Corks, corks and more corks..
Be careful what you ask for! A Bend woman who is an avid crafter (“addicted to Pinterest” she says) is learning that age-old lesson and learning it with a smile and good cheer.
This story starts with Central Oregon Daily’s Allen Schauffler in his garage, pondering what to keep and what to jettison as he tries to declutter his life.
He runs across a bag of corks he and his wife have been keeping for many, many years and decides they are on the “jettison” list, but he just can’t bear to put them in the trash so he puts the bag back where he found it.
Within the hour, he opens his monthly issue of “Ruralite”, a magazine sent out by the electric utility co-op which provides his power in Powell Butte.
On the Reader Exchange page he finds this short letter: “I make birdhouses from repurposed wine corks. With boxed wine, screw-top bottles and rubber stoppers, natural cork is hard to come by. Thanks in advance for sending corks my way.”
It’s signed by Cyllene King and gives a Bend address.
Allen is knocking on her door within days and yes, Cyllene is home and Cyllene is a mad crafter and Cyllene has been nearly buried in corks.
Corks from Idaho, corks from Alaska, corks from Washington and California, corks dropped off by neighbors, Corks from all over the west.
“To be honest, I thought Central Electric Ruralite was a Central Oregon thing” she says, “so when I started getting them from North Pole and Arizona and Montana and California and Washington I went ‘oh my gosh it must be bigger than I thought'”
A lot bigger, it turns out.
Central Electric Coop sends the monthly magazine out in this area but so do 45 other similar utility co-ops.
The total circulation is 347,000.
Weeks after her letter was printed she is still getting corks in the mail. What used to be the family workout room is now hip deep in corks, mailed in envelopes, shoe boxes, wooden boxes and plastic jars.
She’s stunned by the response.
“I mean some of these postages are 22 dollars! It’s like wow, they’d send me the corks? Pay for the postage? There’s over 500 dollars in postage here!”
Many of the packages include hand-written notes. “My favorite one is the one from the lady who says ‘my husband used to make trivets for our table and he’s been gone for ten years but I still have the habit of saving these, so here you go.’ I want to send her a house.”
Then there’s this note from a guy who did not send any corks at all but wasn’t shy about sharing personal info.
“I am a large man with a large head and I use my cork stoppers as ear plugs because my wife, also large, snores in her sleep. Sorry I can’t be of more help.”
Cyllene is taking it all in stride and is busily gluing cork birdhouses together in her garage whenever she has a spare minute.
She and Allen figure she can get rid of all the corks and reclaim her workout room if she works forty-hour weeks for two straight months. Just making birdhouses..
If you want to buy one from her, forget it. She plans to give them away. The amazing response from well-meaning strangers all over the west coast has been pavement enough.
“There’s a lot of people out there who had an idea to do something but never did and they found someone who could and here we are.”
And here she is in her garage, surrounded by corks, armed with a red-hot glue-gun and making birdhouses just as fast as she can.
“It restored my faith in humanity, that people do care and they want to help.”