A Letter to Luthiers

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Show Principles:

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.


The Story:

Coming out

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.

Waiting list

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 –

Michael Spalt

president, EGB

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