068 When did you start looking at guitars and start wondering how you could personalize it, and turn it into a true piece of art?
TS Some of my earliest instruments were basically jokes. I wanted a fun, unique stage presence. I began to see the instruments I made as art unto themselves – and I enjoyed making them more than playing music. So, I left playing to focus on building – and they’re starting to get pretty good!
068 You’ve talked about the desire to be sustainable. How do you strive to achieve that with your work?
TS The dichotomy bothers me when musicians step off a private jet to play songs about saving the world on guitars made of rare, exotic wood and unicorn horn covered in nitrocellulose lacquer!
I “fight back” by making guitars from dismantled buildings, discarded furniture, pallets, locally felled suburban trees, etc. I still ship all over the world but I would prefer only local clients. There are three million people in Connecticut. One percent of them would keep me busy forever without the shipping footprint. Daring to be small is an overlooked way to be sustainable.
068 Do these guitars still play, or are they a visual statement piece?
TS Yes! I make fully functioning guitars – albeit some are more “functional” than others. For example, my guitar made of old nails is an exploration of reclaimed materials – but it still plays great. (You may want to be up to date on your tetanus shots). My mission statements are: “Make Worthless Things Priceless” and “Make Art That Makes Art.” I want to help discarded materials continue a useful journey. Static art is not good enough. They must add to the creative zeitgeist in the hands of other artists. The story should not end hanging on a wall.
068 What does your typical work day as an
artist look like?
TS After 15-plus years of a performing musician’s schedule, it is a novelty to keep 9 to 5 hours. But I can’t wait to get to my studio, which is a makers’ playground. Guitars take up the bulk of my time, but I always have side projects like “The Jambulance,” my solar-powered store and stage I built in an old bread truck from reclaimed materials. I also design and make tools (SqWAYreTools.com), pet toys (GuineaPigTanks.com) and my latest obsession is converting an antique Vespa scooter into a fully electric vehicle. I crave variety.
068 What can people expect from your show at the RPAC Gallery, how did you choose what pieces to show?
TS I wanted to show both the conceptual and the practical, sustainable guitars. They’re categorized in two basic groups: Function>Material, proving usability can be achieved sustainably, and Material>Function, showcasing the more fanciful explorations.
While most art exhibits say, “do not touch,” I want musicians to come in and play my art! There is a little hang out area with amplifiers. Anyone is welcome to respectfully play most instruments on display. •