Kurtis’ eco-friendly guitar goals turn into reality

17th August 2023

Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

Northern Irish QEST Johnnie Walker Scholar Kurtis Scott knew deep down that he wanted to spend his life making one-of-a-kind ecofriendly guitars.

“I’ve loved making guitars since I was 16, but I didn’t really see it as a realistic career aspect as it’s a niche area, so I did an engineering apprenticeship alongside a foundation degree,” he said.

“I didn’t enjoy it, though, so I decided to take a leap of faith and got a position at Lowden Guitars making instruments, also setting up my own guitar making business at the same time.”

However, Kurtis wanted more, determined to transform his dream of handmaking and selling his own ecofriendly guitars into reality.

He discovered QEST and was successful in his application for a Scholarship in 2021 which has changed his life.

“I couldn’t afford to pay for actual training myself, so it was something I didn’t think was possible,” he said.

“It was incredible to get the call to say that I’d been awarded a Scholarship, funded by John Walker & Sons – they care so much about sustainability and are very invested in craft.”

As part of his training, Kurtis learned the traditional craft of guitar making from master craftsman Sam Irwin of Lagan Lutherie Guitars, covering everything from design, making moulds and jigs, sharpening tools, storing and preparing timber and construction of the instrument itself.

“[Through my Scholarship] I’ve learned how to make guitars using fast-growing and readily accessible timber instead of exotic rare woods, really focusing on sustainability,” he said.

“Rare hardwoods are what a lot of people want, but that’s partly responsible for deforestation.

“After finishing my training, I’ve since been able to progress my business PictGuitars, establishing product lines and a stock of instruments that I am able to exhibit. I sell my guitars online and I have stock in shops here in Northern Ireland with the goal of expanding into England and Scotland.”

Since finishing the scholarship, Kurtis has also started teaching guitar making classes two nights a week with Sam Irwin and will make his debut at the Belfast Guitar Festival in August, exhibiting four impressive guitars.

“For anyone who wants to be a full-time maker and apply for QEST, I would tell them to go for it and find something unique that identifies you and will help you separate from others.

“It is entirely possible and if you have enough focus, you can do it.”

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