by Noah Armstrong
A one-man operation in Burlington, VT, Creston Electric Instruments builds fairly traditional electric guitars, generally styled in the Fender tradition, but custom-designed according to each customer's expectations. Owner Creston Lea works with his clients throughout the entire process, resulting in highly personalized instruments and a body of work that reflects the pride and enjoyment he takes in his craft.
âI stress, more than anything, simplicity—almost to a ridiculous degree. I try to get everyone to pare down to one pickup and no knobs and then add as little as possible from there. It's a battle I don't mind losing, but I try to get people to think about utility and what actually makes a guitar a good guitar.â
Aside from technical specs, Creston makes guitars structurally personal by incorporating objects that his clients give to him. Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Gob Iron) passed along a rock, a rusty steel carriage bolt and a piece of weathered beadboard—all found at the remains of Woody Guthrieâs Oklahoma childhood home. Creston creatively incorporated each in an appropriately nuanced manner into Jayâs âOkemah Artifact Customâ guitar (pictured after the jump).
Another example, Creston made Anders Parker's guitar from the beams of his motherâs barn—the result looks visually raw and absolutely unique (pictured top left and above right). âI push my clientele to think beyond the canonized palette of colors—why not make it personal?â asks Creston.
Fellow Vermont resident and painter, Sarah Ryan joined with Creston to hand-paint an ongoing series of guitars and even his band-saw. Her floral Americana style makes a perfect fit for the feel of Crestonâs guitars and most of musicians who play them—Ian Mackaye, perhaps, being an exception.
Other notable guitarists working with Creston include Jaleel Bunton (TV On The Radio), James Walbourne (pictured above; Son Volt, Pretenders, Pogues), Brian Henneman (Bottle Rockets), Chuck Prophet and Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Alejandro Escovedo).
An incredibly friendly guy, contact Creston through his website. Prices vary, but begin at $1,500.
More images after the jump.
Brett Hughes's Sarah-Ryan-painted guitar on left; Jay Farrar's Okemah Artifact Custom on right
Back of Anders Parker guitar
John Horan's Autumn Leaves B-bender on left; back of Channing Lewis' Barn Beam Custom on right