Most people would not know what to do with 3,000 wine corks. Andrew Berget spent 100 hours crafting a
6-foot-tall skier, complete with skis, poles and goggles. The statue sits in the entryway of The Shine Mine, the artisan jewelry store that Berget just opened with his wife, Stacey, in Breckenridge last month.
After admiring and snapping a picture of the cork skier, visitors to The Shine Mine descend a level of steps into the store itself. It's decorated to resemble a mine, with jewelry displayed near boxes stenciled with "Dynamite," stretched out over a sluice box or artfully arranged within an ore cart. The walls, though painted in colors much cheerier than an actual mine, have a rough texture and are segmented by wooden beams.
"We wanted to come up with something that reflected 1880s Breckenridge. That's where 'Shine Mine' came from," Andrew said.
The concept is to invite visitors down into the "mine" to discover the "treasure" available for sale, namely handcrafted jewelry made by Stacey.
Stacey first started working with glass artistically about seven years ago. She bought a kiln off craigslist with the intention of doing pottery.
"I was horrible at pottery," Stacey said with a laugh. When she learned she could use her kiln to fire glass, the reaction was instant. "Oh, I love glass!"
Though it started as a hobby, Stacey was soon selling her glass. The Shine Mine now serves not only as venue but workspace as well. A peek behind the counter allows a glimpse into a chaotic artistic mind - a table littered with glass pieces of various sizes and a multitude of colors, glittering just like the mother lode of an old-time mine.
The majority of Stacey's glass is made into jewelry - rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces - but she has other pieces as well, from wine glass charms and wine stoppers to cheese platters and full-size bowls.
In addition to shaping and cutting sheets of glass, Stacey takes whole wine bottles, fires them and presses them flat, creating platters or wall decorations. Some surfaces are molded into swirling shapes. Some bottles contain special kiln paper designs or decorative glass pieces flattened inside them.
Stacey does all her work by hand and does not use molds. That means that each piece is unique, whether in shape, size, color or all three. Even jewelry cut from the same glass will differ in some way. Stacey says her inspiration comes from within and she works from ideas inside her head rather than inspired by other people's designs.
"Sometimes I go into it knowing what I want to make," Stacey said. Other times, however, the glass seems to have a mind of its own and she just has to "go with the flow."
Andrew's medium is about as different from his wife's in almost every way. He fashions figures out of cork. The majority of his current work is inches-tall skiers and snowboarders.
The cork art started several years ago on New Year's Eve, when Stacey began making a wreath out of leftover wine corks. Andrew challenged her strategy and made his first skier in response.
"Each one of them has their own personality," said Stacey, of the various cork men scattered throughout the store.
Rather than look at pictures, Andrew said he works from memory, though Stacey said she'll occasionally find him posing in front of the mirror, trying to get a stance just right.
Each little figure takes from 17-25 corks to complete. Luckily for Andrew, ample materials aren't too difficult to come by and he often receives cork donations. A cork drive may occur in the near future, which is a good thing, as Andrew plans to add a life-size snowboarder to the company of his skier, a 6-foot-tall Christmas tree and 4-foot-tall wine glass.
Stacey and Andrew moved from Broomfield to Blue River in September 2012. Though they'd been living on the Front Range, they often came to Summit County to enjoy the natural beauty and various outdoor activities. Their son and daughter are both active skiers.
"We decided to have a midlife crisis," Andrew said as to why they decided to open The Shine Mine.
So far they said they are both happy with the move and are thrilled to be living in Summit.
"We decided to move to paradise," Stacey said.
The first thing they had to do was build up their inventory. After they moved in, Stacey said she spent almost two months working 12 hours a day to create enough of a variety of jewelry to display. She estimated the store currently holds 2,000-3,000 artistic pieces.
"It was like having a newborn," Andrew said of the store.
They agreed that business has been going well so far. They even have a friendly competition going on, keeping track of how many of Andrew's pieces sell compared to how many of Stacey's sell. So far though, they said it's about even.
"Some days are cork days," Andrew said, and Stacey continued, "And other days are jewelry days."
Mostly, however, they said they are proud to be selling unique items made by themselves or (in the case of a few pieces) by Colorado-based artists, which are all made out of materials obtained in the United States.
"We're proud of that too. We're not just made in America, we're made in Breckenridge - not in Asia," Andrew said. "All the ingenuity is from our hearts and our creativity ... which is the fun part."