A common object transformed into art.
Raise a glass to The Cork Guy — Roger Keller, an artisan working with cork and wood. His carefully crafted trivets, coasters, bottle stoppers, and SmartPhone stands are on view at farmers’ markets and special events held around the Lake area. Keller’s products are pleasing to the eye, thanks in part to their symmetry. He never trims a cork to make a level surface and never fits whole corks into a pre-made frame. Instead, they are made by hand, using solid wood — their dimensions set by the cork wine stoppers he showcases.
A Cork Guy’s trivet features 32 different natural, whole corks artistically arrayed. Keller considers the varying hues for the corks as well as the winemaker’s varied choices in font and ink color before placing them inside the frame in pairs, some oriented horizontally and some vertically. Textures, color, and fonts blend well, thanks to Keller’s keen design-eye.
Some oenophiles may already have 32 (and more) corks saved from favorite bottles. Keller will accept those wine stoppers and create a personalized trivet for a customer who can then remember favorite moments through his craft.
Keller enjoys the fact that he may be rescuing cork from a dark drawer or trash bin, especially because cork, whether natural or synthetic, does not break down quickly. It will take up space in a landfill for unimaginable lengths of time. Repurposing those wine stoppers as functional art pieces is added value for Keller.
The same is true for the wood frames. He accepts donations from friends and strangers who have a few pieces of hardwood left over after a renovation, and also engages in a bit of dumpster diving. He looks for quality wood to handmake the frames. He does the same for smaller coasters. Like the trivets, they are perfectly level — no small feat considering a cork’s shape — and the coasters are well-suited to absorb moisture from cold glasses or take the heat of a main dish just out of the oven.
Rustic woods with textured bark in place become toothpick holders — perfect for outdoor picnics and barbecues. Indoors, rustic wood provides a place for business cards or serves as a stand for slim smartphones. Sanded, finished hard wood in geometric shapes attach to a cork to stop an opened, unfinished bottle of wine.
Some customers enjoy a framed trivet or coaster with a ceramic tile at the center and surrounded by corks. For these, Keller offers Maanum Ceramic Tile Art with lake and nature scenes colorfully rendered. Jeanne Maanum, the tile artist, and Roger Keller, the Cork Guy, now live in separate states. Maanum is still in Wisconsin while Keller, his wife, and one adult son live at the Lake — a place Keller came to often throughout his working life. He was determined to make Lake of the Ozarks his home when he retired from a career as a Milwaukee police officer, and he has.
For 2020, Keller is developing a line of trivets and coasters featuring champagne corks. Those sparkling wines so often associated with a father’s loving tribute to his newly-married child and a long-married couple’s anniversary celebration will now be part of the Cork Guy’s collection. Seeing them will likely revive warm, romantic memories of life’s highest points.
Keller enjoys seeing a common, everyday object transformed. He’s glad to be putting to good use what might otherwise end up in in the garbage. Most of all, however, Keller creates nicely-balanced, textured art that will last for years to come.
Contact the Cork Guy