Hello, I am Thierry!
- Here is a brief overview of my background as a luthier, in text and image format.
(For a complementary, text only, and more in-depth version, click here.)
Most of my youth was for me about making and building things. As far as I can remember, I always had a project going on. The type of activity I was drawn to involved both manual aspect, creative force, and uplifting function.
Working from our family garage, I think I have never imagined something I would build, but wouldn't use ; This even if my roller windsurfer prototypes didn't quite make the the cut at the time.
Around age nine I got the electric drill and jig saw that I had seen in a catalogue, along with the twelve-inch Synchronicity album by The Police. Coming back from school I would work everyday along to the music. I was motivated in a simple way, and this was an auspicious start.
This hands-on focus became nurturing up to a point where the boarding school years that followed seemed to me quite long. Music then became an intuitive partner throughout this formation. It would be very fair to say that my life at the time was based on a bright yellow, Sony Sports Walkman.
At 16, when high school finally ended (to make a long story short), I went straight to the music store to buy myself an electric guitar. I wandered about it for a while. Playing, listening and looking at this absolutely magical object, I never suspected that it could be made by humans:
-These vibrating strings were bound to the divine for sure ... This incredible power was most likely rooted in the East, hence the "made in China" sticker on the back of the guitar's peg head.
Then one day I will always remember; - A guitarist and colleague from my summer job came to see my guitar at my apartment. He then very simply started talking about my divine connection in terms of parts and materials, assembly, screws, fret wire, wood, paint and clear coats. - I started to tremble ...; Everything suddenly clicked and made sense.
Three weeks later, I started my formation at Lutherie-Guitare Bruand for a five-year deal."
- Excerpt from the article: 10 Questions We Ask Everyone - Guitars Exchange - Italy
So I learned the basics and subtleties of guitar making from '92 to '97 under the direction of André Brunet, a passionate individual and skillful teacher.
Then in 1998 I opened my workshop in Montreal, and have ever since made stringed instruments as a profession.
In the beginning, I kept close to the general outline of the guitar, to eventually branch off somewhat, and explore a genuine interest towards what I could name the origins of the guitar. Making a lute, and later a series of chordophones in the exploratory mode, has opened my understanding of the guitar itself. It led me back to its source.
In 2005, I thus traveled to Santa Cruz CA, to study with luthier Fred Carlson. I had produced enough work to be awarded an artist grant from the Conseil de Arts et des Lettres du Québec, for to make possible this 12-week apprenticeship.
I made a baritone harp-guitar with Fred. These are the two pictures I have left of -Harpie- :
Back at home, I stayed close to Fred's experimental approach, and I made about sixty small round body instruments, which taught me a lot about the possibilities of sound, form, ergonomics, and alternative materials (skins, carbon fibre, composites) as well as on historical bracing patterns.
I was quietly returning to acoustic guitar format with my creations, and obtained good sound results with the ladder-braced Guitar-fruit series in 2008 :
In 2009 was the important guitar show in Montreal ; I decided for the occasion to merge some of the ladder-bracing qualities I had just worked-out on Guitare-Fruit into a 17'' jumbo, more standard-shaped acoustic guitar.
Sakura - a return to guitar-size in a more traditionally shaped guitar. Featuring an intermixed x-bracing and ladder bracing, the instruments's neck is glued-on using a dovetail construction, although its neck block also uses a traditional Spanish heel.
Sakura in Japanese means -Cherry-, the wood used here for back and sides. -2009
This is when I decided to truly unify my production, and let go of the -smaller- instrument idea, giving myself the chance to work fully my creation's characteristics as full-scale guitars in the future.
This decision will have paved the way for the realization of more ambitious works, such as my study on the extended body instrument made of composite, entitled Po in 2008, and then the bowl-back steel-string acoustic guitar Oudtar in 2011.
The latter, referring to the Oud dating back more than 3000 years BC, will have prepared me for the realization of Oud Masmoudi in 2013.
These three combined instruments will have taught me more about working with mould-based shell assemblies.
I then started exhibiting my work more and more at the international Guitar Shows.
Meeting with my luthier peers from Canada, the United States and Germany, will have given me valuable feedback on my craft. This will have put my instruments in context, and as part of a larger collective vision and creative movement.
Guitarist Nicola Hein with my Red dot parlor guitar (right), exhibited at Estrel - Berlin in 2015 as part of the Holy Grail guitar show.
Main exhibition hall at Estrel-Berlin, HGGS 2016
Photo: courtesy Deimel Guitarworks
Receiving comments from players was influential. From 2014 to 2018 I thus experimented more on the instrument's register: - Guitars, harp-guitars and basses such as Multi, Maya, Multi 2, Maya 2, Maya 3, Raga-guitar, Old-School archtop, and Guitar-Fruit Wurcer, all have in common a quest for acoustic expression, while exploring the adapted merging of acoustic and electric guitars.
The coming of Sun, Moon, and Vibrations in 2019, and that of the Clara archtop in 2020, is in-line with this movement initiated, to create works that are expressive in both form and function, and which maintain historical relevance through their sound and ergonomics.
Sun, Moon, and Vibrations is a blown-up version of my early round-back creations, and intermixes both contemporary guitar making with primitive lutherie techniques : - Its Poplar soundbox is carved-out from solid wood, in a fashion reminiscent of some old-world instruments like the Tar, the Sarod or the Pipa. - 2019
The Clara archtop is a traditional x-braced 16.5" archtop guitar. It features a neck humbucker that is suspended from the inside of the guitar, attached to its neck block. Its controls are also set into the tailpiece, giving priority to its acoustic function and structural integrity. - 2020
I feel lucky to be a guitar maker at this time in the evolution of the instrument, and I love to learn new things every day.
The handcrafted guitar now enjoys greater recognition among the general public. By a combined action, luthiers, musicians and guitar enthusiasts in general, will have carried the instrument towards unprecedented technical refinements and new possibilities of expression.
- One thing will not change about the guitar : It must express its primary strength by its voice!
Only when this is done, that all its aesthetic and expressive quality is highlighted and put into context.
Thierry André -