The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans
As the purveyor and retailer of unique woods, the reputation of Woodworker’s Dream and the Martin Sawmill spread quickly. Budding instrument makers from all around the USA and Canada quickly became my loyal customers. I was learning a great deal about the properties of these various woods and in time, was solicited to write occasional articles for Taunton Press’s Fine Woodworking Magazine. Locally, The Rodale Press had acquired American Woodworker Magazine. Soon I was writing a monthly feature page called Woods Of The World.
On the guitarmaking front, there was an organization of instrument makers based in Tacoma, Washington called The Guild Of American Luthiers. I was a regular and active participant at the annual Guild instrumentmaking conventions and was eventually asked to serve on their Board.
It’s a long story and one I wish I could tell, but due to extenuating circumstances, I can’t. That’s a different book.
I can say that eventually a group of instrument makers decided to form a new organization. About twenty of us got together and wrote a mission statement. In trying to name the group we decided that we preferred the label “artisan” to the more obscure term of “luthier.” We also decided that our focus would be on “stringed instruments.” The notion of being a Guild seemed odd given the persecution that Christian Frederick Martin Sr. had endured at the hands of the Violin Makers Guild in Markneukirchen, so we opted instead to form an “association.” So it was that the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (with the ironic acronym A.S.I.A.) was born.
In a short period of time, our meager ranks grew to one hundred, at which point I was enlisted to produce a newsletter. Two pages grew to four, then eight, then sixteen. The membership continued to grow, spurred on in great measure by the bi-annual musical instrument-making conventions held on the campus of Lafayette College where Susan worked. During the zenith of each convention, I was enlisted to host what evolved into a hilarious and lucrative series of benefit auctions, fueled with a generous pile of donated white elephant instruments and assorted guitar making supplies. The information sharing and spirit of the association was impressive and special. The membership soared to more than two thousand. I proposed that the name of our newsletter be amended to Guitarmaker Magazine. The new title was slightly controversial, since it seemed to exclude mandolin, banjo, lute, violin and dulcimer makers, but the change was very well received. A color cover really made the publication look professional and the format expanded to more than sixty pages.
With my full-time position at Martin and my extra-curricular work as Executive Director of A.S.I.A. and editor/publisher of Guitarmaker Magazine, I was completely buried in work, but the interaction with virtually all of the instrument makers worldwide gave me a tremendous vantage point within the marketplace. In addition, my technical knowledge in the area of Macintosh computers, desktop publishing, offset printing, layout, writing, information gathering, event coordination and the day to day management of a non-profit organization gave me an entirely new set of skills that would gradually impact my position at Martin. In due time it became clear that I could be of service in the area of advertising, especially since a string of advertising coordinators had come and gone, leaving a relatively disjointed campaign. I seized the opportunity with great passion, wasting little time in bringing he full department back in-house from the protective clutches of an outside advertising agency. The controversy was eased with significant cost savings, but the best part was that the relatively thick wall between work and art was beginning to crumble.