Welcome to Hillsborough Bottletrees

BottletreesHillsborough Bottletrees is a project started by two elementary school students in Hillsborough, NC, to locate and list all the bottletrees in our town and surrounding areas in Orange County.

If you have a bottletree and want to be included on here please contact us! If you know someone with a bottletree, please tell them about this project.

You can email us your photos, and we will upload them here for the collection. Tell us all about how you made your tree, and why, and anything else you want to share. If you don’t have any pictures, we will come and take photos for you!

You can contact us at hillsboroughbottletrees@gmail.com.  More information and FAQ on our About page.

Thank you!

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Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery Bottletree

Blue bottletree at Hillsborough Arts Council

New York may have their Macy’s windows, but we have the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery!

Fall brings the wonderful “Last Friday” events in Hillsborough to a seasonal close, and last night’s music- and art-filled event was a fitting finale to another wonderful year of celebrating the arts in Hillsborough.

Strolling down historic Churton Street, we were drawn to the glittering lights of the beautiful Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery. Featured in their window was a blue bottletree!  This particular one had the curvy, organic signature stamp of Jeremy Stollings, and – yes – this is a sample of his work.

The best thing about this exhibit, however, is the big tree’s smaller cousins. Let’s say you have a small yard, or an apartment balcony, or a shared space of one kind or another. You can still enjoy the mystical beauty of a miniature bottletree.

Check out these smaller trees — one even has tiny little bottles. And you might gain some inspiration from the use of copper buckets of sand if you want an easy, removable installation. A bottletree for every yard!

Miniature Bottletrees by Jeremy Stollings

Miniature Bottletrees by Jeremy Stollings

Rusted Roots photo Indoor Hillsborough Arts Council bottletree Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery window

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The Little School and the Big Bottletree

On a tip from a reader, we visited The Little School, a preschool program located in the Waterstone development in Hillsborough. The school recently installed a bottletree built by Sean Kehoe (“Mr. Sean”), a former teacher and current facilities manager there.

little school bottletree 1

On our visit, we immediately fell in love with how The Little School incorporates art, nature and beauty into every corner of the facility.

The bottletree is just one of many adorable and inspiring bits and pieces of artwork, many created by Mr. Sean. We haven’t written a lot about the importance of art in education, but of course we love to see art everywhere, and there’s no place more important than in children’s lives. These kids are super lucky to be surrounded by so much whimsical and engaging artwork (scroll down for more photos).


little school bottletree 2

The bottletree at The Little School was actually suggested by one of the children there. School Director Jessica Larson had, like us, grown interested in bottletrees after reading John Claude Bemis‘s book, “The Nine Pound Hammer.” (That book was actually the original inspiration for our blog, way back when!) When a young student asked for a bottletree at The Little School, Jessica jumped at the opportunity and turned to Sean to develop a design.

Mr. Sean’s design for a bottletree had to be not only beautiful but very sturdy, since it would be located on school property. His idea is quite inventive, and DIY-able without specialized tools — but you’ll need a lot of elbow grease!

He used 13 long rods of rebar, and bound them together in the middle using steel wire. Then he bent and twisted the branches in all directions. At the bottom, he bent the rods outward in a wide circle, so that the tree could actually stand by itself just on its own base. He buried the spread-out rods in the ground, and placed large boulders on top of them. This makes the tree sturdy enough that the kids can pull and wiggle the branches without disturbing the installation at all.

Sean also wrapped the branch end of each rebar rod with plastic tubing, inside each blue bottle. This keeps the bottles from clanging against the rods and avoids possible breakage. It also keeps the bottles from slipping off.

little school bottletree 4

Rebar wrapped in steel wire. Look closely and you can see that the end of each branch is wrapped in plastic tubing to hold the bottle in place.

We were impressed with creativity, simplicity, and adaptability of this awesome bottletree, and we loved meeting Jessica and Sean and waxing romantic about bottletrees. 😀

little school bottletree 3




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New Bottletree Soars to Record Heights

Two of our readers, Anne and Barry Weston, recently commissioned a spectacular new bottletree and invited friends and neighbors over to help adorn it with bottles. They were kind enough to invite us along on several legs of their journey, from the design of this impressive and inspiring art piece, through the installation and unveiling. We were able to see the tree as it was being built, observe the “planting” process in front of their home, and then celebrate with everyone once it was ready to decorate. Thank you, Anne and Barry, for allowing us to be part of this very special experience!

blackberry lane bottletree 1

New commissioned bottletree is more than 15 feet high and holds more than 100 bottles!

The bottletree, which stands taller than 15 feet above ground (plus a long extension buried in concrete) and holds more than 100 bottles, was built by metal sculptor and artist Jeremy Stollings of Ironwood Crafts in Hillsborough.

blackberry lane bottletree 2

Jeremy Stollings getting ready to deliver the tree to its new home.

“This tree was a wonderful collaboration between people who love the arts and an artist looking to stretch his abilities past anything he had previously done before. I had ideas for a grand tree that I never had the opportunity to try, and they had the desire for a tree that was truly special and breathtaking. The ironic thing is that there never were any drawings or sketches of this tree at any point. We started with a simple idea, and it grew as organically and naturally as any real tree, one piece at a time. I was never quite sure just how it was going to turn out, from the gnarls in the bark, to the high curvy branches, I just kept adding to it until it looked ‘finished’ to me.” — metal sculptor and artist Jeremy Stollings

Jeremy designed the tree using ideas and inspiration from Anne and Barry, and delivered it to their house upon completion. Watching the tree go in was exciting and a little nerve-wracking! It took a tenacious team of generous friends to dig the hole, pour the concrete, and stabilize the gigantic metal structure. But, it was successfully installed and immediately looked so much like a live tree that one might think it had simply grown there. (Click on any picture below to open a slide show.)

After a few weeks, the tree was ready to cover in glistening bottles, and Anne and Barry threw a beautiful celebration party for the occasion. Lots of people brought bottles and everyone enjoyed placing the bottles on the tree. Jeremy was on hand to speak about the creative process, and he also adjusted a few branches so that the bottles could be “just so.” We were there as well, and we had the honor of saying a few words about our blog project and a little bit of background on bottletrees. We’ll publish the text of the remarks on this blog at a later date, as several people have asked to see them (blush).

Anne also spoke eloquently about the importance of supporting art and artists, as well as the interesting position the bottletree holds at the intersection of public and private art. While not public art per se, a bottletree is visible to the public, and so it’s a wonderful way to share one’s personal love of shape and color and light with the rest of the world.

We know Anne and Barry will love this tree for many years to come, and like all bottletrees, it will change with the seasons and years, and bring new joy every day!

blackberry lane bottletree 3blackberry lane bottletree 5blackberry lane bottletree 6

If you want to ride by and see this tree in person, it is located at the end of Blackberry Lane in Hillsborough, less than ten minutes by car from downtown. Please be cautious, as it is a narrow residential street. There is an adequate turnaround at the end, so you can drive all the way in and see the tree.

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Enjoying the view from Easy Street

It’s a beautiful Friday evening in early Spring, and we’re heading into the weekend of Daylight Savings Time. For your viewing enjoyment, we offer this sweet blue bottletree in its serene backyard setting on Easy Street (really!) in Chapel Hill.  Thank you to our reader Pinkey DuBose for this great way to kick off our weekend. pinkey_dubose bottletree

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Best of Both Worlds

Can’t decide between a metal bottletree and a natural wooden one? Why not have both?

This past weekend we met Peggy, who lives on Wyngate Drive in Hillsborough. Several years ago, she bought a metal bottletree at the Raleigh Farmers Market. Metal trees have a lot of benefits — they come in many beautiful artistic forms, they last indefinitely, you can move them around to suit your yard, and you can take them with you if you move.

wyngate dr bottletree 1

However, some folks love the more natural look of a wooden bottletree made from a dead tree or fallen limb. Peggy has a large cypress tree in her yard that died, and decided to turn that one into a bottletree too. Now she has the best of both worlds!

Peggy told us that growing up, she saw bottletrees as simply ornamental. It wasn’t until later on that she learned more about the folklore surrounding the trees. She said,

I grew up in rural Orange County, and had instilled in me the ‘make something beautiful out of what you have available’ mindset.  Money was tight, so nature and a few discards of one sort or another always provided the basis for something beautiful to come.

Bottletrees are indeed one of the earliest examples of found art, or upcycled/recycled art. It makes each one unique and beautiful.

wyngate bottletree 2

Some of these bottles are stuck onto branches, and in addition, Peggy added some wooden dowels to give a fuller look.

wyngate bottletree 3






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Bottletree Birthday Gift

We got a wonderful boost this past week when the Hillsborough Visitors Center posted a link to our blog on their Facebook page. What a difference a day makes! We got quite a few new visitors to our blog, and lots of friendly emails in our inbox. More than, oh, say, 3 or 4 clicks in one day is big news for us. 🙂  A warm welcome to all our new visitors and subscribers, and THANK YOU very much!

One of our new readers sent in the sweetest photo of the bottletree her husband built her for her birthday. Stephanie and Patrick live in the Wildwood neighborhood of Hillsborough, and this is what Stephanie told us:

Here is my bottle tree made by my husband. Patrick is a welder and made this for my birthday because I had been in love with them for years. Every year I told him how I would love to have one in our yard and finally we found one at the Museum of Life and Science that we both loved. From there we found the design that we both liked. He welded it together in our backyard. Just in time for my birthday!

This tree is a wonderful example of the strong tradition of people making self-designed bottletrees, whether out of upcycled materials, fallen or dead trees, driftwood, or if you’re lucky  enough to be married to a welder — welded metal!  We love the personal expression of bottletrees, which makes each one unique.

bottletree-wildwood neighborhood

Thank you, Stephanie and Patrick for the beautiful and romantic photo. We hope you enjoy your tree for many years to come!

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Happy Holidays 2015 from Hillsborough Bottletrees

Happy Holidays to all our friends and fans! We have exciting news from our headquarters — Santa brought us our very own brand new Jeremy Stollings original metal bottletree! This tree is more than 10 feet tall and holds almost 40 bottles — in other words, it’s huge! We love the twisty, curvy style and the abundant look.

Best wishes from us to you for a very shiny, sparkly Happy New Year in 2016!

sunlight bottletree jeremy stollings branches bottle tree ironwood crafts sparkly blue bottletree jeremy stollingsbranches bottletree ironwood crafts blue and green bottletree jeremy stollings

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NC Museum of History “Southern Impressions” Now Open

southern impressions

Southern Impressions at the NC Museum of History

The eagerly anticipated “Southern Impressions” exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh is now open to the public (free admission).

We got a chance to see the exhibit when it opened, and we were deeply moved and inspired to see the beautiful artwork, the evocative artifacts, and the glittering bottletree which greets visitors upon entering. The bottletree was commissioned by the Museum and built by Hillsborough artist Jeremy Stollings.

Most of all, we loved the multi-layered effect of all the items and artwork together, representing centuries of connections among people, culture, and landscape of the South. As southerners ourselves, we hold these things dear, and love the way the bottletree helps represent the many converging traditions in the South, stretching back through Africa, Europe, and Asia.

We highly recommend visiting this thoughtful and lovely exhibit. The Museum is located at 5 East Edenton Street in Raleigh, and is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.

bottle tree with blue bottles at the NC Museum of History

Bottletree artist Jeremy Stollings places one last bottle on his organically inspired tree, “Rusted Roots.”

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Bottletree to be featured in new exhibit opening Friday, Dec 11, at the NC Museum of History

"Rusted Roots" bottle tree by Jeremy Stollings

“Rusted Roots” bottle tree by Jeremy Stollings

In October we wrote about our field trip to the Ironwood Crafts workshop in Hillsborough, NC, where we dropped in on artist Jeremy Stollings working on his bottletree commissioned for the N.C. Museum of History’s upcoming exhibit, “Southern Impressions.”

Now, we are delighted to announce that the free exhibit will be opening this Friday, December 11.

The exhibit will feature paintings from the James-Farmer Collection which explore the diverse southern experience through people and landscape. The paintings will be complemented by southern artifacts including quilts, baskets, pottery, musical instruments, and yes – a bottletree!

From the Museum’s announcement:

“The variety of paintings by native-born and visiting artists captures their unique reflections of the South from 1820 through 1950,” says Michael Ausbon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts. “The artists convey the beauty — and the harsh realities — of the region’s history.”

Artists with works featured in Southern Impressions range from Sarah Miriam Peale, of the noted Peale family of painters, to Eugene Healan Thomason, who is recognized as the “Ashcan Artist of Appalachia.” Ashcan artists portrayed gritty realism in the early-20th-century American experience.

Greeting exhibit visitors will be an eye-catching, organically inspired “bottle tree” made by Durham metal artist Jeremy Stollings. The southern tradition of placing bottles on tree limbs near a home’s entrance reaches back to central African traditions and to superstitious Europeans who believed that evil spirits roaming at night could be captured in empty glass bottles.

Congratulations to Jeremy for this great honor! We can’t wait to see Rusted Roots in its new home in Raleigh! For lots more photos of the design and sculpting process of the tree, you can visit the Ironwood Crafts Facebook page.

The N.C. Museum of History is located at 5 E. Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For information about the N.C. Museum of History, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, call 919-807-7900 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org.

Painting by Eugene Healan Thomason. Loan from James-Farmer collection

Going Home: “Going Home” Eugene Healan Thomason (1895-1972) of South Carolina. Thomason is recognized as the “Ashcan Artist of Appalachia.” Ashcan artists portrayed gritty realism in the early-20th-century American experience. Painting from the collection of Dr. Everette James and Dr. Nancy Farmer of Chapel Hill. Photo credit: N.C. Museum of History

Painting by Knute Heldner. Loan from James-Farmer collection.

Swamp Scene: “Swamp Scene With Cabin” by Knute Heldner (1886?-1952) of Sweden. Heldner immigrated to the United States in 1902 and received national and international recognition for his southern landscapes and for his sympathetic, emotion-filled portrayals of rural southern life. Painting from the collection of Dr. Everette James and Dr. Nancy Farmer of Chapel Hill. Photo credit: N.C. Museum of History


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There are two ways of spreading light…

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton, American Novelist and short-story writer, 1862-1937

edith wharton candle quote


For some reason this makes me think of bottletrees.


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