The Craft

Finding Our Home Base

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Andy explores the different ways a guitar — or a guitar community — can soothe our soul.

I love the games children play. In our house, little time passes between games of hide-and-seek or tag. In counterpoint to the excitement of the chase portion of these games, there is usually some designated spot of refuge known as home base, where all players are safe from would-be assailants. It seems to me a primitive game like this is a reflection of what goes on all around us. After all, a desire for a refuge seems universal. A snug harbor for ships, the promise of a steady glowing light on a front porch, or the familiar scenery of a beloved hometown all conjure a sense of arrival that puts us at ease. This is equally true in the world of music.

For many of us, playing music is more than the mere pastime it might appear from a distance. With a guitar in hand, we can be temporarily transported into a space insulated from the friction and frenzy of the outside world. In this musical space, even thoughts of events past and present can be safely sorted out. This idea of a home base even permeates musical structures themselves. I remember learning in music school about a classic sonata form, where a melody starts from a home space, is developed over the course of time away from its main melody and key area, building in tension to a climactic breaking point, finally to resolve with an enormous sense of relief as the melody arrives home to its original tonality and thematic structure.

A home base can also provide the foundation for building a community. Community is a word we often hear in an ever-widening range of scenarios, with a broad range of definitions. Recently, I heard a community described as a place where a person continues to show up. This definition seems right in most respects. As a community of musicians, we love to show up and share in our safe musical spaces with our fellow music makers. Beyond merely showing up, however, there are times when a community is based on both a shared place and a shared purpose. Taylor Guitars is such a community. On the surface, our factories and service centers are locations where we all show up. These locations house our workshops, tools, wood and materials. Everyone arrives to accomplish our individual tasks, but we are united in the shared purpose of crafting the most expressive instruments we can, which encourage musicians to make their music.

With a guitar in hand, we can be temporarily transported into a space insulated from the friction and frenzy of the outside world.

In my mind, there’s a parallel to the guitar itself. As an instrument, the guitar is made of parts that all show up in the same place. A back, a top, sides, a bridge, neck and fingerboard all share a space and make an interactive community of components. Each has its individual role and contributes to the overall success and functionality of the guitar. Each is shaped in a unique way, made with an appropriate material, and occupies its unique spot in the whole like pieces of a complex puzzle. Yet together, these components form a unique community with the purpose of providing a voice and a sense of inspired refreshment to a musician. This small microcosm of a community has provided an outcome — a purpose — far beyond the simple assembly of parts. It creates a sense of home for a guitar player.

Another implied aspect of a home is a sense of permanence. Wrapped up in our collective understanding of a home space is a place that always welcomes and remains consistent. I think this is why it feels disconcerting to revisit one’s childhood home and find the color different than you remembered, or the fence where your height had been marked as you grew taller replaced.

Yet we can acknowledge that home is more than a physical location; it’s an environment that is slowly, continuously adapting to the needs and actions of its family in the same way a favorite song takes on a new dimension with each live performance as it reflects new state of mind. This slow metamorphosis is what allows a home to remain permanent; it becomes sustainable so as to never fall into a state of disrepair. Left alone and unchanged, the ravages of existence would erode all that make a home or a community good, until a complete overhaul is needed to restore fresh vitality.

A back, a top, sides, a bridge, neck and fingerboard all share a space and make an interactive community.

A friend of mine owns a favorite elderly guitar, which has undergone so many repairs, maintenance and evolution over the course of a century that there is little left of the original guitar except the form originally established by its maker. Despite being comprised almost entirely of replaced and restored components, this instrument is as vitally relevant in a musical context as when it was first made. I’d venture to say it is because of this instrument’s gradual metamorphosis over years that it can remain a beautifully useful, inspiring musical voice. Left to itself, it would have fallen into a state of shabby disuse decades ago.

Similarly, the long-term sustainability of this community we call Taylor Guitars can only come in the form of a slow, deliberate metamorphosis. As a result of years of planning, we’ve recently transitioned into an employee-owned company structure. We all love this place and the work we do here. It feels like home to walk through the doors, smell the familiar aromas, and hear the sounds of guitar making. Through this structure, the community we enjoy as Taylor has found a home that can have a lifespan beyond that of Kurt, Bob and myself, which can evolve and respond to the needs of the family of employee-owners who dwell there, and the musicians who enjoy these instruments we love to create. While we will continue to love the work we contribute each day, these guitars we make feel more meaningful than the day before, as we build them knowing they provide a home base for the musician and craftsman alike.