Wine bottles brought to light

Published 1:46 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist

Karen Tucker was once the assistant tax assessor of Jefferson County, but after 32 years in public service she retired six years ago and has made her home in Helena.

Karen Tucker displays three of her lanterns made from wine bottles. (Contributed)

She has found a unique hobby, and she couldn’t be happier. It’s loads of fun and less stressful too. It allows time for her and her husband, Dale, who is also retired from Jefferson County, to spend together, to travel and to see many old friends and meet new ones.

She created Ka Tee Lights, “Wine bottles brought to light.” She makes beautifully unique lanterns out of empty wine bottles. The hobby-turned-business started when her 93-year-old mother moved in with her. Among her many belongings was a glass cutter. Karen’s mother had always created arts and crafts. She did everything from painting and sewing to making jewelry and glass cutting.

Obviously, Karen inherited her mother’s artistic ability. The lanterns are each one-of-a-kind. Some are monogrammed and polka dotted while others have brightly colored swirls or are decorated with glass beads similar to grapes. There are green, amber or clear bottles of different sizes, and they all have a chain to hang them by and candles inside them.

The soy candles have a clean burn so they don’t darken the bottles. The lanterns can be hung or the chains can be removed, and they can be used as a glowing table decoration.

“I like the fact that this item looks pretty, requires little or no maintenance, but still provides a function,” Tucker said.

She has made too many lanterns to count but guesses she is approaching 1,000. Each lantern takes a couple of days to make but she works on several at a time. She takes custom orders and observes which décor sells best, then reproduces others like it.

She gets lots of help from her husband, her mother and her grandson, 5-year-old Ty Stricklin, who insists only on “taking money and giving change.”

While Tucker’s lanterns have been seen at the Buck Creek Festival and Helena’s Market Days, they have been at numerous other festivals including Homestead Hollow Festivals in Springville, the Bloomin Festival in Cullman, Ross Bridge Summer Markets, Tannehill and the recent 29th Rhododendron Festival in Mentone. They can also be seen at Buck Creek Glass in Helena and at the upcoming Alabaster City Festival on June 2.

Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident and writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter. You can reach her at