I began making instruments in my Richmond CA home workshop in 2016. My passion for recycling, upcycling and repurposing discarded items had found a new muse. The magic of taking things that were never meant to be together, and transforming them into folk art, playable art, and then being able to make more art, music was irresistible. Each instrument is different, with a unique sound and original tone and appearance. 80 + instruments later, I have never made the same one twice.
I have made 1 and 2 string diddly bows, 3 and 4 string electric guitars, ukuleles, lap steels and basses. Resonators and fretless guitars.
The first few were not very good but led me on a path to discover what could be done with a cigar box, a stick, some strings, and an electronic pickup. Then the challenge of making them playable and sound good. Scale length, intonation, and string height and gauges. There is still a lot to learn.
From cigar boxes to cutlery boxes, wine and spirit cases, an old crutch, a film cannister, cookie tins, even a bedpan. The search is on for the next improbable combination. Truth be told, turns out you can make a stringed instrument out of just about anything.
Materials for my instruments are from frequent trips to upcycle, repurposed and recycling centers. Yard, garage, and estate sales can yield treasure as well. Objects I find on the street, and an occasional dumpster dive, lead to great finds. It’s amazing what you can find when you start looking.
Local Artist Guitar Series
Many of my favorite to build and most popular instruments were those with themes and custom designs. So, I wanted to take that a step further. In the summer of 2022,I launched a project that was a collaboration with local artists. The idea was simple, start with a repurposed box, have a local artist paint or decorate it according to their vision, and then I make it into a guitar or ukulele. Each one to be a one of a kind, playable piece of art. I currently have 8 guitars completed and hope to have 20-25 by the fall 2023.I am planning to have shows and exhibits around the Bay Area this summer and fall. They will all be for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to local charities.
For the second year in a row, I am currently the city of El Cerrito CA Recycle Center’s Artist in Residence. (El Cerrito Creative Re use). I create instruments using materials found at RERC, conduct workshops or other educational programs, provide an exhibition of artwork created during the residency.