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Dasiy Tempest - creative assistant at Tom Sands Guitars

PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 February 2019

Daisy Tempest, creative assistant to luthier Tom Sands

Daisy Tempest, creative assistant to luthier Tom Sands

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Daisy Tempest is creative assistant to Tom Sands, a craftsman from Ripon, who creates custom made instruments for clients worldwide

Daisy's workspaceDaisy's workspace

I suppose I’ve always been creative. My mum is the cartoonist and sculptor Annie Tempest and my dad is the composer James McConnel who has written music for theatre, film and TV; and I’m into drawing and dressmaking and graduated from Edinburgh University with a literature degree. Dad is responsible for my interest in the power of music. I’ve always known about luthiery (the craft of making stringed instruments) and had long wanted to get involved with it but it’s a rather male-dominated occupation and the type of job that, frankly, doesn’t come along very often.

I did a bit of research, found out about Tom, discovered that he lived and worked in Yorkshire and things fell into place quite quickly. I’ve been his creative assistant since June and now spend my days learning how to make bespoke acoustic guitars in his workshop in Ripon for a range of guitar enthusiasts and collectors from across the world. I’m learning from the best, too, because Tom studied his craft under Ervin Somogyi, the king of guitar making, in California.

Tom’s workspace is pretty amazing. It’s a converted double garage and is quite spacious — roughly 300sq ft — and more like an artist’s studio than a typical dusty workshop. It’s very clean, painted white, with art on the walls and lots of natural light, which is important in this line of work. All around us are the tools and materials we use every day, including woodworking machinery, drills and bandsaws, plus various woods, papers, metals and inlay materials. To plane a piece of wood can be very peaceful but, ironically, if something goes wrong, it can get very stressful, very quickly. Wood is an unforgiving material and you have to be careful with it. You need such patience to work with it properly.

If they’re UK based, clients can come to the workshop so we can get to know them and they can get a sense of what we do here. Put it like this: one guitar can take around 200 hours to make. Every one is individually handcrafted — like a tailor-made suit. So part of what we do is about managing their expectations.

Our aim isn’t simply to make guitars, though. We want to create objects of desire — pieces of art that speak to a broad range of people. When I first started working with Tom I was more focused on function and didn’t really consider the need to design something that is aesthetically pleasing. That changed over time though, and has really enriched the experience for me. Seeing a guitar at the start of the build, imagining what it will look like and then watching it all come together is a bit like someone showing you the secret of a magic trick. The mystery is suddenly solved — but you’re still amazed by it and impressed by how clever it is.

Do I play the guitar? Yes, but not very well! I’m more of a pianist, really but pianos are a bit impersonal, whereas you can hold a guitar. You can truly interact with it, and it’s accessible and portable. My favourite part of the workspace is my rather cute bench which is home to my planes and my saw and which overlooks a gorgeous Yorkshire garden. Yorkshire is such a beautiful, inspiring place to have a studio. Tom goes walking in the countryside and incorporates features from the natural world, such as textures and colours, into his designs, and I’ve looked at incorporating wild flowers into mine. That kind of thing simply wouldn’t happen if we were based on the King’s Road in London! I’m never, ever blasé about being in this space because it doesn’t feel like work to me. I feel so grateful every day. u

Daisy Tempest at Tom Sands Guitars was talking to Tony Greenway

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