Victoria luthier Marcus Dominelli in his James Bay workshop.

Crafting classics

Most of Marcus Dominelli's customers are guitar teachers or touring professionals,

Snow falls outside the James Bay workshop of luthier Marcus Dominelli.

Following a sign telling the visitor to come in, one hears a distinct sound of fingerpicking coming from behind a downstairs door. This is, after all, a man who not only enjoys the challenge of making quality, custom-made classical guitars, he still loves to play.

Dominelli emerges wearing an apron, looking very much like the artisan he is. His two-room work space is split between a storage room, where thinly milled pieces of wood are stacked and dated, and the main assembly and finishing room.

“This is a lot cleaner than it is sometimes in here,” he says.

Dominelli, 45, appreciates the subtleties involved in his unique trade, especially when compared to his original pursuit: furniture making. “I couldn’t find a workshop that was creative enough,” he says, adding he became tired of “churning out” pieces without soul. “I just really wanted to build guitars.”

After training under veteran luthier David Freeman in Saskatchewan, the Vancouver native was hired as a repair specialist by Dave Cahill at Old Town Strings in Victoria. After five years repairing instruments and experimenting with building various types of guitars, Dominelli struck out on his own in 2003 focusing on classical.

“It was a risk. I didn’t have much money,” he recalls. At first he was building instruments on spec as he worked to develop a reputation.

These days, the majority of his work comes from custom orders, for which he has a wait list of eight months to a year. While his website contains detailed information about his guitars, he estimates roughly 90 per cent of his sales come from word of mouth.

Most of his customers are guitar teachers or touring professionals, but he has bigger goals in mind.

“One day I hope to be selling to more famous people. That way you can set your price higher and your wait list grows longer,” he says. Easier said than done, he admits, given most top players already have many instruments.

“I’ve shown my guitars to a lot of people. But the market is difficult. Unless you have something that’s going to blow their socks off, it’s (a tough sell).”

Dominelli’s specialties are a hybrid cedar lattice-brace guitar and a more traditional concert model, but he has begun building more double-top guitars. Designed with concert players in mind, the double top has a bigger sound, a ring that seems to shout, ‘I am here, listen to me!’

To demonstrate one of his hybrid lattice models, he plays a soothing version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The difference between this guitar and the double top is evident – both have amazing presence, but the latter would clearly be more effective in a larger concert hall.

Asked whether he ever gets emotional hearing one of his instruments played in performance, the humble craftsman thinks for a moment, then answers.

“It’s a good feeling when someone who is a really good player appreciates the instrument.”

Find out more at dominelliguitars.com

 

Just Posted

UVic art display showcases craft of bookmaking

Art of the Book 2018 is in the Audain Gallery at UVic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Aug. 11

Celebrate local food with Feast of Fields in North Saanich

21st Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is at Kildara Farms on Aug. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m.

RIFFLANDIA: Local artists thrive under festival model

Bands like Current Swell, one of the 2018 headliners, made their mark at RAP

Baseball’s HarbourCats wind up WCL season with loss to Pickles

Victoria needed a win to make the league playoffs, now looks ahead to 2019

Cannabis lounge idea to be floated at Victoria council meeting

Coun. Ben Isitt wants to explore smoking area options for marijuana users after legalization

VIDEO: Huge crowd celebrates Sunfest opening night with Canyon, Pritchett in Lake Cowichan

Plenty to enjoy as Sunfest Country Music Festival opened, and lots of folks came out to do so

REVIEW: Ever wanted to be young again? Theatre Skam’s Concord Floral will make you think again

Strong acting in an interesting theatre space, writes Sheila Martindale

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Actor Brad Pitt denies Angelina Jolie Pitt’s claim that he has paid no meaningful child support.

WINE LOVERS UNITE: Victoria festival offers numerous tasting options

Parkside Hotel and Spa hosting Victoria International Wine Festival

Farquhar Auditorium updates image for 40th season

The Farquhar at UVic ushers in new season Sept. 22

THEATRE SKAM: Young cast brings Concord Floral to life in vacant downtown retail space

Former office supply store a unique venue for telling mysterious tale of youth with secrets

Schedule released for world junior hockey championship in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria ready to host, as Canada conducts training camp in Kamloops

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy visits Prospect Lake

Power To Be annual fundraiser event brings in big personalities

Bard Across the Bridge brings ‘The Tempest’ seaside

Stage set for classic Shakespeare tale in Saxe Point Park this week

Most Read