Acoustic Guitar
I’m Not A Guitar Maker: I Just Make Guitars
I'm Not A Guitar Maker: I Just Make Guitars

I don’t know about you, but in order to be fully connected with my work and fully invested emotionally in it, I have to be clear on what I’m actually doing. What is the point of it all, why is it important?

When I sort through all the different layers and levels to get down to the core of what I do as a guitar maker, what I find when the dust settles is a generous act of giving, connecting, and communicating with people. For me, my medium is hand made guitars, but for you it could be something different. Whatever the medium may be, keeping this fact, this primary motivation in mind is of utmost importance and can transform our work from being just another product into a unique and meaningful work of art.

Despite my greatest efforts to force myself to get in line with the manufacturing model and get efficient and produce more guitars, to streamline, and standardize — I have never been able to do it. It just isn’t in me. For years, I beat myself up for this and at times I felt like a failure. I wasn’t unhappy or unfulfilled, but I felt that way because my business wasn’t as profitable or big as others and I could not buy the ads and the endorsements that others could. I longed to be able to attend all the guitar shows and do what everyone one else did because after all, from the outside it looked like they were doing so well and from the inside it looked like I wasn’t, but things are not always as they seem.

Tuning In To a Deeper Sense Of Purpose

Hand Cut Guitar Inlay
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Eventually, I had the startling realization that what I had previously thought to be my biggest fault was my greatest strength. That strength is in the fact that I am not a guitar maker, (well not just a guitar maker anyway) or just a businessman, I am an Artist. Someone who strives to create something beautiful and meaningful, something that makes a difference and a significant contribution to other peoples lives and even to our society or culture.

Making art and being an artist is about connection, and relationships, and communication. It is about friendships, and generosity. It is about pouring my best effort, my heart, my soul, and life into my work. Not for a profit, but because I care about the person for whom I’m doing the work. The money is not important, the guitar is only a means, the person and the relationship are of utmost importance. The impact the guitar has on the lives of the people who encounter it and hear it is significant. I want that impact to be the best it can possibly be. I want it to influence people in a positive way and lift them up, inspire them to go higher, push further, work harder, take more risks, and create their best music with it.

That is the true purpose of my art and why I believe creating art is more important than making money. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making money, and if everything is in line, great art should also bring with it profit, but the point is that the profit isn’t the goal, the art itself and its message, it mission is the goal. If the money becomes the goal, then the actions taken cease to be true art.

Without my art, my life wouldn’t be as rich or as fulfilling, but it isn’t just about me. A good test might be to look at what the result would be if others didn’t have my art, would it affect their life? If so, in what way?

The Strings That Bind Us Together


My hope is that my guitars, my art form, have touched the hearts and lives of others, many others, in a very deep and enriching way. Directly through the guitar, and indirectly through the relationship I have been privileged to grow with each client.

The experience of working together with people IS the point of it all, two people with a unified vision, working together to bring it into reality. Supporting and encouraging one another. There were times when my clients were facing hardship, struggles of family, finances, and health, and I was happy to do all I could to stand by them, encourage them, and pour my emotions and care into their guitar as I created it. My hope is that my care and the attitude of my heart as I worked, stayed with that guitar and even to this day it continues to convey itself through the instrument as they play.

There were also times when I was struggling with things myself, family, physical, or financial, and I was and am still truly blessed to have my clients, my friends, there to stand by me and encourage and support me. Together we endure, and together we help one another to reach higher and go further. Sometimes we can even help one another to break out of the comfort zone and go to the next level, to take that big risk and go for it.

The Exciting Journey Ahead

Tap Tining Guitar Making
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So never again will I feel bad if I’m not efficient enough or streamlined enough, or if I can’t make a guitar cheap enough. My goal is to continue to create high art, art that matters, art that makes a difference because of the story it tells, the lives it touches, and most importantly the connections and relationships it forges.

So to all of you who have embarked on this journey with me in the past I thank you from the bottom of my heart, you are my friends and co-conspirators in our mission to improve the guitar, and improve one another’s lives. And to everyone who will join me in the future I am eagerly awaiting your friendship, collaboration, and our journey to work together to create art that matters and that makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of anyone who gets to experience it.

We Can All Make A Difference

I’m not a guitar maker, I just make guitars. You are not your job. We are artists who can make a difference in our world with the unique talents and gifts we have been entrusted with for the short time we are here on planet earth. Regardless of your job and in whatever you do, do art, take the risk, invest yourself fully into the work, make the connections, be vulnerable and see what it’s like to really feel fulfilled when you are operating outside of your comfort zone and in the zone that you were made for. Today is the day, get out there and make your art — The world is waiting!

5 Responses

  1. I loved a guitar once…but that’s not why I’m here. I’m an artist, and my husband, who loves a guitar now, told me I had to read your “artist statement” because he “got it.” So here’s a big amen from me to you on behalf of artists everywhere. Thank you for saying it in a way my husband understood. Because, like you, I have no idea how to make what I do be about the money.

    That said…I hope you make scads of money inadvertently—my hope for all artists!

    • Tom says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for the kind words! I am so glad the article resonated with you and your husband. I felt like I was maybe going out on a limb a little with this since it isn’t about a new guitar model or some technical guitar thing, but the response has been so wonderful from so many people all over the world flooding my inbox.

      I guess its just one more lesson for me to learn about being an artist, which is being brave enough to step out and share the things that you feel you have to share, even when it doesn’t feel comfortable.

      Knowing it helped you makes it well worth it!

      Thanks again,

      Tom

  2. Bob says:

    Great post Tom – “You are not your job” – I love it and could not agree more. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  3. Thank you for this article. “Flowing off of every page like it was written in my soul” -Dylan

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