Angie Strickland, who grew up working in and around farming and married a man who owns a stained-glass business, has combined those interests into unique works of art.
Strickland, a Wendell resident, started Bloomin Bottles about three and a half years ago in her husband Mike’s Knightdale studio. As their daughter, Lillie Grace, 11, was growing up, Angie found that she had more free time and prayed about what to do with it. “I just had an idea of the old bottles with the old wood,” she said.
She exhibited her wares for sale for the first time at the Millstock Music and Arts Festival in Clayton, and got a boost from the reception. “I was just amazed at how many people bought pieces and gave encouraging words and feedback,” Strickland said.
She now exhibits at 30 shows a year, selling about 60 pieces at each show. She is able to keep pretty close to home, driving no more than two hours one way to exhibit.
She uses a kiln to melt the bottles into new shapes, such as fish, but sometimes she just flattens the bottle and adds “flowers” using wire and old spigots. She mounts most of her work on wood she salvages from old farmhouses.
The kiln fits only three to five bottles at a time, so she’s constantly melting them down so they’re ready for her busy season, which runs from fall to Christmas.
She’s not an expert collector of bottles, but she likes them for what she can make from them. “I’ll probably be the one that melts that $10,000 whatever and have no idea,” she said.
She uses anything from 6-ounce Coke bottles to wine and liquor bottles, and they sit on shelves in the space she shares with her husband on North First Street, Stained Glass Associates, in the oldest building in Knightdale. “People will ask me if I need wine bottles,” she said, “and I’m like, ‘What color?’ because I kind of have a lot.”
For her wood, however, she does rely on word of mouth to find out about buildings that may be coming down soon, and she contacts the owner to see if she can pull out what she can re-use. “I enjoy the old architecture and doing something with it rather than burning it down,” she said.
She does most of her salvage work during the winter when she’s less likely to encounter snakes.
Mike Strickland, her husband of 21 years, likened their working relationship to a couple doing chores, one inside and the other outside. “She’s kind of doing her own thing and we’re doing our own thing,” he said. “It’s like you’re there together, but you’re doing two separate things.”
She’s also able to incorporate some of the scrap glass, which the stained glass business generates a lot of, into her artwork.
And, she said, if she has a question he can help with, it’s easy to ask.
But she is not lacking for inspiration. “I just pray about it a lot and the ideas just start flowing,” she said. “I just look at the bottles and the ideas start flowing.”
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826