Can an instrument tell a story? Luthier Florian Vorreiter thinks so. He's come up with a unique idea to customize a guitar to its owner in what he calls the Storyteller Guitar Project.
The idea is that he spends time interviewing the prospective guitarist about everything from family history to personal events to what inspires them. Then he translates those ideas into the design of the guitar.
"Basically I'm changing around the relationship with the musicians," said Vorreiter. "What initially is the relationship of supplier and client, where I'm providing them with a perfectly tailored tool, now changes to a collaboration between artists where I provide the musicians with--well it's still a guitar and it needs to sound right--but it's more a piece of artwork that is not just geared to their playing style and ergonomic needs but to their whole story, who they are, why they play the music they do, and so on."
Luthier Florian Vorreiter at work (Shane Gibson)
Vorreiter is currently building guitars for Michael Falk and Kerri Stephens Woelke. Vorreiter said their stories really fascinated him and at the same time were stories he could relate to.
"I felt that if I tell their story I'm going to be actually able to tell part of my own."
For Falk, this process has been cathartic. "I felt that if I was going to do it I wanted it to really be something meaningful.
"And I guess I also personally don't always do a great job of telling my story and being very personal with my audience. So I'm trying to do a better job of opening up a bit and pulling back some of the layers that I built for myself. This project is a step in that direction."
Falk related to Vorreiter his very first memories of growing up in the family home near Morden. It was also the place where his family fell apart. "It's always maintained a particular place for me. So we wanted to incorporate some wood from that community and from the person there who gave me my first guitar."
Vorreiter identified with Falk's sense of loss. He remembers growing up in a squatter's house in Berlin in the 1980s. One day they were told they had to leave, and were given a half an hour. He remembers leaving behind half of his toys.
"I felt that really resonated with Mike's feelings toward his past," said Vorreiter.
In order to translate Falk's story to the guitar design he came up with a way to change the cutaways and sound holes so that it actually looks like there are some missing pieces. He is even building in some dents, so it won't be a perfectly round and normal-looking guitar.
"It has totally changed the way I interact with my clients and I love the way it's working," Vorreiter said. " It's truly inspiring. Although we've just started this project, it's been exceeding my expectations thousandfold."
A detail of Florian Vorreiter's work (Art Turner)
Falk is a big admirer of Vorreiter's work as a luthier. "I though the project was really unique. I really like projects that seem like they've never been done before. It also felt like a great opportunity to be a part of bringing a couple of really special instruments into the world."
Custom guitars are significantly more expensive. These guitars could cost $7,000-$10,000 each. So to help pay for them, the musicians are presenting a concert at Vorreiter's studio where they will be launching an Indiegogo fundraising campaign.
Storyteller Guitar Project concert takes place at Vorreiter Guitars, 869 Westminster Avenue on Thursday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m.