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There are two ways to do inlay: hand-cutting and CNC; marquetry is done strictly by hand. The process begins very much the same either way: a customer calls with a commission or an idea, and there is a conversation about what they want, how much they want to spend and when they want to see it. A discussion is had about materials to be inlaid, whether it’s abalone, paua, laminate sheets, plastic, glitter, diamond chips, rare woods—it’s almost all fair game, and artists are increasingly willing to mix and match the commonplace with the lowly or the exotic in order to make a project work.
These artists are putting guitars in the same context as other visual arts to create gallery-worthy pieces that remain uncompromisingly playable and listenable. Meet Harvey Leach, Larry Robinson and Judy Threet, three hand-inlay artists; David Petillo, a marquetry artist, and Tom Ellis, one of the pioneers of the CNC inlay process and the founder of Precision Pearl.