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The first show was held in 2009 at the Convent, and was held again in 2010 and 2011. After taking a break in 2012, it was decided to hold the festival biennially, and folks are still talking about the 2013 show, which featured 25 guitar makers, live performances all weekend, guitar making workshops, lectures, a classical music program run by the Classical Guitar Society of Victoria and a screening of a documentary on guitar making. For 2015 you’ll see instruments by (and have the chance to talk to) Tim Kill, Jim Mills, Kim Lissarrague, Shane Briggs, Jack Spira, Roderick Octigan, Shoma Subotic, Wiroon Songbundit, David Aumann, Don Morrison, Stuart Monk, Christopher Melville, Daniel Hoban, Sean Hancock, Luke Kallquist, Simon Rovis-Hermann, Andrew Duganzich, Laurie Williams, Richard Morgan, Alan Bull, Joe Gallacher, Gary Rizzolo, Jeff Crisp, Barry Kerr, Phil Carson Crickmore, Trevor Gore, Gerard Gilet, Tim Wright, Tim Spittle, Dan Robinson, Tony Graham, Francis Russo and Perry Ormsby. There are also 55-minute workshops by a number of builders, and plenty of performances from Justin Bernasconi, Sergio Ercole, Lucas Michailidis, Sam Lemann, Pete Fidler, Dean Addison, students from the Richmond Music Academy, The Johnston Brothers, The Guitar Orchestra Of The CGSV and more.


“We all get together and we do shows throughout the country and overseas fairly regularly but it’s difficult to put yourself forward as a handcrafted maker in a corporate context at a mainstream trade show,” Luthier Jack Spira says. “I don’t want to put that down because those big trade shows have their own charms and are lots of fun. But we wanted to try and start something up that was on our scale, and for handmade instruments. We noticed too that in Japan, Europe and the United States there are quite often two shows in the major cities: the mainstream, corporate guitar show and then the handmade luthier show, and they both complement each other very well. So that was the idea. For anyone who’s interested in seeing handmade stuff they usually have to travel overseas, so it’s good to have something here where people can see it conveniently. It’s very rare that these guitars are available in shops or anywhere that people can look at them. So the idea of the show is based on that: get a bunch of hand-builders in one place! It’s kind of niche, for people who are really into their guitars.”


A great example is luthier Perry Ormsby: with a huge following on social media, Ormsby’s guitars are highly prized but difficult to track down out in the wild. Ormsby is about to launch a high- quality offshore line to complement his handmade creations, and this will be a great opportunity for folks to pick the guitars up and see how they get along with things like multiscale fretboards (hint: it’s actually not much of an adjustment at all so don’t be scared). “It’s interesting to try to pin down the appeal of handmade instruments verses factory ones,” Spira says. “But for some people it’s important to have a handmade thing or a certain sound. Perry has a lot of appeal and people want to get his guitars because they have a character and a style to it, and his own personality. Personality is a big part of what everyone is trying to get from an instrument. And the other aspect of this show is to have not only the guitars there but also the makers there: you get to look at the guitars but also the person who makes them will be there and you can chat to them, and that might have some value!” 


The Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival is on October 10 and 11 at Abbotsford Convent.