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