I am a luthier (guitarmaker) and belong to the ancient lineage of carpenters who decided to specialize! I live in Portland, Oregon, which is in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. However, let’s go back to the beginning.
I grew up in the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, which is now an independent Central Asian country, situated along the ancient silk and spice trade route. East and West, Asia, Mediterranean and Europe spiced and flavored the music, art, culinary and culture of the region.
As a youth, I attended a music school, focusing on piano. Later on, around the age of 12, I started playing guitar. My first guitar was purchased for me by my mom. It was a factory-made guitar, possessing neither stellar aesthetics nor playability. Despite this guitar’s shortcomings, it was enough to get me interested. Besides, attempts at improving its set-up and sound, gave me early opportunities to act as my own guitar tech!
In the late 9o’s, I walked into a local Portland music store called Pioneer Music. Low and behold, on the wall was hanging an early 70’s Manuel Contreras flamenco guitar (Manuel Contreras was a well-regarded Spanish luthier who initially worked for the Ramirez guitar-making dynasty, and eventually set-up his own guitar making shop). There I stood, looking at this beautiful, well-used guitar. It displayed evidence of various repaired cracks, none of which detracted from the guitar’s charm. It had obviously lived a full and adventurous life. I asked the store clerk for a permission to see the guitar. I was allowed to hold and examine it. And then I played it. I couldn’t stop for a while. Both, transfixed and transported at once, and in utter awe of the guitar’s sensitivity and depth of sound. My eyes (and ears) were opened to new possibilities, and my previous experiences (with mostly higher-end factory guitars) were utterly eclipsed by this new revelation! Alas, I could not afford this guitar. This experience, however, planted a seed of promise that some day, I will make a guitar of my own.
Soon after my “Contreras” encounter, I began devouring all published literature I could find through bookstores, libraries and the internet. Later, while living and traveling in Europe, I visited numerous luthiers’ shops in Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovenia. Last, but not least, the GAL ( Guild of American Luthiers ) has been a tremendous resource, and a connecting hub to many luthiers from around the world. I am deeply appreciative of their work, and the collective wisdom of its members.
Upon my return to the United States, I set-up my first tiny shop in Keene, New Hampshire. I built my first half a dozen guitars there. The entire shop space was a mere 4ft. x 8ft. footprint, and situated in a residential building. Any power tools were out of question. In hind-sight, I am grateful for the space constraints, as I was forced to learn and finesse hand-tool technique. There are quiet, understated beauty, freedom and exquisite precision to well-tuned, expertly used hand tools. The unbridled freedom they present to the woodworker is incomparable to just about any machine I can think of. I’m thinking “finesse”, not “brute force”.
After several years on the East Coast of the USA, I moved back to Portland, Oregon, where I continue my lutherie pursuits. Musicians pour a lot of heart and soul into their art, sharing from the core of who they are. So do I, making each instrument form the very core of my abilities, sensibilities, and skills. From my hands to yours!