Barrel Art, Without the Whisky

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I feel that so many traditional handicrafts qualify as art, and one of these still has to be barrel-making – the cooper’s art. When it comes to whisky, the type of barrel used and what was previously stored in the barrel make up a good portion of the art of the spirit.

Cooper's workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany Source: Helge Klaus Rieder

Cooper’s workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany
Source: Helge Klaus Rieder

A few years ago, Glenfiddich commissioned Barrel Art from Johnson Banks, and I liked some of the results. All are quite clearly made from whisky barrels.

And then there’s this wood-less piece:

Johnson Banks Barrel Art - Double Helix Source: Johnson Banks

Johnson Banks Barrel Art – Double Helix
Source: Johnson Banks

Here are some more recognizable barrels from a set commissioned by Brown-Forman Travel Retailer:

Brown Forman Barrels Source: Bornrich

Brown Forman Barrels
Source: Bornrich

From Wikipedia:

“Examples of a cooper’s work include but are not limited to casks, barrels, buckets, tubs, butter churns, hogsheads, firkins, tierces, rundlets, puncheons, pipes, tuns, butts, pins and breakers.

“A cask is any piece of cooperage containing a bouge, bilge, or bulge in the middle of the container. A barrel is a type of cask, so the terms “barrel-maker” and “barrel-making” only refer to one aspect of a cooper’s work.”

These days, coopers are mainly called upon to make barrels for wine or spirits, and most barrels are no longer produced by hand.

Many years ago, I found an old example of a cooper’s work in Germany, a well-used, hand-made wooden washing tub that had been dismantled. It’s not quite whisky barrel art, but I made a small shuttered window in a door that had been permanently bricked up in the old stone tower of our house.

A stone door in our tower, with an installation we put in. The stripes on the wood doors are from the metal bands, the frame of the piece is from the bottom of the old wash barrel. Photo: PK Read

A stone door in our tower, with an installation we put in. The stripes on the wood doors are from the metal bands, the frame of the piece is from the bottom of the old wash barrel. 
Photo: PK Read

The interior of the barrel window.

The burnt-looking stripes mark where the level of the water and soap once churned. A tiny Balvenie dram with lavender from the garden. Old ceramic plates we found in the house form the mosaic. Photo: PK Read

The burnt-looking stripes mark where the level of the water and soap once churned. A tiny Balvenie dram with lavender from the garden. Old ceramic plates we found in the house form the mosaic.
Photo: PK Read

More:

A video on barrel-making:

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