Finally, we are sending out the confirmations to the exhibitors! It will take a little while for all of them to go out. But this is the step taking us from a dream to reality! We are a go! Hope to see you all there, and even if you cannot be there as exhibitors, we still hope you will visit.
Once again a word about the limit we had to impose on the number of exhibitors we could accept. We did have a hard time with the fact that we cannot possibly accomodate all applicants, and we are sorry about that. We do hope that if this show is a success we will be able to organize a larger one next year with more exhibitors.
We are luthiers like you and our resources and time are limited. We embarked on this event with no idea about whether it would be a success, or even possible for us to put on. At times it was pure faith that kept us going. And it is still a long way to November and a lot of work ahead of us. We welcome anyone who would like to contribute and help. This is an effort born out of a belief that we luthiers are a community, that we share much in terms of life and work experience and that it will benefit us all to come together - and the show is meant as occasion to celebrate that!
Dear Colleagues - I get that some of you are getting impatient about the seeming lack of progress in announcing who will exhibit at The Holy Grail Guitar Show. Here's what is happening:
The Show will take place. Unfortunately an event such as this requires us to deal with a lot of bureaucratic issues, such as making sure we have all the permits and fulfill all the regulations necessary. It is a rather labyrinthine process involving a lot of different governmental agencies. I won't go into the details here, suffice it to say that there are things (like the prohibition to sell on Sunday) which, without the proper permits in place would severly impact the Show.
So: before we have the assurance that the event can take place as planned, with all contractual obligations and permits in place, we will not send out the contracts to the exibitors who are scheduled to attend. And until we have their confirmation and the deposit from the exhibitor we will not publish their name.
I do realize this might be a bit inconvenient for some of you, since you are not able to plan for it yet. But I want to assure you that we are finally getting close to being able to send out the contracts and that as soon as we can, we will start posting the list of exhibitors.
We are doing this on a volunteer basis and at our own risk, and we want to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises at the end. Not for us and not for the exhibitors. And please bear in mind the only reason anything like this Show is happening at all is that we have been willing to spend a lot of our time and energy on making it possible. I ask you to respect this and lend us some of your patience in exchange.
The Show will take place and it will be a great Show!
we are now well on our way to make The Holy Grail Guitar Show 2014 in Berlin a reality!
We are proud to have come this far and confident that we will succeed in making this a great Show, and hopefully only the first of many to come. There has never been such a Show in Europe - a Show designed to showcase the handmade guitars luthiers around the world, and especially in Europe, are producing today.
All of this has been a learning experience. This is our first Show as organizers and in the past few months we have learned a lot about what goes into putting on such an event – the complexity of details, bureaucratic hurdles, the financial juggling on multiple fronts. We have also found that organizing an event such as this for the first time poses unforeseen challenges and sometimes requires adjustments to the course. One thing that soon became apparent was that the EGB and the Show have to be separate things. Originally EGB membership was required to participate at the Show. It quickly became clear that this was not a good way to do it – so now the Show is open to all qualifying luthiers.
It seems that there were (and maybe still are) some misunderstandings and misconceptions about what the EGB is and about the workings of the Show. Some of it is the inevitable language problem we face, some of it is our failure to communicate clearly, and - not the least – people are not properly reading what we send out! Looking at some of the feedback we have received from some of you over the past few weeks I have decided that it is necessary for me to provide an account of our activities. I believe it is important for us as EGB to be as transparent as possible in our actions and our intentions.
When we first decided to launch this project, on a rooftop in Montreal in 2012, it seemed a far away goal, not much more than an idea that had been kicked around among us and other colleagues for years. But on that summer night a core group of luthiers emerged, willing to step up and do the work to make it happen. I invited them to come to Vienna, to sit down together and take the first steps towards making this a reality.
During our Vienna meeting we talked about what we felt would make a great Show from the standpoint of the small independent luthier. We defined the principles and the philosophy guiding us in the organization of the Show and we founded the EGB, the Association of European Luthiers, as a vehicle for organizing the Show. We decided to name it “The Holy Grail Guitar Show”. The quest for the “perfect guitar” has driven builders from all over the globe over the years. It has spawned countless interpretations, variations and approaches to an instrument of unparalleled versatility.
This is an invitational Show. Exhibitors are selected. Originality and quality are important criteria for selection.
It is an international Show, with the main focus on Europe. No one country will dominate. A balance has to be maintained between the respective nationalities.
It is a showcase for professional luthiers. Handmade instruments crated individually with excellence and dedication.
First of all, we needed to spread the word, to contact luthiers everywhere, to alert the media. Our first official event was the Press Conference in November 2013 in Berlin, where we announced the formation of the EGB and our intention to have the Show take place in Berlin the next November. A small number of builders from several countries joined the founding members for this. Originally we had planned for about 15 builders to attend but as more countries were added we ended up with 20. It was a test run also, to see if we could handle such an event.
We now had to find out what such a Show would cost. We wanted to make it as affordable as possible. The Holy Grail Guitar Show is not designed to create a profit, but to cover the costs along with a margin of safety. We had to find out if we would be able to attract enough exhibitors to support the Show before we could sign a contract with a venue. A complex budget needed to be created, balancing the need to have enough people to finance the Show while at the same time limiting the numbers so we could still properly manage it. The risk involved meant we had to take it step by step.
First we sent out a pre-register letter, to gauge interest among potential exhibitors. It seems that some have understood this to be their application or even their acceptance as exhibitors. This is not the case.
The number of positive responses gave us the confidence that we had a shot – and showed us the desire and need among fellow luthiers for such a Show to happen.
The next step was sending out the application itself. A positive response by the luthier to this means that the applicant will now be considered as potential exhibitor. A selection among these applicants will be made with a view to the criteria we have established.
We have tried to make it clear at every step that, as much as we regret this, it will not be possible for every applicant to exhibit at the first Show! We very much hope that in the future we can expand the Show and offer more builders the opportunity to exhibit. We will have around a 100 exhibitor spots available this time and we have sent out over 300 invitations. Applications will be kept on file for the next year’s Show.
The official deadline for applications has now passed. But we have decided to accept and consider further applications, as we can see that many builders we had initially invited have misinterpreted how the process works and have assumed they were already registered as applicants.
This is the first “Holy Grail Guitar Show”. We want to establish the Show as a prestigious event, showcasing top talent from around the world and featuring a great variety of interesting builders, to attract visitors and luthiers for years to come. Our first priority is to make sure that this Show will be a success so we can continue and make it a yearly event.
Selection will take into consideration the luthier’s professional standing and the quality and originality of the builder’s work. An important criteria will also be which country the luthier comes from, in order to proportionally “share the cake” among the participating countries.
There will be a waiting list for any spots which should open up due to circumstances. Also, all applications submitted will be considered for spots at future Shows.
If a luthier is selected for the Show we will send her/him a contract and a handbook with details about the Show. Once the contract is signed and the deposit paid, the spot at the show is confirmed.
By luthiers for luthiers.
This whole enterprise, the EGB and the Show, is initiated and organized by us on a volunteer basis. It is our commitment to the idea of providing a platform for small builders, of fostering a community of luthiers dedicated to excellence and the growth and development of the art and craft of building guitars, that has been our driving force. We are not an event-management company, or a large corporation. We ourselves are small builders with limited resources – our time and our financial means are, as with most luthiers, rather tight. But we are lucky to have, and all of this would not be possible without, the help of Emma, Kora and Tania, our wives who have stepped in to manage the countless organizational challenges and details such an event provides. Our thanks go out to them –
Juha and Mikael along with Kora and Frank Deimel were in Frankfurt at the Messe. They spoke to a lot of people about the show and the response has been wonderful - excitement is building and we have found numerous allies in our quest to present the finest of what the hand made guitar world has to offer at the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin!
Due to the work load of preparing for the show we have to put the EGB activities on the back burner for now - applications for membership will still be processed, but it may take a little time. We look forward to hopefully seeing all of you in Berlin at the first EGB Symposium!
This week it's all about the Frankfurt Musik Messe. A few of our members will be there, among them Frank Deimel, one of our founding members. Juha Ruokangas and Mikael Springer will also come to visit and circulate. They will be happy to share information about The Holy Grail Guitar Show.
Frankfurt is a very different format from the show we are working on - it seems some companies have even stopped exhibiting this year because they have found noise levels made conversations and testing of instruments quite impossible. These are the types of issues we are trying to adress with our format - to create an environment which makes it possible to actually hear the guitar one plays.
By the way, The Holy Grail Guitar Show is not a closed event, accessible only to members of the EGB. The show is open to all applicants who qualify - but please keep in mind that it will not be possible for all applicants to exhibit, as much as we would like this. This is the first show and there is a limit as to how many exhibitors we can handle. It is important for this show to be a success, so over the next years it can grow and more luthiers will be able to exhibit.
Thanks for the great response so far to the invite for The Holy Grail Guitar Show we sent out - we are now one step closer to make this a great and successful show!
We'll be able to commence with the selection process in the next weeks and are starting to send out the applications for exhibitors. We will evaluate potential exhibitors with a view to their professional standing, the quality of their work, originality and inventiveness, as well as level of craftmanship and a balance among the various types of instruments.
The Holy Grail Guitar Show also has a mandate to show luthiers from many different countries. As an event organized by the EGB the show is intended to support and foster the guitarbuilding scene all across Europe. We could probably fill the show with applicants from just one country, but we want to show a cross section of builders from many countries, including some of our overseas colleagues who have not yet been shown in Europe.
It looks like we are well on our way for these goals to be achieved! Stay tuned for more news soon,
We are happy to announce that Grit Laskin has agreed to hold a seminar during the EGB Symposium. Grit is one of the world's foremost inlay artists as well as a master luthier.
As we are continuing our work on organizing The Holy Grail Guitar Show, we are mindful of the feedback and questions we receive. It helps us with clarifying our ideas, with communicating to exhibitors about what to expect, and to learn what they think would make a good show for them. This is, after all, the first such show we are putting on, and even if among us we share a vast experience attending all kinds of shows, we are new to the task. So feedback and ideas are helpful to us in charting our course.
This is from an email we received after I had posted the conditions for exhibitors at The Holy Grail Guitar Show. It made some good points, and I’d like to use the following exchange to illustrate the reasons behind our format and why we think this is the best way to go:
Re: Holy Grail Guitar Show conditions
“Respectfully, I urge you guys to revise these conditions. I don't understand the philosophy of forcing everyone to show their instruments exactly on the same terms by prohibiting personal expression -- a standard based on the "lowest denominator". Tables constitute an unprofessional way of exhibiting high-end products; they are an amateurish thing. As it is proposed, I believe this will be boring for the exhibitors, and especially for the public.”
I can see that we will have to explain to people who haven’t been to either Healdsburg or Montreal why this is a better format for our work. If you take the Frankfurt Messe as model I guess I can see your point of view – but this isn’t meant to be Frankfurt or NAMM lite in a low-noise format. It’s a different animal altogether and different rules apply. We are not trying to compete with Frankfurt or the NAMM, they have a different function and serve a different clientele.
While I do think for a lot of small luthiers the idea of being able to show at NAMM or the Messe still represents the step into the world of the big boys - “Now we are true professionals! We have arrived!”, this does not square with our long-time experience. These trade shows are designed and geared towards large industrial companies, just as most guitar magazines generate their revenue from, and in consequence cater to the large manufacturers. The business model operating here is highly disadvantageous for the individual luthier. The expense involved in exhibiting at one of the large trade shows, the noise, the lack of focus, the wrong target group, the endless amount of tire kickers hanging at the booth asking for picks, stickers, posters... We are different from the large brands offering cookie-cut instruments, forced to resort to loud advertising and branding to make an impression.
Let’s go though your points one by one and see if I can explain.
“I agree with not having any advertising, or amplifiers without headphones, in order to stimulate conversations. But putting my guitars on a table presents for me the following problems:
- Lack of space. One table = four guitars are too few. If every luthier is limited to that, the length of the visit and the stay of the attending public is being limited too. The more guitars, the more conversations and the longer and varied the experience would be.”
We want 100% focus on the luthiers. It is correct that at The Holy Grail Guitar Show we will forbid pop-up posters or other large elements protruding upwards at the tables. Everyone will have the same size table, no more, no less. We will require that the master builder be present at every table - not the marketing guy. Why such crazy rules? Because this way a rich luthier cannot steal attention from the others. One can't buy 5 tables to show how much bigger he is than the rest. That is the wrong kind of competition – the kind we don’t want. You also have to understand that 4-5 guitars are usually a whole lot for people who produce between 10-15 high-quality handcrafted instruments a year. And one guitar can stimulate plenty of conversations – the most talked about instrument at the last Healdsburg show was Matsuda’s new creation. He had 2 guitars on display. As visitor at The Holy Grail Guitar Show you will have 100-120 top-shelf luthiers to choose from, so there’s no shortage of attractions. Most people will wish they had more time to spend there.
“- Lack of presentation. The guitars are the protagonist of the show, and to better present them I have to use lighting, and specific guitar stands that show them not vertically but angled, in playing position, etc. On a table you cannot do this properly; any exhibition of a certain level is based on booths.”
We want provide an affordable platform for the individual luthier who typically has little money to spend on advertising and promotion. If we would try to organize an international luthier event and simultaneously offer booths that need to be built (and paid) by someone, we would end up having a mostly local German show populated by luthiers from within a decent driving distance from Berlin. Few other European luthiers would bother. Very few luthiers from outside Europe would come. All the pro guys know how much work and expense is involved in exhibiting at the industrial style shows where booths are required. Stands can be made to show the guitars in a playing position, lights can be clipped to the table - all these solutions have been tested and proved satisfactory at the Montreal and Healdsburg shows.
“- Lack of personalization, branding, or decoration = Lack of fun. If we put our guitars on a table, they are just guitars on a table. Allow me to ditch the poetics here: guitars don't speak for themselves: we do. An exhibition with tables is not a "show"; it is more like a country fair, or a flea market.”
Well, here we may be at a philosophical divide - between the music industry and the world of fine lutherie. If you need these things to have fun, then admittedly maybe this will not work for you. We think the guitars should speak for themselves. We are individual luthiers making a living through quality and originality, not companies depending on a large advertising budget. The show is totally about content, not contest. Quality, not quantity. Rather than a flea market, try to picture this as something like a high end art exhibition with the added element of music. Blinking neon signs, pop-up posters, banners or obtrusive noise don't play any part in such an event. Believe it or not, such a show is an uplifting experience for both the luthiers and the visitors.
“- Lack of value. At the Frankfurt Messe I get a stand of 8qm for 2.100€. Here my instruments will be confined to a 1,62 qm for 550€. The HGS space is then more expensive than at Frankfurt.”
Actually the total space assigned to the individual luthier is more like 6qm. But the real value here lies in more substantial things – the contact with the public, with fellow luthiers, and with the ability to have a customer able to focus on the instrument. The public we attract is not the one thronging the Messe or the NAMM in search of goodies and star autographs – they are serious people willing to spend 3K to 5K, or even into the 20K range on an instrument – they want to be treated with the same respect they accord our work. There is nothing dowdy or cheap about this kind of format – and as you can see from the roster of luthiers who have attended the Healdsburg and Montreal shows, even the NAMM or the Messe cannot compete with the quality and quantity of builders showing their work there. In addition you get the EGB Symposium on Friday, where you can mingle with your colleagues, network, attend seminars, and the Luthier’s Dinner party – values you will not find anywhere else. Remember the Berlin Press Conference we held last November – the way the luthiers enjoyed each other and the instruments! This is going to be bigger and even better!
“The idea / concept of The Holy Grail Guitar Show has brewed for years in the minds of those of us who have exhibited at MGS, and there realized the dramatic difference in how great such a show can feel in contrast to the big trade fairs. When I heard MGS is no more, I felt really sad to not be able to go there anymore, after having exhibited there 5 years in a row. In contrast, I've exhibited at Musikmesse 14 years (!) in a row. It must be difficult to understand the depth and urge with which we, the experienced professional luthiers, need The Holy Grail Guitar Show, unless you've been there and done that enough times. I am absolutely convinced that our concept is the sole concept that can work if we desire the big names of lutherie around the world to say "yes" to us.”
Vice president, EGB
Friends and colleagues,
we have started to send out invitations to apply for a table at The Holy Grail Guitar Show. A big step towards making the show happen! Due to the great number of builders it will take a while to get through the whole list, but we hope that by the end of next week we will have this step completed. Please have patience.
A few words about the format: The Holy Grail Guitar Show is inspired by the (now defunct) Montreal Guitar Salon and the Healdsburg Guitar Festival. After attending many shows with varied formats, from small vintage oriented shows to the auditory onslaught of NAMM and Frankfurt, we have found these to be the best models. The aim is to provide an environment which is conducive to let the instruments speak for themselves. Each exhibitor will have one table (enough to display 3 to 5 instruments). Electric instruments can be tested and played via headphones or in soundbooths to keep the noise level down. Each luthier will have to be present in person. There will be no large brands or factory-produced instruments. In this way the visitor has a chance to browse and see the guitars and talk to the maker, without being distracted by large displays or loud shredding.
Saturday and Sunday will be the public days. Friday is reserved for the EGB Symposium. We are working on the program for this day, and will post the particulars as they become available.
We are happy to announce that we are now collaborating with Luthierbuilt, a premier destination for musicians, guitar lovers and builders on the web. In the short time it has been active in its latest incarnation Luthierbuilt has already become a force in the guitar world, with many useful features and a truly international audience. I think this will be a fruitful and interesting project, for both the EGB and Luthierbuilt. More about this will come soon.
As we are currently focusing our resources on organizing the upcoming Holy Grail Guitar Show, our work on the EGB itself has taken a bit of a backseat. Some of our projects, such as an expanded web presence with forums and informational networks, will take a little longer to implement. Originally founded with the sole intention of being a vehicle for organizing the Holy Grail Guitar Show, the EGB has taken on a life of its own. It soon became evident that something like this, an international European organization of luthiers, offered greater possibilities and demanded to be taken further. And as the year progresses, and when our work on the show allows for it, we will return to give more attention on developing the EGB.
The show itself is still going to be the highlight of our yearly activities and we are woking hard to make sure that it will be a spectacular offering of guitarbuilding bounty! Mark November 14th, 15th and 16th in your calender - and Berlin as your destination. We have secured a great location and are now working on putting together the particulars.
Friday, November 14th will be reserved for the EGB Symposium - a general assembly, seminars, discussions and in the evening a luthier's party for exhibitors and EGB members. The show itself will take place on Saturday and Sunday.
We have also made some policy changes - it is now no longer required to become a member of EGB in order to be considered as exhibitor. It seems to me that whoever wants to join the EGB should do so for its own sake, and not feel pressured to do so just to be able to participate in the show - Michael Spalt, president EGB
Sustain Magazine published a nice article about the EGB and the Berlin Press Conference in its current issue. Sustain is a magazine for luthiers, designers and stringed instrument lovers edited by Leo Lospennato. Read about it at:
The first General Assembly of the EGB was held Saturday morning after the press conference. We discussed the structure of the association, introducing the new members to the way it works. Then we decided on the next steps we are going to take regarding the organization of the EGB and finished off with the (by now traditional) toast of Finnish Salmiakki, kindly provided by Juha Ruokangas, our vice president!
This past weekend we all met in Berlin, welcoming new members and the press to our press conference announcing the invitational "Holy Grail Guitar Show", to be held in Berlin in Nov. of 2014. It was a great occasion, topped off by Ron Spielman and Michael Rodach playing all the instruments present in turn. We're looking forward now to continuing the work of organizing the EGB and to reach out to luthiers around Europe.
New material is being added continuously to the website as we are developing it. Please subscribe to our newsletter also to keep up to date.
Ladies and gentlemen - EGB proudly presents The Holy Grail Guitar Show 2014! Stay tuned for more information as our press release goes out soon.
An important note to all the luthiers out there interested in joining EGB and/or exhibiting at The Holy Grail Guitar Show - keep an eye out on this website news section, we will have answers to your questions very soon!
Go 'like' The Holy Grail Guitar Show Facebook page now and be part of our fast growing community of luthiers and true guitar enthusiasts!
Michael Spalt (president of EGB) and Juha Ruokangas (vice president of EGB) were two of the many European guitar makers invited to showcase their works in Santa Rosa, California, at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival - one of the most appreciated boutique guitar shows around.
Michael and Juha standing on the top of the world (in this case the Twin Peaks, San Francisco), reaching higher with the future plans to raise the awareness of handmade guitars in Europe to a new level.
In May 2013 our efforts solidified when the registration of the association was confirmed in Germany, to be called 'The European Guitar Builders, e.V.' (EGB), located in Berlin!
In October 2012 Juha Ruokangas, Frédéric Pons, Ulrich Teuffel, Frank Deimel, Kora Jünger and Jacques Carbonneaux came to Vienna to meet with Andreas Neubauer, Michael and Tania Spalt with the goal of founding a European luthier organization that would start working on a new breed of international guitar exhibition - an event designed to raise the bar to a level never seen before.
As a result of the memorable weekend - filled with intense discussions and good food (Andreas, your goulash was divine!) in great company - the founding documents of The European Guitar Builders association were signed, sealed and delivered!
A small group of luthiers and associates came together at the Montreal Guitar Show 2012 - friends sharing the same vision: there is a need for an international organization to bind together the new generation of European guitar builders - a lively yet fragmented scene, filled with unsurpassed skill, innovation and talent.
The intense discussions that took place on the rooftop of the Hyatt Regency Montreal Hotel were the beginning of something to later take the form of The European Guitar Builders association.