Mitch MacDonald makes beautiful music with hand-made custom-built guitars
Mitch MacDonald with one of his custom creations
By Meredith Morrison
At the Canadian School of Lutherie in Dartmouth, NS, you won’t find students at computer stations or listening to professors speak from a podium. From day one, learning is a continuous hands-on process that sees them getting down and dirty in the workshop. Needless to say, splinters are a constant classroom hazard.
That’s because CSL students are learning the craft of lutherie, how to make and repair guitars and stringed instruments, from three highly skilled instructors – George Rizsanyi, Jeremy Nicks and Mitch MacDonald. As one of the three founding members of the CSL, MacDonald – who is originally from Montague, PE – is living out his childhood dream of building custom-made guitars.
“It was something that kept coming back to me throughout my life,” says the 27-year-old luthier. “I have been playing guitar for a good portion of my life and for years I thought that’s what I wanted to do – play music for a living – but it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t until I started doing some carpentry work that it dawned on me that I should combine the two.”
After moving from Montague to complete a two-year Heritage Carpentry Program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), MacDonald was presented with the opportunity to apprentice with luthier George Rizsayni, who has built custom guitars for artists such as Keith Richards, Peter Gabriel, Sting and James Taylor. One year into his apprenticeship, MacDonald, Rizsayni and fellow apprentice Jeremy Nicks decided to open a full service guitar shop dedicated to building custom instruments, teaching others their craft and offering repairs. The Canadian School of Lutherie officially opened in November 2009 and the three men have never looked back.
When asked what goes into creating a custom-built guitar, MacDonald laughs and responds “wood, glue and a whole lot of patience!” From start to finish, the process can take anywhere from two weeks to several months to complete. All instruments are made with raw materials by hand with hand-carved necks, bridges and inlays. The attention to detail is remarkable and no detail too small goes overlooked.
Unique to the CSL, many guitars are constructed using sustainable non-endangered indigenous woods from local suppliers or found by students and instructors themselves. Guitars made from local woods such as Ash, Cherry, Yellow Poplar, Hawthorn and Curly Maple give them an exciting and thrilling sound, adding unique tonal characters to each instrument. Every piece of craftsmanship that is designed and created at the CSL is as unique and individual as a fingerprint.
In the short time the school has been open, students from as far away as Japan, Germany, USA and across Canada have come to learn the art of lutherie. There are no prerequisites to enter, just a passion for creating custom works of art. “Most of our students have little to no woodworking experience,” says MacDonald. “Some don’t even know how to play the guitar.” Also, age is not a factor when applying. “We’ve had students attend from age 18 to our latest student, who is the respectable age of 79,” says MacDonald.
With a wide variety of courses to choose from, ranging from one-day repair to four-month building and repair courses, students are not limited to one set curriculum, which leaves them open to many possible career endeavours once the program is completed. “Some students end up opening their own shops, others look for jobs in music retail stores; others just want the knowledge for personal use,” explains MacDonald. Depending on what a student is looking to accomplish, the CSL and its instructors give their undivided attention every step of the way.
Last winter, the CSL built a guitar that was raffled off at the Halifax for Haiti fundraiser. “That was a wonderful project,” recalls MacDonald. “But every guitar that is completed in the shop has the same momentum and whether it be a student’s guitar or one of our own, there’s a feeling of great accomplishment in the air. We all share a deep love for this work.”
That deep level of affection shows in the finished products, which are proudly displayed for sale at the shop. Customers from all over the world, from Nova Scotia to Dubai, have purchased these one of a kind guitars and instruments and the demand just keeps growing. While MacDonald says there is no future plans to open similar schools throughout the Maritimes, he does reveal that there are plans to open a shop in Toronto in the near future.
All of these guitars were built onsite at the school by students and teachers with a love of creating.
To learn more about the Canadian School of Lutherie, visit www.canadianschooloflutherie.com or give Mitch, George or Jeremy a call at (902) 481-7614.
Mitch MacDonald makes beautiful music with hand-made custom-built guitars By Meredith Morrison At the Canadian School of Lutherie in Dartmouth, NS, you won’t find students at computer stations or listening to professors speak from a podium. From day one, learning is a continuous hands-on process that sees them getting down and dirty in the workshop. […]
Read more »
Can you be friends with an ex?
He Said/ She Said contributors Mike McNeil and Meredith Morrison. Trust us, we are NOT professionals.
A few of my best friends would be considered my “exes” and honestly, I’d have it no other way.
Dating is a great way to get to know someone because you get to know all sides of the person. If you decide you’re not meant for one another, then you quickly realize a friendship is probably a more realistic road to travel.
I get it, though – it’s not always easy to stay friends after you go your separate ways. Sometimes it’s too hard to see your ex out having fun when perhaps you think they should be home depressed thinking about you. Situations like this take time; be prepared to be awkward and annoyed for a while – that’s just the way it goes.
If someone was a big jerk, feelings were hurt and mistakes were made, then friendship is probably not a viable expectation. At least not right away.
Some people just aren’t meant to be – dating, friends or otherwise, and this is understandable. These folks need to go their separate ways in a civilized manner and quit pretending to be friends. You gave it a shot, things didn’t work, forget about it – so long. No point in beating a dead horse.
Chances are, though, you still have a connection with the person. If you spent any length of time together, there must be some friendship worth salvaging. But once again, don’t rush it.
I’ve learned through experience that with a little patience, it’s possible to end up with some life long friends. Years later you can joke about the past and be happy it all happened.
Like I said, there’s some important people in my life that I once dated, and I couldn’t picture my life today without them in it. So keep in mind that while you may have lost a boyfriend or girlfriend, you might just gain a best friend in the process.
Sure, you could be friends with your ex but the better question to ask would be why would you want to?
Your relationship is over. All personal belongings have been returned to their respective owners. Relationship statuses have been changed to “single”. You are now officially broken up. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t this now be the time for a break from one another?
I’ve never understood the need to be friends with an ex immediately following a break up. This may partially be due to the fact that after the relationship has ended, the ex is usually the last person on earth I want to be in contact with. I’ve seen so many friends try and slap the “friends” label on their failed relationships only to have it completely blow up in their faces; I can’t help but wonder what on earth made them think that was a good idea.
If you want to get back together with your ex, be up front about it. Don’t – for the love of all that’s good and holy DON’T – use friendship as a means of holding on to the past. No good can come of this and in the end it will backfire. The minute your ex moves on to a new relationship, they’ll see right through your “because we’re friends and I care about you – you can do better” routine. It’s not called a break up for nothing; the relationship is broken and not even the guise of friendship can save it now. Hanging on to what’s already been lost will only make you hurt more in the long run.
A genuine friendship can be possible once the relationship has ended but it’s going to take time. How much time? That’s anybody’s guess. But understand that the friendship won’t be same as what you had before. You both need time to regroup after a break up and if your friendship can’t survive some much needed time apart, then it wasn’t really a friendship at all.
Can you be friends with an ex? He Said A few of my best friends would be considered my “exes” and honestly, I’d have it no other way. Dating is a great way to get to know someone because you get to know all sides of the person. If you decide you’re not meant for […]
Read more »
Louanna and Hilary Murphy set their sights sky-high
By Ellen Egan
Photography by Alanna Jankov
In case you haven’t heard of this dynamic sister duo yet, you’re in for a treat.
Louanna and Hilary Murphy hail from the quaint town of Kensington, PEI. And although they’ve collaborated their visions into one cohesive collection, entitled “Dreamboat Lucy”, they both come from very different design backgrounds.
Louanna, the older of the two, first discovered her flair for fashion at a young age. She loved to sketch dress designs and even started sewing some clothing in high school. This passion led her to the Costume Design program at Dalhousie University.
Although she says the program was less design focused than she had signed up for, it was here, she says, that she learned the primary construction skills required to bring her design ideas to life.
“It ended up not being design at all. It was more construction and sewing and things to give you a really good basis before you actually start,” says Louanna. “You need to know how to make the things that you want to create.”
From there, she spent a year in Montreal to continue her fashion design studies before returning to Halifax to join her sister, Hilary, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where she took an interdisciplinary approach. She graduated from NSCAD in April 2009.
Hilary, who specializes in the jewellery design aspect of the Dreamboat Lucy team, says she encountered her interest in jewellery through a much less direct route.
“I wasn’t always into jewellery making; I was more so focused on really working with my hands,” says Hilary. “We didn’t have art class in high school, so I took a construction class and started making jewelry out of the wood and other materials.”
She then decided to pursue the Design program at NSCAD in Halifax where she found her place by majoring in Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing. She graduated in April of 2010.
The Murphy sisters then returned to PEI where they created a studio in their downtown Charlottetown apartment. They spend much of their time working from home on their Dreamboat Lucy line.
Hilary says the name of the line describes the type of edgy girl they picture wearing their creations.
“It’s kind of simple – we always use the expression “dreamboat” to describe anything, really, and we liked the name Lucy so we thought it was a good name for our ‘girl’. It just went from there,” says Hilary.
And with their much-anticipated goal of participating in Toronto Fashion Week about to become a reality at the end of March, the pair works tirelessly to create a completely new collection to showcase.
“We wanted to have a story behind our line, so we focused on this idea of a female rock band on tour,” says Louanna. “Everything that we’re making is like their wardrobe for their tour. There are things you can perform on stage in, things that you can travel in, things you can do interviews in, and so on. It really helps to have a basis when we’re coming up with different looks.”
They are also very conscious of structure rather than whether or not it fits into mainstream style.
“With the clothing especially, we’re more concerned about the fit of it than whether it’s trendy or not. If it fits well, then it’s going to look awesome,” says Louanna. “We also use a ton of bright colours in our stuff and that’s another really big design element that we pay close attention to.”
Dreamboat Lucy has pretty much every article of an outfit you can imagine—from scarves and necklaces to vests and leggings. And although they work in completely different mediums, the two say they’re very like-minded when it comes to design.
“Since we’re in different areas of work, we kind of have an editing eye on each other’s pieces,” says Hilary. “As sisters, we obviously know each other really well and have the same attitude and mindset.”
Even with their focus on preparing for the big show, the girls still keep their overall goals for the future and focus on building their brand close at hand.
“We’re finding because we’re doing everything ourselves, our price range is pretty high,” says Louanna. “There’s more of a market for this kind of price and quality in bigger cities, so we’re hoping to get picked up [in Toronto] by one of those boutiques and expand our sales across the country.”
The sisters say they are very excited for what’s to come, and hope to eventually participate in New York Fashion Week, too.
You can find Dreamboat Lucy online at www.etsy.com/shop/DreamboatLucy and at Biscuit in Halifax.
Louanna and Hilary Murphy set their sights sky-high By Ellen Egan Photography by Alanna Jankov In case you haven’t heard of this dynamic sister duo yet, you’re in for a treat. Louanna and Hilary Murphy hail from the quaint town of Kensington, PEI. And although they’ve collaborated their visions into one cohesive collection, entitled “Dreamboat […]
Read more »