Archive for General

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




Leave a comment »

Bottletree Field Trip to Ironwood Crafts Workshop

Yesterday we were so excited to visit sculptor Jeremy Stollings of Ironwood Crafts at his workshop in Hillsborough, NC.  We got a sneak preview of Stollings’s newest project, a commissioned piece for an upcoming exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh.

The piece to be displayed at the Museum is a tall, airy bottletree made from rolled steel, soaring in twists and turns, with plenty of room for classic blue bottles and maybe even a bird’s nest!



That’s not Jeremy, by the way. 🙂



North Carolina Museum of History presents “Southern Impressions,” opening Dec 11, 2015.

jeremy p2

37 Paintings on loan from the James-Farmer Collection, and museum artifacts

The Museum’s exhibit is called “Southern Impressions: Paintings from the James-Farmer Collection,” opening December 11, 2015.

According to the Museum web site, “this exhibit will explore stories of southern people, culture, and landscape through loaned paintings—from the collection of Dr. Nancy Farmer and Dr. Everette James, of Chapel Hill—and museum artifacts.”

Of course, we’re super excited about the inclusion of a bottletree in the exhibit, helping to represent southern folklife and our varied and rich cultural history.

As one of the tallest trees Stollings has built, this one presented a few challenges, including the fact that, unlike most bottletrees, this one won’t be planted in the ground.

Stollings turned the challenge into an opportunity to give the bottletree something very few have ever had — roots! Welded onto a sturdy base that will provide stability as well as unique design, the tree will be able to stand freely inside the Museum, and possibly be moved to other locations.

Thank you, Jeremy, for the wonderful tour of your workshop. We can’t wait to learn more about the exhibit and see this beautiful bottletree installed in Raleigh!

Check out the Ironwood Crafts Facebook page to see videos of Stollings working on the tree — you can almost see it come to life!




ironwood crafts jeremy stollings bottletree12



Comments (1) »

A Sea of Cobalt Blue

From the Orange County Recycling Web Site: Cart contractor staff deliver roll carts to Orange County rural residents that requested a cart.

The past few weeks in Orange County NC have been a blur of cobalt blue! And this time, not because of bottletrees, but because of these awesome new electric blue recycling carts the County is distributing for curbside recycling.

We love our new rolling cart — it holds a LOT more and makes it easier to get the stuff out to the curb. It also hopefully makes life easier for the people collecting the recyclables.

We’re definitely going to have to adjust our eyes, however. As dedicated bottletree hunters, we are used to slamming on the brakes and hollering “bottletree!?!?” whenever we see this bright blue cobalt color peeking out of someone’s backyard or from behind their garage. Now that practically every house has one of these new containers, we’re going to have to sharpen our skills! 🙂

Cobalt Blue as far as the eye can see

Leave a comment »

OHS Art Student + Monet + Bottletrees = AMAZING!

This Fall at Orange High School, the visual arts students did a unit on the techniques of Monet and other French Impressionist painters, and the students were asked to choose a subject for an impressionist painting.

One student, Mia Maxwell in Mrs. Elizabeth Dell-Jones’s art class, chose a bottletree as her subject. Mia had seen the bottletree exhibit at the Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, and other bottletrees displayed in Hillsborough, and says she was “in love with how the light seemed to dance from all the different colored bottles.”

Check out the original at the Botanical Gardens, and check out Mia’s interpretation. As with many impressionist works, the painting seems magically illuminated and even more dazzling than the original!

You can see Mia’s beautiful painting at the student art exhibit in the lobby of Orange High School, up until the end of November. We loved seeing all the students’ inspiring artwork.



“Orange County Bottle Tree” by Mia Maxwell, 2014

NC Botanical Garden blue bottle tree


Leave a comment »

Bottletrees highlighted in Hillsborough’s annual “Spirit Tour”

ghostsoldierIt is said that Hillsborough is haunted, and it certainly was filled with ghosts last Saturday night! The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough and the Orange Community Players teamed up to present a unique twist on your typical historic ghost walk, presenting an elaborately staged Spirits of Hillsborough Haunted Walking Tour.

The tour was brought to life by a host of ghostly apparitions, including historic figures such as Edmund Fanning and Mary Goddard Kollock Nash; the ghost of a fallen Confederate soldier; a despicable ne-er-do-well who died in a fight over a liquor still; and other colorful characters risen from the dead. Along the way we were spooked several times by wayward zombies, too!

Most especially, we were excited to hear the ghost of Mrs. Nash educate the tour group on the legends of bottletrees and how they can help trap “haints.”  She also told us about “haint blue” and how it is painted on the porches of many houses in the South to prevent ghosts from entering homes.

Thank you Historic Hillsborough for being such a fun place to live! Stay tuned for news about next year’s tour… this year all the slots sold out well in advance of show time, and we saw lots of people turned away at the door.  All photos by Alliance for Historic Hillsborough

fanningghost narrators

Leave a comment »

New Visitors Flyers at Hillsborough Visitors Center

Hillsborough Bottletrees Visitor FlyerAs some of you know, we are students at Cameron Park Elementary School in Hillsborough. This year, one of our classes did the Great Mail Race, where the goal is to write to other students in all fifty states, and learn about their school and life.

We wrote to Milton Elementary School in Vermont, and they wrote back telling us all about their school and state, and asked for information from us. So we went to the Hillsborough Visitors Center in the historic Alexander Dickson House on East King Street and got a ton of amazingly great stuff to send to Vermont. (Thank you Visitors Center!)

We also dropped off a stack of flyers for visitors to Hillsborough. Here is a picture of our Hillsborough Bottletrees flyer, right in there with all the other historic flyers about our town and state. We are so official! 😀

If you are in town, we hope you can stop by the Visitors Center and pick up a flyer! It has a map so you can go on your own tour of the downtown bottletrees. Many are within walking distance.

Hillsborough Visitors Center

Comments (2) »

Pro Tip: Bottled Water in Cobalt Blue Glass

blue glass bottled waterOn a reader tip (thanks, Jeffery Beam!), we just got some blue glass bottles for our bottletree at Trader Joe’s.

This is a great option for collecting blue bottles. While we were at Trader Joe’s we also saw an amazingly huge, oversized blue wine bottle, but we didn’t think our cedar tree was sturdy enough for it.

What are some of your pro tips for collecting interesting or pretty glass bottles?

Comments (2) »