It’s no secret that SKILLSET loves to shine a spotlight on masters of their craft. When it comes to guitar making, Beau Theige is one such individual we just had to catch up with. The guitars he makes are true works of art and become prized possessions of anyone lucky enough to own one. SKILLSET sat down with this master craftsman to get the lowdown on what it takes to create these one-of-a-kind creations that inspire others in their musical journey.
15 Questions with Beau Theige
Skillset: The instruments you design are unique works of art. Is it true you don’t play guitar?
Beau Theige: I didn’t play when I started building them four years ago. I have been teaching myself and can play enough now to show people how they sound, but I’m not a guitar player by any means.
Skillset: What inspired you to start building guitars?
BT: I watched a YouTube video of a guy playing blues on a three-string cigar box guitar, and I said I could make one of those.
Skillset: Who are your biggest influences?
BT: I like unique, creative people. I can’t say I’m influenced by anyone in particular, but I’m definitely inspired to keep creating by musicians such as Jack White, Larkin Poe, Seasick Steve, Colter Wall, the Prestage Brothers, and Cristina Vane.
Skillset: Please explain to our readers what “upcycling” is.
BT: It’s taking something that was going to be thrown away and turning it into something else that serves a purpose that it didn’t before.
Skillset: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever used in your art?
BT: My three-string bedpan guitars definitely turn a lot of heads. I have also used old ironing boards to make lap steels.
Skillset: How do you price your artwork? Can you give us a ballpark of how much a custom guitar costs?
BT: Supply and demand have had a lot to do with my pricing lately. My three- and four-strings sell in the range of $300-$400. My Barnwood electrics go for $850, and my acoustics are around $1,000.
Beau Theige on Works of Art
Skillset: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
BT: Perth, Australia; I’ve also shipped them to Switzerland, the UK, and coast-to-coast in the U.S.
Skillset: Are your buyer’s musicians or art collectors?
BT: Both — my market is very eclectic, from soccer moms looking for gifts to musicians, art collectors, and farmers wanting a guitar built out of their old barn with their dads’ old plates off his pickup. I would say a lot of people who buy them don’t play, but I have also sold them to musicians in Nashville who use them in the recording studio.
BT: My plywood parlor acoustic guitars were the hardest to figure out, especially since I’m self-taught. I’m making a resonator using one of my acoustic bodies now that I think will be my most fulfilling build — if I can pull it off. I’m also very proud of the 35 guitars I put together for the 15 solo art gallery shows I was chosen for in North Dakota and Montana. They will be traveling in Montana from now until 2020.
Skillset: What is the farthest point from North Dakota where you have shipped one of your guitars?
Tools, Styles & Causes
Skillset: What’s your workshop’s most vital tool?
BT: My belt sander, for sure! I use it to shape guitar bodies and necks.
Skillset: What music plays while you’re working? Bluegrass? Acoustic guitar? Big-hair metal?
BT: I usually listen to NPR or the musicians I listed earlier … and podcasts.
Skillset: Have you had requests to design other instruments besides guitars and banjos?
BT: I also make ukuleles and lap steels.
Skillset: Tell us about your involvement in local charities and events in North Dakota.
BT: I have built a few guitars for local charity auctions — Bras for a Cause is one of my favorites. They raise money in my hometown to help cancer patients cover medical costs. The Bismarck Event Center has also bought a couple of my guitars to give as gifts to musicians who have concerts there. Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett both received one.
Skillset: Why did you choose the path of a craftsman?
BT: I just like creating — the art shows and sales have just been a bonus. I have done 238 guitar builds so far, and I am currently out of inventory. I still enjoy watching them come together and plugging each one in to see what it sounds like. It still amazes me when I put one up for sale on Instagram, and it sells. God has surely blessed this little hobby of mine.