Then, I had everything I needed...
Three years worth of corks (free)
Five wreath forms -- 6 inch ($0.99), 12 inch ($1.99) and 18 inch ($3.99, but only $1.60 after my 60-percent-off coupon). (Spoiler alert...I only needed one.)
One glue gun (from fifth grade, so basically free to me)
Glue gun all fired up (and ready to go!), I placed some brown mailing paper on the dining room table. I started out with the 6-inch wreath form and created a reasonably ugly little bad boy.
After admitting defeat, I came to the realization I had no idea what I was doing. I disassembled the wreath with ease (glue-gun glue is fairly forgiving). I decided to just make the 18-inch wreath and make it well. Then I did some Web research and found this helpful post.
I followed the site's advice and divided out my favorite corks to save for the top layer. I want this project to have some sentimental value, which is why I didn't use plain store-bought corks and instead spent over three years collecting corks. I set aside the corks from our travels, special restaurants and generally favorite wines (like Mark West and Dynamite).
I realized that I needed a plan for layering. So, I designed this pattern for the bottom layer:
Complete bottom layer:
Continuing with the site's advice, I made a second layer with randomly placed corks -- some vertical, some horizontal, some diagonal.
Close up of second layer:
To increase the wreath's visual interest, I made a third and final layer by placing corks on the inside and outside edges of the wreath, as well as adding more randomly placed corks on the top.
Close up of third layer:
And, a couple hours later, I have a complete wreath perched on a dining room mantle.
My wreath isn't perfect. There are places where I got a little happy with the glue gun, and there is clearly too much glue visible. Next time I might use the straw wreath form rather than the wooden one.
My wreath also isn't 100 percent complete. I still want to add a grosgrain ribbon to the bottom, but I'm looking for the right color, most likely a deep blue. For now, though, I'll say "Mission accomplished" and return some unused wreath forms to the store.