Sunday, February 6, 2011

Handcrafted Bali Guitars a Sought-After Success

Pairing Western technology with traditional wood carving has proven successful for one workshop on Bali, with global musicians seeking out its unlikely product -- guitars.
Canadian Danny Fonfeder, himself an avid guitar player, realised during a visit that the lack of good guitars on the resort island, known more for music featuring gongs and flutes, and the skill of Balinese wood carvers could lead to a new business venture.
After recruiting Wayan Tuges, a master wood carver from the hill town of Ubud, and luthier George Morris from Vermont, he began Blueberry, a guitar shop that marries East and West, six years ago."Originally I'm a woodcarver," said the 55-year-old Tuges, who didn't know how to play a guitar before starting at the workshop but said the carving had never been a difficulty."But the most difficult (thing) is how we can make the sound. But we've got (that) now." The guitars are made with wood imported from Canada, with Tuges tapping each piece of wood to check the sound before choosing it.Each guitar is carved with motifs of birds, dragons, flowers or goddesses, with the buyer able to choose what they want, and takes at least 50 to 60 days to make.
From a staff of 42 carvers the workshop has grown to 47, all of them trained by Tuges. Many wearing t-shirts, they sit cross-legged on the floor, in a group, to carve.
The workshop produces 20 guitars a month. Each sells for $1,000 to $6,000 dollars, depending on the design and the materials used.
Tuges said Blueberry guitars are used by a number of musicians including Dino Bradley, Rick Monroe and the group Little Texas.
"Most of my creation is sold to Americans. Let's say 90 percent to American guitarists, and the rest to Europe and Asia," he said, adding that he hoped to see more Indonesians using his guitars.

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