It’s been a wonderful weekend at the European Guitar Builders symposium 2017 held in Vienna.
It was quite an experience on many levels.
If you’ve not heard of the EGB before, it was founded 5 years ago by president Michael Spalt, vice president Juha Ruokangas, Frank Diemel, Ulrich Teuffel, Fred Pons, Andreas Neubauer, director Tania Spalt, Emma Elftorp, , Jacques Carbonneaux, and Kora Junger. It was formed as an alliance of professional independent European luthiers, the community is dedicated to sharing knowledge, resources and experience in order to preserve and innovate the art and craft of guitar building in Europe as a vital part of our musical culture.
The EGB community has grown over the years and includes some of the very finest guitar makers anywhere in the world. It’s quite exceptional that within the community it is so focused on sharing and mutual encouragement; the goal being that together we are more than the sum of the parts. I love this philosophy both in this particular sense, but also on a larger social scale.
As an EGB member and Holy Grail Guitar show exhibitor, I have attended previous symposiums and thoroughly enjoyed them. This year was a little different as it was not directly before a Holy Grail show weekend as before. We were able to attend without the added pressure that comes with preparing for exhibiting at a show. I think this brought a more relaxed atmosphere to proceedings and gave us a chance to really spend some quality time with each other and to exchange ideas and information.
One theme running through this years symposium was how to personally and collectively navigate the ups and downs of being a luthier. We are lucky and grateful to be luthiers, but as many of you know it is not always the easiest job in the world for a variety of reasons, as goes for many creative pursuits.
We were joined by Adam Pearson, who you may know as the lead guitarist in Sisters of Mercy or from his time in DKT/MC5. Adam ran insightful workshops that highlighted some developmental psychology strategies to help the community and us as individuals to deal with the challenges facing the modern day craftsman and also strategies for communicating with our clients and really understanding their needs. It was very interesting and I think we all learned a lot from it. It certainly brought us even closer together as a community.
There were also some technical workshops and lectures over the weekend, such as information relating to all the new CITES and Lacey regulations about certain woods, a very comprehensive sanding and finishing lecture from Frank Diemel and Ulrich Teuffel, an introduction into new water borne finishing techniques from Hans Geerdink and a French polishing workshop with Adrian Lucas. All were incredibly interesting and full of useful and practical information.
I’d very much like to thank all those that gave presentations and contributed to the symposium, it was hugely appreciated.
Perhaps the center piece of this years symposium is the community build project.
In a bid to encourage the art of working together the EGB board came up with the concept of the community project which is a number of individual luthiers all working together on a single project. Sounds crazy? It is!
Three musicians have been selected to be the community project clients. They are all very talented young female artists. One for each category of instrument maker. So we have Jacky Bastek for the acoustic community build project, Julia Hofer for the bass community build project and Elena Todorova for the electric community build project. Between five or six luthiers in each group and one mission…. to create the clients dream guitar! This project will reach fruition at the 2018 Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin, and will feature performances from each artist using their new community built instruments. There is also a community youth build project featuring some of the EGB’s youngest budding luthiers. They are creating some great designs for instruments suitable for younger players. There will be lots more press about these amazing and unique projects as they unfold and you will be able to follow each of the projects throughout the process. Watch this space – https://www.facebook.com/egbcommunitybuild/ or http://www.europeanguitarbuilders.com/cb-projects/
The overall focus of this years symposium was to acknowledge our purpose as instrument makers, to connect to ourselves, each other and the very essence of the craft. The quest to deliver beauty into the world both through our instruments themselves and the music made with them. To many of us music is the fabric of life. We live in a world dictated by vibration. I like this quote from quantum physicist Michio Kaku – “What is the universe? The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings. We are nothing but melodies .”
So, as I arrive home from Vienna, one thing I can say for certain is there is a fantastic community of people out there who couldn’t be more dedicated to the craft of musical instrument making. The joy, passion and creativity in the community is alive and well and heading in some very exciting directions. Stay tuned.