Today I am going to tell you a little about myself as this day marks the first year of what I consider, establishing my first "real guitar shop" in Lynn, MA.
I can't believe how insanely fast this past year flew by. I am also amazed that I somehow paid the bills each month. I even re-up'd on the lease.
It seemed like last week that I packed up and moved out of my modest basement shop in a house I was renting in Marblehead. The house went up for sale last June, so it was time to look for new digs.*
*A huge thanks goes out to DaveO for helping me schlep all of my equipment across town. He is also the mastermind behind my killer website. Those who have been following me from the early days can attest to my pre-DaveO site that I horribly cobbled together. Awful. Yuck. You the man DaveO.
This past year I have been focusing on repair work while continuing to set up shop. February of this year marked an entire year since my last build and why this blog's focus has been mainly on repairs that have come through the shop. February also marked the one year anniversary of this blog. I started the blog as an outlet for me to show people what I'm up to on a somewhat regular basis outside of the world known as Facebook.** I also more recently started a mini blog over at Tumblr so I can fill in the gaps between the slightly more substantial content posted here.
**Facebook is a great resource, but I encourage you to get outside and explore the rest of what the interwebs have to offer. Let's be honest, most of FB is a complete time waster, akin to the ol' TV.
Ok Kevin, we get it. Enough with the social media bullshit.
So a little history ...
As you may or may not know, I was building Bill Tippin's guitars over in Marblehead, MA for the past six years. It was a great experience and I was allowed the freedom to experiment and further refine Bill's initial designs. Along with building, I worked on a variety of guitar repairs ranging from pre-war vintage up to high-dollar boutique. My daily routine was working on his stuff in the day, my guitars nights and weekends.
While both living and working in Marblehead, I found myself with a feeling of isolation. I felt disconnected from the music community. I was severely lacking of a social life and needed to surround myself with inspired people again. So a few years ago, I grabbed my camera and starting shooting bands around Boston. For the first time since I had left Santa Cruz, I felt part of a community again. Through my camera I was able to meet and hang with some amazing people. Musicians. Artists. Their fans. Other photographers. Other builders and repair people. I was also able to contribute to the music scene that has yielded me so much joy and inspiration. This fed back into my guitar work and helped me maintain perspective. I got to introduce myself to a lot of musicians as a builder and repairer of guitars. Plus I built some incredible friendships.
Two months ago, I decided it was time for me to focus 100% of my attention on my shop. No more Tippin Guitars. Things were getting really crazy juggling my time between a full-time day job and late nights at my shop. I was getting burned out. #chubbuckneversleeps. Frankly I was tired of building other people's guitars. I feel that I have paid my dues. Three years with Santa Cruz and six with Tippin. Now or never, time to get my shit together.
So the idea of starting your own guitar shop sounds fun, right? Well it brings along with it an entourage of demanding disciplines far beyond that of just building and repairing guitars. You need to learn accounting, cash flow, time management, social media / online presence, customer relations, networking, writing, photography, shop infrastructure, dealer / supply sourcing, etc. This is not a career, but a lifestyle. It makes you break your ass for every little win.
Guitars and my shop are always on my mind. Always. Most 9-5 employees have the luxury of leaving their baggage at work when they go home. My baggage follows me everywhere I go, all hours of the day, every day of the week. I am constantly struggling with a crushing weight that wants to paralyze me with a constantly growing list of things I need to do. Things I haven't learned yet. The more-you-know-the-less-you-know kind of things. I need to embrace this struggle and continue to connect with people far more skilled and experienced than myself. Resistance in your life is essential as it clearly marks your shortcomings. It shows you exactly where you need to begin expanding your boundaries. Fuck comfort zones.
A fellow builder and friend of mine, Chuck Sanzone, told me about a conversation he had with another builder regarding family, friends and careers:
"A long-time shop owner told me recently that luthiers can't have families or wives if they want to be successful. While I don't completely agree, I see his point."
I have a wife, daughter and another on the way in a couple months. I totally agree with Chuck - it is extremely tough, but you can have both. At least I hope so. You do this by finding that balance between your time both inside and outside of the shop. Here it is even more important that you maximize your productivity on both ends. Spend the limited time you have as wisely as possible. Balance is the key and may never be realized, but is concept that guides me. Same is true with mixing any passion with other areas of interest in your life. Balance. Feed your head with a variety of foreign subjects. Regularly take short breaks from all that intensity so you can see the forest for the trees.
As they say, easier said than done.
So what I'm saying is that I'm still figuring things out. Although I ditched the "day job", I still work nights. I'm not sure if I can ever give that up. I do work during the day full-time, but there is something about creating and feeling alive while the rest of the world is asleep. My goals for next year at this time is to have a spray booth and to have built at least four guitars (along with repairs). Definitely more building. Other goals on the list? Maybe cut back on the night hours to be a little more social? Maybe play more guitar and create some noise with others again? Maybe start to climb out of debt (hahahaha!)? Being a better dad and husband is certainly on the list. I have been reading more now that I finally picked up a Kindle. Feed that head. Balance. Keep your brain on it's toes to maintain perspective.
I want to thank everyone for their overwhelming support of what I'm doing. Especially my wife Sarah. She puts up with so much of my insanity and truly believes in what I'm doing. Even when I question it myself. I cannot do this alone. You are all amazing.
Year two. Here we go ...