Matt Staudenmaier is the first to admit he’s the worst person you could ever take to a liquor store. Why? He’s more interested in all the bottles on the shelves than what’s inside them.
Staudenmaier, 40, is constantly on the lookout for beer, wine and liquor bottles he can “upcycle” into a set of glasses, a nut tray, a candleholder or a piece of jewelry. He and his longtime partner, Grace Foley, started their small business, “Conversation Glass,” when they lived in Texas, where many cities lack glass recycling programs. The couple, who moved back to Maine last spring and now live in Waterboro, just couldn’t take it when they’d go out drinking with their Texas friends and visualize the final resting place of all those beer and wine bottles – the landfill. Such waste offended, Staudenmaier says, their “Yankee thrifty frugality thing.”
Staudenmaier already knew how to cut glass, but still, the learning curve was steep. The glass – which he collects from friends and commercial establishments, such as restaurants – “doesn’t do what you want it to do. It does what it wants to do. And if the two of you come to an understanding, you can get what you want. It’s not so much cutting as creatively breaking it in the right way.”
Once he has fashioned a rough shape, he grinds off the sharp edges by hand.
The result may be a set of four glasses with the Corona or Rolling Rock logo still on them ($30 for a set of four), a recycled Patron tequila bottle to serve salsa ($18); bottlecaps made into personalized dog tags ($15); or wine bottle bottoms transformed into a statement necklace ($24). For now, Staudenmaier sells the pieces online only (etsy.com/shop/ConversationGlass), but he hopes to have them in local shops soon.
His dream project? Crystal Skull vodka. If he can ever convince himself to buy one of the expensive bottles, he knows just what he’ll do: Sit down with “a nice glass of something, and stare at (the bottle) a while, like Hamlet did with Yorick. Just have a look, and go ‘Talk to me. Tell me what we’re going to do.’ ”
— MEREDITH GOAD