Wood Studio, a family–owned and operated custom-woodworking business, opened in 1986 in Decatur and now has offices in Fort Payne and Arley. The business, which among other projects designs and constructs rockers, swings, chairs and stools, is gaining recognition throughout the South for its quality and innovation. Garden & Gun named Wood Studio the overall winner in its “Made in the South Awards” for the studio's Lookout Mountain Rocker, and the company was featured in the October 2015 issue of Southern Living.
A CHAT WITH WOOD STUDIO
Tell us about what you make.
For the most part and simply put, me, my brother Dylan Cochran and my dad, Randy Cochran, make fine handmade wooden furniture. We also make or are responsible for making our Cabinetmaker’s Sidekick. It is a leather holster that is worn on a belt and holds a tape measure and pretty much any type of pencil, pen or marker.
Tell us about your background. What brought you to Alabama in the first place? Are you native or a transplant?
We are all born and raised here. Me and my brother in Decatur, Alabama, and my dad in Fort Payne.
The shop or Wood Studio “officially” started in Decatur in 1985–86. The shop was in the backyard, so Dylan and I worked summers and after school in the shop since we were 12–13 years old.
Even before that, Dad had always made stuff out of wood and had a small shop and we were cutting up knife handles on the band saw since we were 8 or so. Dad moved the shop to Nashville mid 90s. Me and Dylan were in school in Auburn, where I got a degree in Industrial Design, and Dylan got a degree in Wildlife Management, as did my wife, Allison. Allison and I moved to southwest Florida after school, and Dylan moved out to Colorado.
While we were in Florida I worked building wooden boats, and for the first time I guess realized that I was a pretty good woodworker. In early 2000 Allison got offered a job for the Bankhead National Forest, and we moved to Houston, Alabama, and instantly fell in love with the area. We live on Smith Lake. It’s beautiful and peaceful, but kind of removed from the conveniences of “town.” If you’re good with that, it is a great place to live.
Dad was making furniture in Nashville, basically by himself, and by the time we moved here, Dad had work stacked up and asked if I wanted to come give him a hand during the week, until I “figured out what I was doing.” Dylan moved to Nashville and bought a house, and we just couldn’t put it down. After being in Nashville for a couple of years — I was going to Nashville to work during the week and coming back to Houston on the weekend — the best part of my week came when I got off the interstate and hit the two lanes and crossed that beat-up Winston County Line sign.
We had struggled through some tough times with work, but everyone felt so wholehearted about what we were doing we felt the only way to continue was to all make some sacrifices. But that does not always mean bad things. We had fallen in love with where we were in Winston County and definitely saw an opportunity to invest in our own space back home in Alabama, where hopefully we can work for years to come.
We eventually found and bought some land in Arley, Alabama, and started working on building a shop and house for Dylan while working out of our shop in Nashville to pay the bills.
Anyway, Dad moved back home in Fort Payne, where he has a small shop and runs the office. We moved the shop to Arley in 2006 and haven’t looked back since.
You could make your product/service anywhere. Why do you make things in Alabama?
That’s just it — I don’t think we could at this point make our stuff anywhere else. Plus, it is home for all of us and there is no place any of us would rather be.
What inspires you to make your product/service? Was Alabama behind any of the inspiration behind your product/service?
A lot of our inspiration comes from the materials we use. We all just love wood. One big reason we are here is for access to some of the best materials in the world as far as we are concerned.
For our signature furniture, we primarily use air-dried Southern native hardwoods that we source as close to home as possible. We are also inspired by our natural surroundings, which at this point we are lucky to have surrounded ourselves by.
What do you think makes Alabama makers different?
I think for the most part, a lot of Alabama makers develop their skills on their own, so it just creates a very diverse group. It hasn’t always been easy to make a living being a “maker” in Alabama, so the ones who have been able to pull it off have put a lot of time plus blood, sweat and tears into their work. Especially if you “do your own thing,” which for whatever reason I think we are lucky to see here in our state. Most of the Alabama makers I know are just 110% devoted to their craft, or work, or art, or music or foods. You’re just not able to pull it off unless you are.
Which Alabama makers inspire you?
Randy Cochran and Dylan Cochran
Cal Breed and Mark Leputa at Orbix Hot Glass in Fort Payne
Garlan Gudger Jr. and the whole crew at Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman
Scott Peek at Standard Deluxe in Waverly
Hardy Gilbert at the Avondale Bar and Tap Room in Auburn
Kathryn Hunter at Blackbird Letterpress in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Tom Bagby at Hot Diggity Dogs in Birmingham
Brian Teasley and Carl Ratliff at Saturn in Birmingham
Peter Karvonen at Faith Skate Supply in Birmingham
Sloan Bibb in Decatur
Butch Anthony in Seal
Natalie Chanin in Muscle Shoals
Every brewery in Alabama
Alabama the band
The Pine Hill Haints
Explore the area
The View from Lookout Mountain
The Sound of (Sacred Harp) Music
It's Showtime at Alabama's Historic Theaters