Poor Man’s Stained Glass

Bottle Trees

ABQ Rail Yard Market | Bottle Trees

When I first moved to Albuquerque, I met a woman who was collecting colored glass bottles for decorating the coyote fence at her cottage in the Jemez Mountains. She told me she was lining up glass bottles on the tops of the fence. It sounded curious. I had never seen this before, although admittedly coyote fencing was a new concept, too.

With some nosing around the internet I learned about bottle trees.  Sometimes these decorative fixtures are called, “Poor Man’s Stained Glass.” For one’s garden or exterior space they act as sun catchers: the glass sparkles and glows when sunlight passes through. That sounded pleasant enough. Then I further learned that use of upside down bottles also has roots in superstition dating back to ancient history.

Simply: the use of bottles near one’s home was to capture evil spirits. It was thought that “night spirits,” haints, ghosts, poltergeists, would be lured into and trapped in the bottles, which would prevent them from entering one’s home; and then morning light would destroy the spirits.

Whether you fancy colored bottles, or just drink a lot of Rieslings, now you have a reason to collect the glass instead of sending it to the local recycler. The idea is to turn the bottles upside down and place them on existing tree limbs or fencing posts, or craft a stand where they are placed upside down. Like a gazing ball, one can place the whimsy in the garden to enhance pleasure with the play of light in the exterior space. Of course, you could also stop at the Albuquerque Rail Yards Market on a Sunday and purchase a bottle tree to support a local artist.

I bet bottle trees could make nice color punches for background bokeh in a portrait taken outdoors with natural light. If you have used them for a background in a shot, link us to an image, in the comments below! 

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