. I opened my eyes to birds chirping, albeit perhaps slightly tone-deaf birds, but still. It was pleasant.

I slipped out of bed, enjoyed some pressed coffee, made a stop at the local farmer's market, and discovered a delightful new coffee shop. The day was truly a sunny, crisp reminder that spring is waiting to burst forth... and a good day to start a project. The nostalgia of the morning brings a smile to my face.

It's almost enough to make me forget the pain in my now-gnarled fingertips and aching back.

But what could have happened between such a splendid beginning and such a painful end? Cork happened. It was "glue day" at Casa Clifton. A year and a half of hording corks and time had come to transform them from their careless days of loosely hanging out in display bowls and vases to the almost military-like transition of tightly aligned and streamlined parquet rows of my soon-to-be mammoth corkboard.

You may have seen corkboard projects before, perhaps online or in a magazine. Kits are available for purchase at Target,, or in the ad section of Wine Spectator Magazine. Generally, the kits range from 9 x 11 inches "trivet size" to 22 x 22 inches "magnum size". My frame? 36 x 36 inches.

Now the good news is that I over-guesstimated how many corks my frame would require. It only needs about 850 corks, as opposed to the 1,000 corks I originally guessed. That is good news, because sitting hunched over a chalkboard, hot glue gun in hand, plus 400 corks (that's right - not even half-way there) all add up to a new kind of torture. So at least it's 150 less corks of torture.

Truly, it doesn't seem like rocket science. Fit the corks together, add a few dollops of glue, and secure them to the board. Couldn't be simpler right? Sure. But it's the "matching" the cork sizes that is the challenging and time-consuming step since the goal is a smooth, even and seamless appearance. Apparently, not all corks are created equal.

And let's face it, after 2 hours of constant gluing, you get careless with finger-placement and the expletives start flying fiercely. Eventually, your fingers go numb. This makes for faster work. But then the back pain kicks in, from constant hunching. And suddenly you notice that the corks at the end are much less disciplined than the front-line guys and any responsible drill Sergeant, I mean corkboard enthusiast, wouldn't stand for such sloppiness. So you tear out the bad seeds and start that row over.

But when all is said and half-way done, the sense of satisfaction at seeing my neat little rows of corks as the pattern of the board takes shape is thrilling. My little hatchling corks that I've nurtured over the past year and a half are finding their niche in life. So it turns out that making a corkboard, like child-birth, is one of those events in which the fruits of your labor render the pain of the experience a distant memory. And since I must admit that I have never given birth, apologies to all that might view a comparison of crafting a corkboard to birthing as a stretch. Our own experiences shape our own reality.

How To Make a Corkboard


A frame or, as it might be, a chalkboard
Friends that like to drink wine
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Patience (both for collecting the corks and gluing the suckers down)


Wash the frame base or chalkboard down so no particulate matter remains and let dry
When the glue gun is heated, apply a few dollops of glue and affix to the board
Allow to cool a few hours before hanging your corkboard

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Springing Forward

I got the idea for this blog from, of all things, wine.

A year and a half ago, after noticing my cork collection had increased, I decided to create a corkboard. What a great way to transform my collection into a functional piece, I thought. Instead of making or purchasing a frame for the project, I picked up an old schoolhouse chalkboard at a yard sale from a woman who had used it to home school her children. The idea of incorporating the chalkboard into the framework of my corkboard seemed charming.


Then it occurred to me that the size of the chalkboard would require approximately 1,000 corks. Put in perspective, 1,000 corks = 1,000 bottles of wine = 750,000 milliliters of vino or about 5,500 glasses of the drink of truth.

Initially, I had this romantic notion of taking a lifetime to acquire the corks so I could look back and fondly recall the experiences that accompanied the wine's consumption. But gradually, the value of proper liver function changed my outlook and I soon enlisted friends and family to begin saving corks. Eventually, I ditched all pretense, and essentially begged restaurant staff for their spent corks. The corkboard? It's still a work in progress.

The corkboard project, however, revived an idea I had been mulling over for some time. The idea that commercial over-consumption is dependent upon, among other things, disposal. We are a throwaway society. Few and fleeting are the traditional repair shops that formerly were frequent and thriving businesses. Vacuum-repair, lamp-rewiring, lawnmower reconditioning have all been replaced by, well... replacements. Now when something breaks, we just purchase a new one and dispose of the old. This hit home recently when my favorite lamp broke. My search for a lamp-repair shop yielded just one result in an entire metropolitan area of over two million people.

Now, I'm just your average American Jane. I value the concept of recycling, of thinking globally and acting locally, of being green... but I'm a little bit lazy when it comes time to act. I only very recently committed to recycling and admittedly, guilt was a driving force. But discovering new and interesting ways to use my existing “stuff” has always been a secret pleasure. I delight in stumbling upon a new use for old curtains or 10 things to do with conditioner other than put it in your hair. I can pour through magazines with a hawk's eye for inspiration and ideas.

This blog will help in keeping me honest with my many good-intentioned projects. Consider it an accountability log. With this in mind, I hope Resourceful Living provides a venue to discover new (and old) ways in which to be resourceful.

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