It was some years ago that my wonderful friend and fantastic fine artist Fiona Almeleh enquired of me on how to use a dremel tool and do the inlays that I do. I invited her to my studio to spend some time with me exploring this medium. She was very excited at the potential that was manifesting for her, and went out and bought her own tools.
She would spend many hours playing with the Tibetan system of using coloured sand as an inlay medium. She would cut out of the wood the parts that needed to be filled with colour not dissimilar from the way she works with her acrylic paints.
Looking at this rosette one can see how she completely understood, and in fact pioneered a whole new direction for inlay. Fiona went as far as to experiment with different sea and river sands, as they all reflect light in different quadrants. She would stain them, and then graduate the intensity of the colours across the inlay of the project.
The client wanted his and his wife’s star signs on a rosette, they had been to the planetarium in Holland and were really taken up with the colour of the ceiling. I therefore chose Lapis Lazuli as the background for this story. This story gets very interesting in that initially all that was required was to make a rosette with two star signs, the client then phoned me from England to say that he would like the star signs of his three children included. As Tracey Novick my conceptual artist and I were still in the process of designing the rosette this was no a problem, two weeks later he sent me an email to say as his children stars signs were on the rosette, it was only fair to include his new wife’s children’s star signs as well. At this point the rosette was beginning to become overloaded with star signs. To complicate matters further, he sent me another email to include the star sign of his ex wife. At this point there was no space, and Tracey and I were at a loss as to how we were going to accomplish all this on the rosette. Not only this, but some of the star signs were the same, so I had to start including the rising signs to differentiate between the children. I finally got the brainwave to move him and his star sign the Scorpio to the headstock. His wife being Aquarian had the sign of the water pourer, what connected them as a couple was music, and there the fingerboard was used as the connecting piece between him his current wife, ex wife and all the children on the rosette. The materials used was wood, ivory, obsidian and Lapis Lazuli. The end result was very successful and the client was given a sheet of paper with all the explanations.
This guitar was commissioned by Mr Griffen. He wanted a Griffen in the rosette and in a celestial sky. The materials used were silver and pearl. The background material was African Blackwood.
This is my personal instrument, the rosette represent my star chart at birth. I am a Leo represented by the sun sign at the edge of the fingerboard. Born through woman into a Catholic family. The rest is about my first wife being Jewish, the huge influence of surfing, and music in my life. I think for all of us human voyagers, we have experience heart break. Hence the hearts broken and unbroken. And then into my walk with Indian mythology, my studies in Indian for a year in 1972 as a young man searching for the answers in a culture which made a lot of sense to me. Following is Buddhism, my dogs, my six children, three of my own and three step children. All of this flows into the head which is the bushman Shaman Alchemist drawing, which appears on a rock in the Cederburg Mountains South Africa. To complete my story I see myself in the work, and in the journey that I have traveled as a Shaman Alchemist Planetary Dancer.
Materials used: African Blackwood background, Solid silver figures. The reason for using for using solid silver, is it’s one of the few materials that one can cut, and still show the line of a bow, and the shaft of a spear in one piece. Its literally impossible to cut any other material by hand to show this kind of detail.
Father & Son
This was a request from a father who was buying a guitar for his son, and then decided he wanted one as well. His son was studying music, and they were both playing music together. The theme was Spanish Granade. The materials used: The background was African Blackwood, and the shell was New Zealand Paua.
The American Elephant & Africa Story
This commission came from a man who lost his wife very suddenly when she was at the young age of 50 years old. He contacted me as an African guitar builder to make an inlay story to commemorate her death. In his brief to me he explained that she had worked as a care giver in Ghana, North Africa. That she was beloved by the African people, who honored her with an African name. She had a deep love of elephants, he sent me pictures of elephants in all shapes, sizes and forms that they had in their home in the United States.
This is probably one of the most difficult commissions that I took on, in that it was not possibly to not be emotionally involved myself. And it appears it was the same for Tracey my conceptual artists, as well as Helena Esperandieu who painted the elephant on the back of the guitar copied from a painting his deceased wife had painted. As it was to be an African theme for the instrument. African Blackwood was chosen for the guitar back and sides.
For at least two months and more we toyed with the elephants, the cloak from the ceremony, the stool she sat on all the symbols and beads that she wore around her neck (depicted in the fingerboard). Meanwhile, being quite embroiled in the sadness or the bitter-sweet of this inlay. I tried to put the story down in a way that was congruent with the clients wishes, and being sensitive to the huge grief that he held. Again, as is often the case it came to me in the middle of the night, that the rosette needed to contain all the elephants in different shapes and forms, and the headstock needed to tell the story. There had been a request for the Ghanaian sign of peace, and unity to be incorporated in the inlay, this can be seen on the blue Lapis Lazuri elephant. It is two crocodiles crossing over each other.
The headstock faceplate inlay shows her love of Africa in the heart, the colours in the heart are from the cloak she wore in her naming ceremony. The Sugilite Africa is the authentic Ghanaian gemstone, the tree is the African Boabab.
A Man’s Journey
In this case the client was a fine guitar player, Dental surgeon, Painter, Philosopher and Musician. The story begins with a book of life, and of learning, symbolising all the study and discovery that he had to do, to become a dental surgeon, and an adventurer in life.
The soccer boots recall his youth as a champion junior league soccer player. This image flows into the palette of colours he used in his last painting. The red dripping from the Palette, indicates the blood spilt in his journey and as a healer, a changing adventure day by day. The African Eagle symbolises the freedom that he achieved in crossing these major thresholds of his life. The open books circling the sound hole are many lives past and future, sspiraling out of the music and his dance of life.
My daughter Lucinda, who was doing fine art in her last year of school, suggested that the images appear on pages falling out of the book of life. The Chinese artist Wang Peng was commissioned to draw the pictures the inlay was based on.
Materials: Lapis Lazuli, Culled elephant ivory, and various reconstituted gemstones