FALLS CITY — Greg Darr, at age 70, is so busy these days he doesn’t have much time for hobbies, what with his general contractor business, helping with his wife and son’s businesses and keeping up with their ever-expanding “semi” farm.
However, when Darr’s not out golfing with his son or fishing with the other kids, one might find him cooped up in the upstairs bedroom, a sort of cramped workshop, fiddling with beer bottle caps. Specifically, gluing said bottle caps into collectable sculptures and hanging wall art.
His latest side venture, Beer Cap Designs by Greg, can be found on display at the Dallas Library or for sale at Hearts Compass in Independence. Darr was inspired to design his own beer cap creations about five years ago by a fish made from Coke bottle caps at a Lincoln City farmer’s market.
“I saw that and took a picture of it because I liked it and started experimenting doing things,” Darr said. “It seemed like fun, finding the right glue, how to shape them sometimes. I have a couple larger projects I’d like to do some day, but I’m learning as I go.”
One of his first creations was actually one of his biggest — a five-foot circular table for the family’s beach rental that the grandkids helped fill out, with “The Darr Family” in the center.
Since, he’s created crabs, sea horses, turtles, fish, scorpions, flags and peace signs.
And, no, he didn’t have to drink from all the bottles to collect the caps.
“I used to get them from a number of bars. But after COVID, my number-one supplier is Washington Street (Steakhouse and Pub). They’ve been really helpful supplying me with bottle caps,” Darr said. “All I have to do is call and they give me any bottle caps they have. About 50 every other week. Some people have donated caps I made for the art they bought. Which was nice.”
He also uses recycled wood to glue the caps upon, including scrap wood from planing mills and old barn boards.
“It’s neat to do something with them rather then put in a landfill,” Darr said.
It took a while to find the right kind of glue best suited for affixing the bottle caps to the wood surfaces, settling on a “Gorilla” silicone-based glue that does the job. Then, rather than create a workshop for his hobby, Darr keeps operations to the bedroom, for now.
“I have the bedroom. I have a table. There are bottle caps all over the place. Sorted in colors, different styles. I try and mix and match. It’s a room I work in so keep in one area so not all over the place,” he said.
Without a huge clientele list yet, Darr gets to work at his own pace. Each piece’s completion really depends upon what he’s working on.
“For example, take the American flag. It takes time to get the boards all right, set it out and then glue it down,” Darr explained. “It takes two tubes of glue of type I use. If I do like turtles, there’s multiple layers. You only do one layer at a time because you have to wait for the next layer to dry. It could take a day, or sometimes two or three days.”
His creations first began popping up at his wife Deb’s lavender business stall at the Riverside Markets in Independence. Then the flea Market. Then the new Hearts Compass store in Independence, where specific designs were requested — peace signs.
“I never did a peace sign. But these people wanted four or five peace signs. That way they wanted it custom made,” he said. “I’ve since made turtles. I had a sea horse which looked like a scorpion. Gee looks like a scorpion. So, I made scorpions. I can make a number of things. All I need is a pattern. That is just what the fun of it is.”
The art Greg has on display at the library is thanks to the marketing of Deb.
“My wife Deb, she contacted the library. She tries to help all she can. She has her own business. I help her and she helps me. We work together. We’ve been married long enough,” he said of their 52 years together.
While continuing the smaller projects, Darr has his eye on creating something big — a dragon. He saw another bottle cap dragon someone else did, but didn’t like the shape of it. It will be huge, requiring a four-foot square sheet of plywood.
As the calendar flips closer to the winter months and his outdoor contracting gigs slow, Darr figures he’ll have more time to pursue his indoor hobby.
“Someday, maybe it’ll make money,” Darr said. “But you have to hit the right type of people. I sold quite a few last year at the market. This year not so much. But a lot of people come by and take pictures of it. You hear a lot of people say, ‘I have bottle caps. I could do that.’ But the old saying is, ‘You could. But will you?’”
Darr has the will to tinker at his hobby while keeping up his expanding chores, growing lavender, making barbecue sauce, jellies and soaps for his wife’s business. So far, he’s gotten good feedback for his eclectic art style.
“People like them. They think they’re unique. It’s different. That’s the key. It’s a little different than what you would normally see,” Darr said. “It takes certain people to get accustomed to it, or used to it, to find a market. I figure it will be there someday, a larger market. If it does great. I’ll just do that and other things. Until then, I do other things and do that on the side.”
To request a design, contact darr at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-949-0450.