Obsession. It permeates everything in my life. Once an idea begins to make itself known, I get my mental teeth on it like a moray and won’t let go. In order to make some sense of my thoughts, I rely on the board. Not the board of directors—that’s where great ideas get watered down in order to appeal to the largest audience. I call mine the obsession board. It’s an entire wall in my office where anything and everything is fair game. I answer only to my imagination.
As you can see, my recent jag on Karouac and The Crow guitar as a representation of the American dream’s underbelly has really sprouted wings.
The board is a compilation of key words and images that help me connect the dots both while planning and building an instrument. Free association as well as studied theory mingle with hard data and a laundry list of materials and processes. If it occurs to me, it gets written down, and I try not to erase anything. You can never tell when an old idea will become a solution.
Of course, sometimes this madness even creeps into my dreams. Being surrounded by imagery creates subconcious thoughts, which I then turn back into new imagery. Here’s my interpretation of Crow Dream #2.
It’s time to go cut some pearl for the headstock monogram inlay. See you next time.
“There is no percentage in remembering the past”
— Taj Mahal, Take a Giant Step.
For the most part, I view lingering in the past as a cry for help. If you are afraid that your audience will abandon you, the first thing some performers do is dig into the archives for the old hits. I’m not saying that old hits are bad, I’ve had my share of “glory years” but they’re all in the rear-view mirror now.
As time passes, I become more attuned to the different needs and desires of my own motivation. I want to build guitars that have a back-story built in as opposed to building the back story for the second or third time.
Here’s a look at the hand-made book of sketches, dimensions and ponderings that accompanies each “Signature” guitar that I build. It’s a place to draw, doodle and communicate the concept that drives the build. It’s a place to record dimensions and ideas. The pages step through the thought process behind my choices—the true back-story that is built into the guitar. This is one that I’m calling “The Crow”, and when the instrument is finished, the book is hand-stitched, bound with a beautiful cover of original artwork and goes with the guitar.
I bring my experience, my taste and my sense of humor to each project. Serving the client is only one side of the coin; just as fitting my designs into a template dictated by a company policy isn’t my priority any longer. I’m free to express my own desires and esthetics with my own projects. I love what I’m doing and I hope it will show. It’s not such a bad place to be.
All of this comes to mind as I am simultaneously designing new instruments and building a classic “replica” for Anthony. In that regard, it certainly feels better to obsess on someone else’s past than your own.
The question that remains is, can guitar designs that owe so much to a vintage esthetic, move ahead without being purely nostalgic?