Friday, October 8, 2010

Stepping Outside the Stage Image Box

I've worked with a lot of guitarists who have a mental picture of what they want to look like onstage and stage image is probably one of the most important things to decide as a performer. They think that since they play a certain "type" of music, they must sport a certain "type" of image right down to their guitar straps. But, when they go through my guitar straps, they'll often say, "Oh, I really like that one but I could never wear it. It's too (insert your own adjective here--pretty, classy, quiet, odd, weird, unusual.")

A very successful musician who had bought a couple of my straps said to me, "I want the girls to like me and the guys to want to be like me. That's why I'm buying your straps. The girls will love it and be confused by it. It makes me dangerous and approachable all at the same time." I can't say I endorse the manipulation but it does seem to work.

So, I'm on a mission to try to get musicians to think outside the image box. One of the fun aspects of my guitar straps is that they're pretty unconventional. Well, actually, they're extremely unconventional. But, that means you're already thinking outside the image box, even considering STEPPING outside the image box, if you're even looking at my guitar straps. And, if you are shooting for a coordinated stage image, you couldn't do better than to think through which of my straps would work best for a particular look. I had one musician who bought 4 different straps, each vastly different from the other, to coordinate with-- of all things-- his shoelaces, which he also coordinated with different leather cuffs he wore onstage.

To me, your guitar strap is a visual accessory, like jewelry. It is best used to highlight certain visual aspects of your performance rather than being used to reinforce your music style. Most of the musicians I know have a stage "wardrobe" and, unless your guitar is especially ornamented-- carved, painted, shaped, that sort of thing-- your guitar strap should carry through your wardrobe theme, whatever that may be, though if you coordinate your wardrobe with your guitar, all the better. While the strap needs to look good on your guitar, it needs to look good on the totally of you as well. So... think outside the stage image box just a bit. Ponder the idea of "confusing the girls" with your combined dangerousness and approachability. Thanks for reading! Terri

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Artfire Breaks New Ground with Handmade Artisan Certification

What makes the "handmade" trend terrific is that it is the return to an almost forgotten era of individual investment in quality. There was a time in history when "handmade" was all there was and each individual that produced a handmade item and sold it was totally invested in the quality of their product. Then, "store bought" became sought after, at least until the quality of store-bought began to suffer under the variable, and sometimes "iffy", standards of mass production. Returning to the individual standard of quality is a return to, usually, a higher standard of quality because every artisan who produces a handmade product has invested their own personal ego in that product.

What makes the "handmade" trend risky is that buyers often cannot tell the difference until they have the product in their hands. And more than a few have been burned by sellers who claim to be handmade artisans but are simply buying excess inventory from a mass producer and reselling it as "handmade" or by producing a shoddy product even if it is handmade. The bottom line is that the buyer is vulnerable if a seller is unscrupulous. has broken major new ground in trying to address this issue. has created the first Certified Handmade Award in the handmade market. Their standards for qualification are rigorous and, while nothing can absolutely guarantee quality if a seller is determined to get around the standards, Artfire is the only market place that has it and has done a pretty darn good job of assuring that a seller is professional and the product is a quality handmade product.

I was recently awarded Artfire's Certified Handmade Award and I am prouder than you know to be associated with Artfire. There are plenty of "handmade" markets you can visit-- Etsy, Zibbet, and others, but none of them, and I mean NONE of them, has devised a method for screening and qualifying their sellers the way Artfire has. So, if you do decide to buy something handmade, please choose Artfire. Thanks very much for reading! Terri

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guitar Straps As A Tool of Cultural Awareness

I've made my fair share of guitar straps with flames and skulls and anarchy symbols and such and I love making them. They convey something, create an impression, that the wearer thinks is important. Some artists have things like "No More War" emblazoned on their straps or "Don't Tread On Me" or other slogans that, again, say something the artist wants to say without having to actually say it.

But, every now and then, I, your humble guitar strap maker, have something to say, too. A friend on Myspace suggested I should look into making guitar straps from Mexican serapes, those exquisite, explosively colorful blankets that Mexican culture is known for. Being a native of San Antonio, Texas, I do have a deep, ingrained respect and appreciation for the exuberance, the joy, of Mexican culture's music, art, and handcrafts. So, I took the friend up on their suggestion and started looking around. I found a lot of ersatz serapes, cheap copies, thin, sloppy offerings, and I do take pride in the quality of the materials I make my guitar straps from and am not going to offer something sub-par, even if on its surface it is unique and eye-catching. Then I came upon and was blown away by the beauty and quality of the serapes they offered--hand dyed and hand woven by Mayan women in small Mexican villages. No middle man, just the extraordinarily talented weavers and a guy who buys their goods and sells them to people like me. Don't ask me the financial arrangements because I don't know. What I do know is that these wonderful women make things of amazing beauty. Now, granted, they probably didn't intend for me to cut it into strips and make guitar straps from it but it's what I do. And if I can pay them an honor with each guitar strap in the process, all the better. So, from one blanket, I will get maybe 5 or 6 guitar straps, each lined with a different color to keep my own standard of uniqueness in place. But, I do want to thank the women who keep an ancient craft alive and thriving and who give me the opportunity to share their craft with people who may have never given it much thought before. So, if you buy one of my Mexican serape guitar straps, just know I cannot claim any credit for its beauty or workmanship beyond my own limited contribution of conceiving and stitching a guitar strap from their work. Thanks for reading! Terri

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Decorating Your Own Guitar Strap

I recently had a buyer contact me about making a guitar strap she could decorate herself. As we talked through what she wanted, I realized that there are a number of people out there who want something customized but can't afford to pay someone else to do it. Also, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to provide that kind of guitar strap. There is so much on the market, pre-designed layouts and appliques and lettering that people can use to personalize their guitar strap. Now, granted, it's not the same has having something hand embroidered but so what? I've used those same things myself when customizing a guitar strap that needs to be kept affordable. And, while I'm always glad I can make just the right strap and stay within budget, it honestly isn't very gratifying as an artist to stitch or iron on a something rather than create it myself. When I have resorted to using commercial items, I treat them as a "pass through" (charging the buyer only what I paid for it with no mark up) cost and just charge for my labor. And that seems pretty fair to me.

So... back to the lady who wanted a DIY guitar strap. She wanted a silk strap that was just completely unornamented. And I agreed with her that she was using her limited funds wisely. Get the best fabric and the best construction she could afford and then decorate the strap any way she wanted without having to pay me to do it. Depending on what she's applying to the strap, that can knock $10 or more off the cost for her while she still pays me for a unique and well-constructed strap.

I ended up making her a burgundy silk strap with black satin back lining and buckskin leather tabs. It cost her $50. She will probably spend maybe $3-5 for the decorations she will put on her strap and the final result will be a completely unique strap at an affordable price, accompanied by the little zing of pleasure at being able to say, "I did this myself." I think that's very cool. Thanks for reading! Terri

Friday, April 23, 2010

Replacing Torn Leather Tabs On Your Guitar Strap

Can this guitar strap be saved? When you have a guitar strap you love, that's the first question-- perhaps the only question-- you have when the dreaded "Rip of Death" happens to your leather button tab. The answer depends on how your guitar strap is constructed. If the pin hole is punched in a solid leather strip that adjusts only at the back, then no, you're out of luck. If, on the other hand, your strap is polypropylene or fabric that is riveted or stitched to the leather button tab, then yes, perhaps your strap can be repaired. It just takes a little creativity and some puzzle-solving skills on the part of the person undertaking the repair.

I recently had a Myspace friend approach me about repairing his 20-year-old guitar strap, affectionately named "Old Blue." Old Blue was in sad shape indeed. Both the front and back leather button tabs were hopelessly stretched and torn and he had tried to repair them using what looked like wood staples. I gave it some thought and decided to put my hand to saving Old Blue.

I started by cutting the back leather piece off the adjustment bar and replacing it with my own particular leather button tab design. This involved cutting a 2-inch leather strip, looping it through the adjustment bar, sealing the two leather layers with commercial strength tanner's glue, and double whip-stitching it with leather sewing thread. That was pretty easy.

Repairing the front tab was going to be more of a challenge. The front tab was riveted through the decorative surface fabric, the polypropylene foundation, and the leather itself, with two rivets so the only way I was going to be able to get the torn tab off was to cut the fabric and the foundation.
One of my worries was that the decorative fabric, once cut, was going to fray and also that, as I cut and repaired, the strap was going to lose length. The way I solved the fraying issue was to seal the fabric threads with a thin layer of tanner's glue.

I looked for a polished metal adjustment bar to use on the front of the strap but what I found had tiny sharp, unfinished spots that I worried would wear on the strap over time. I settled on a two-inch polished steel ring that wouldn't wear on the fabric and would compensate for any lost length when the front tab was cut off. I looped the doubled leather over the ring, folded the sealed fabric and foundation under so there was no exposure to wear, and stitched the fabric and foundation to the ring, preserving the material edges and the strap's length.

When I had finished the repairs, I emailed pictures to my customer and he was thrilled with the results. I was, too, actually, because I had saved a dearly loved guitar strap, it had not cost him a fortune, and it was a new service I was able to provide. So, Old Blue is back in business and I have a new and happy customer. Who could ask for more? Thanks for reading! Terri

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Amazing Beauty and Quality of Strictly 7 Guitars

As a custom guitar strap artisan, I see a lot of guitars and people who love their guitars for all kinds of different reasons. I had one patron whose father had bought an acoustic guitar through a Sears catalog in the 1930's. It turned out to be one of the first Martin guitars issued and while it was valuable in a monetary sense, it was priceless to him because it had been his father's. Others love their guitar because it sounds great or it was their biggest cash outlay or is a top-of-the-line guitar. There are as many reasons to love a guitar as there are guitars.

That said, I came upon a custom guitar maker whose guitars I am convinced you will absolutely love. I stumbled onto Strictly 7 Custom Guitars through their website designer, Doug at These are American made guitars, meticulously assembled and constructed, reasonably priced, and ready to go. They really are absolutely beautiful. So, I wanted to tell you about them and give you a link to visit them:

Here is what they have to say about themselves-- I urge you to visit Strictly 7 Custom Guitars and take a look for yourself at what they have to offer. Thanks for reading!! Terri

Hello and welcome to Strictly 7, showcasing fine American Made six-, seven-, and eight-string guitars. I spent years playing in bands with frustrated seven-string players. From that experience I was inspired to look into what it would take to build an instrument that would meet the requirements of true touring and recording professionals. And I found that we could build them and keep them affordable for recreational players all over the world. Along the road to what you have in your hands I have consulted many great players who all voiced the same aggravations with their guitar choices, specifically buying a guitar that would immediately need pickups, fret work, set-up and intonation right out of the box. Other major concerns were the need to have the nut re-cut to fit their gauge of stings, or--worse yet--finish flaws in a guitar they had waited 16 months to receive!

The endless list of problems players have been forced to live with seemed unreasonable and entirely correctable. Here at Strictly 7 guitars we offer "production" models that make other custom shops weep, and our custom shop guitars can fulfill every players dream. We start with the best components available, pay attention to detail, and maintain unyielding quality control before the instrument leaves our shop. If we wouldn’t play it, we wouldn’t expect a player to buy it. However, we also understand that not every player likes the same body shape, tremolo system, or pickup choice as the other guy, so we offer a full custom shop solution.

The bottom line is we want to build an affordable, truly American- made guitar that we can be proud of, one that will satisfy even the most discerning player, while insuring the options available to each and every player are as limitless as humanly possible. Our favorite answer to guitar players we have met at trade shows and concerts with their questions and problems is, "YES! We can do that."

If you can dream it or think of it, we will build it!

Jim Lewis
CEO Strictly 7 Guitars

What Are The Differences Between Bass, Acoustic, and Electric Guitar Straps?

In a word, none. There are no differences between bass, acoustic, and electric guitar straps. Traditionally, bass players sling their guitar a little lower and may want to have a strap that is long enough to accommodate their playing style. But the actual construction and design of the strap are no different from any other guitar strap. Any guitar strap should be able to accommodate any guitar type.

When I started making custom guitar straps, one of the first things I did was research types of guitars, guitar bodies, strap pins, and comfort and function factors. Because I'm not a musician, I had that question as well... do different guitar types need different kinds of straps in terms of strength, construction, length, width, etc. What I found is that they do not. Commercial strap makers choose a length, width, and construction design that optimizes their costs while meeting the needs of most guitar players. Unusually tall or short players will need a strap that adjusts to an appropriate length but, beyond that, the actual strap construction is no different.

If your guitar is heavy, a wider strap is more comfortable but a conventional 2-inch strap is perfectly serviceable. When I created my own strap design I did consider comfort to be of equal importance to function and structure because, after playing for 2 hours, your shoulder starts to ache from the weight of the guitar. If you play bass guitar, you will want a wider strap for the comfort it affords, but don't go searching for bass guitar straps thinking there is some fundamental difference in design. There isn't.