Move from Marylhurst to PCC Sylvania pays off for homemade instrument show
A long-running major exhibit of handmade musical instruments featuring the men and women who built them and play them made its Southwest Portland debut the first weekend in May.
The annual Northwest Handmade Musical Instruments Exhibit lost its home at Marylhurst College, which shut down recently, and was held for the first time at the Sylvania campus of Portland Community College.
The show of hand-crafted instruments made its debut in 1975 at the World Forestry Center in Washington Park. Cyndy Burton is a Portland-based guitar maker, or luthier, which means a maker of stringed instruments. She and her partner and fellow luthier Jeffrey Elliott were part of that first exhibit andwere on hand at PCC the weekend of May 4 and 5.
"It caught on because we have a critical mass of instrument makers in the Pacific Northwest," Burton said.
Now she hopes for a return to PCC Sylvania next year.
"They liked having us there and we liked being there, but I don't know how far out they'll save the dates," Burton said in an email after the exhibit. "We'll want to revert to the last weekend in April, if possible. Considering the sunny weather, the new venue, and all the other events going on, it went very well."
More than 60 instrument makers showed off their handiwork, discussing and demonstrating their crafts as well. Thirty professional musicians from the Pacific Northwest performed on handmade instruments during the two-day show in the nearby Performing Arts Center.
Most of the instrument makers were luthiers, displaying guitars, violins, banjos, mandolins and ukuleles. But there were also makers of flutes, percussion instruments and organs on hand.
Burton says for many of the instrument makers this is more than a hobby.
"They love woodworking and the idea of making something that is useful. I think it's partly a reaction to the way things are going today. We're sort of moving back to making things with our hands," she said. "These people are very dedicated. Very few actually make a good living making instruments, but some of them do and we'll have some of them at our show."
Burton's partner in their Southeast Portland studio, Jeffrey Elliott, is one of those who makes a living making guitars. He told Oregon Art Beat in February that he's made 300 guitars "with my name on them." Among the musicians he has made guitars for are revered classical guitarist Julian Bream, top jazz acoustic guitar player Earl Klugh and the lead guitarist with the seminal jazz band Oregon, Ralph Towner.