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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Dorset people 1- Marshall Stapleton

One afternoon Marshall Stapleton, invited by a local society, sat beside a row of the instruments he had made, ten of them: a guitar, a twelve-string guitar, a slide guitar, a mandolin, a bouozuki, a ukulele, an Appalachian dulcimer, and a few more we don't remember. Marshall, in his low-key way, described each and answered questions about it, then picked it up and played us a piece that brought out its qualities.

Where does he make these beautiful things? His workshop is a sight to see. It's a hutch-like upstairs room with a workbench and bandsaw and ten years' accumulation of tools, wood fragments, templates with guitar-shaped outlines, instruments in various stages of assembly. It could be as dusty and claustrophobic as the den of a mediaeval alchemist, but on a sunny day the windows at both ends stand open onto greenery. The only way in is a spiral iron stair, also stacked and hung with the materials of Marshall's trade, from a similarly crammed passage, which is almost all there is of the lower floor of the little building, to which you get by means of a path with a turn and a tunnel, from a gate in the side of a narrow lane. For the workspace Marshall has found is in one of those clusters of buildings tucked surprisingly behind Lyme's facades. (This cluster is said once to have been a cottage hospital, and the foundations of one of its outbuildings can be seen under the entrance passage.)

Just now Marshall has nearly finished an electro-acoustic guitar, and is in the early stages of a solid guitar - which will be heavy to hold: the guitar-shape is a solid block, so that it doesn't have the sound-box function it evolved for. In fact this block is centuries old wood, cut from a pew which St. Michael's church sold off. Marshall has covered the top with a layer of exquisite marquetry in a pattern based on sixty-degree angles. He obtains fine recycled wood from any sources he can.

When he first came to Dorset, he made hats, to be sold in a local shop (and he still makes clothes for friends); only after about three years did he return to musical instruments. In London he had taken evening courses and then gained a Higher National Diploma in musical-instrument technology from the London College of Furniture. "It took me", he says, "four years to make my first guitar." Now he makes one in about two weeks, if he sets his mind to it. His instruments sell for a thousand pounds or more though many he makes just for the love and to keep.
(Interview by Guy Ottwell- )

1 comment:

  1. That looks a very beautiful guitar..I wish I could play