It's done! We finished it last week, but I had to wait for the weekend to find time to take photos! Here's a quick how-to for those that are interested.
1) Drink lots of wine, save all corks.
2) Measure your backsplash, cut 1/4" plywood to match. (We cut ours into 3 separate pieces to make it easier to install.)
3) Start cutting wine corks. There are a lot of ways that you can do this, but we chose to cut them in half lengthwise and then keep track of the pairs (this was a bit tricky with lots of corks). We found the easiest way to cut the corks was with a sharp X-acto knife. (Beware, the hubby sliced open his hand using a new utility knife!) The best thing for me was to press down gently on one side, score the end so you keep it even, and then finish on the other side (no sawing back and forth).
4) Ask all of your friends and family for their wine corks when you don't have enough. Better yet, get them to come over and help you cut! (Thanks again Laura and Gabe!) Drink more wine yourself to help the cause.
5) Cut more wine corks. We didn't start assembling the backsplash until we were sure we had enough corks. This allowed us to have the best assortment of corks from all of our contributors - otherwise we would have had pockets of different wines based on everyone's favorites.
6) When you've checked that your plywood does, in fact, fit the space that you cut it for, you can start assembling and gluing the corks. We cut out spaces for all of our wall outlets and light switches, so we had some gaps that we had to be aware of for cork placement. We found that it was best to keep the corks level on top (even if the boards weren't perfectly flush) simply because it gave us a little room to get the plywood back into the space with the additional width of the corks. We also left a little gap at the bottoms for this same reason, but also to provide room for caulk in certain areas.
7) Assemble all corks. You can choose any pattern you like - we chose to do a basket-weave pattern with ours. One cork (2 halves) was assembled side by side vertically, followed by another placed horizontally, then vertically, etc. This allows a little wiggle room, which is needed because corks come in different sizes and thus, you can adjust accordingly. I didn't glue anything until my entire board was layed out.
8) Glue corks. We used hot glue (beware - I ended up with 2 bad blisters from the glue on the final night - ouch!). It was quick, easy, and cheap, and when I found that I had made a mistake (or two), I could usually pry the cork off pretty easily to re-position it.
9) Attach the board (with corks) to the wall! We chose to screw our boards into the wall with no adhesive behind the boards. This ensures that the next owners won't have a horrible time of removing our artwork. In order to do this, though, you need to remember to leave the 4 corner corks off of the board until AFTER you secure the boards. I forgot to do this. Every time. So I pried off the corner corks, had David install the boards, and then glued them back on!
10) We chose to seal our corks with Spar Spray Varnish (satin
finish). This is a marine durable spray varnish, so it should be nice
and water resistant (if not waterproof). We only did 2 thin coats
instead of the 3 recommended for marine use. (Note: there is NO solvent
to dissolve spar varnish, so be very careful to tape and cover
everything in the area! I'm pretty sure we had varnish fumes/splashes
that ended up covering various things in our sink or on our counters!)
This provided not only a seal, but a nice glisten to the corks.
11) Caulk below the bottom row of corks to create a waterproof
seal for the juncture between the countertop and the backsplash. (We
chose to only do this at the sink.)
12) Enjoy! Vow never to do
this again. Drink more wine to recover.