Jason Cohen at JC Wood Artisan. (Photo by Stacy Lipson)

Jason Cohen didn’t set out to get into the niche market of stools made from bourbon barrels.

In fact, before he was cited as a “Best in the South” craftsman in 2011 by Garden & Gun magazine for the unusual – but as Cohen stresses, very comfortable – stools, Cohen did a lot of work on commission and furniture repair.

But once the article about his Jason Cohen Wood Artisan shop was published, the orders started coming in.

“Lots of people were calling me and buying my product,” said Cohen, whose workshop and showroom is in the Butchertown neighborhood. “If that’s a small part of the market I can tap into, how can I tap into a larger market?”

Now, Cohen focuses largely on the bourbon barrel furniture, which he says have incredible therapeutic, as well as aesthetic, benefits. The stools improve posture by the design of the furniture, specifically the angle at which people tend to sit in them, Cohen said.

“It helps align your spine for better posture,” he said.

A wood artisan by trade, Cohen has been working with wood items and furniture pieces for almost 20 years.

He has moved shops since its conception, until landing at 931 East Main Street. Previously, he worked in various locations, ranging from South Second Street to the Butchertown Market. According to Cohen, his new location is inexpensive, but prone to light flooding.

Foot traffic has increased in his shop since changing locations, Cohen said. A more prominent billboard has played a role in drawing visibility to his store.

“There’s a huge demand for bourbon barrel furniture,” said Cohen.

Cohen’s barrel stools range from $120 to $299, depending upon the type of design selected by the customer.

If you are thinking about making your own furniture, several retail web sites list the pieces for used barrels at somewhere around $160, even though there are more bourbon barrels in Kentucky than people, according to a well-circulated report from The Lane Report.

Cohen originally acquired his materials from a neighboring business, but now he gets his white oak barrels from distilleries and cooperages.

Bourbon barrels consist of two types of pieces called heads (the top and bottom rounds) and staves (the curved side pieces). Cohen uses the heads as the seat and the staves as the legs.

Cohen prides himself on making furniture that provides functionality but helps customers reduce their carbon footprint. “I normally don’t throw anything away,” said Cohen, who added that his young daughter has begun working in art with re-used source materials (she makes musical instruments from shoe boxes) and may someday become “the queen of recycling.”

According to Cohen, customers who have bought his bourbon barrel stools have used the stools as an iPod holder and as a work stool. “People have used them to play guitar,” he said.

In addition to the financial benefits, Cohen says he gets an enormous amount of personal satisfaction from his craft. “One of my favorite feelings is to watch people use my stuff,” he said.

“I’m doing this because when I’m dead and gone, I’d like to leave something behind that people can remember me by,” he said.

To learn more about Jason Cohen’s work, visit his professional website here. He also can be reached at 502-553-WOOD to place an order.

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Stacy Lipson is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national and regional publications.

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