Guitar Makers

The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America

Kathryn Marie Dudley

Guitar Makers
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Kathryn Marie Dudley

400 pages | 42 halftones, 3 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226095387 Will Publish October 2014
E-book $21.00 ISBN: 9780226095417 Will Publish October 2014
It whispers, it sings, it rocks, and it howls. It symbolizes the voice of the folk—the open road, freedom, protest and rebellion, youth and love. It is the acoustic guitar. And over the last five decades it has become a quintessential American icon. Because this music maker is significant to so many—in ways that are cultural, romantic, and also economic—guitar making has experienced a renaissance in North America, becoming a popular hobby and, for some, a way of life.

In Guitar Makers, Kathryn Marie Dudley introduces us to builders of artisanal guitars, their place in the art world, and the specialized knowledge they’ve developed.  Drawing on time spent as a luthier’s apprentice and in-depth interviews with members of the lutherie community, she finds that guitar making is a social movement with political potential and that guitars are not simply made—they come to life.  Artisans listen to pieces of wood, respond to the liveliness of their materials, and strive to endow each instrument with an unforgettable voice and tone. Although professional luthiers work within a market society, Dudley observes that their overriding sentiment is one of passion and love of the craft. Guitar makers are not aiming for quick turnover or low-cost reproduction of products, but to create singular instruments with unique qualities, and face-to-face transactions between makers, buyers, and dealers are commonplace.

In an era where technological change has pushed skilled artisanship to the fringes of the global economy, and in the midst of a system that places a premium on faster and more efficient modes of commerce, Dudley shows us how artisanal guitar makers have carved out their own unique world that operates on alternative, more humane, and ecologically sustainable terms.
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