Local luthier carving-out a name for himself

Ukulele maker in Meridian creates island vibes
Posted at 7:40 AM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 13:55:44-04

BOISE, Idaho — We hear a lot about musicians, but what about the people who make the musical instruments they play?

In today’s Made in Idaho, Idaho News 6 introduces you to a local luthier, carving-out a name for himself.

When you think about the ukulele, are you getting island vibes? The ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument, originally introduced in the mid-1800s by Portuguese settlers.

“Typically a ukulele is four strings. You can also get can also get an eight-string which would be similar to like a six-string versus a 12-string guitar,” he said.

“Sit on the dock. Play some music. Go camping,” said Garrett Gardner, owner of Stigma Guitars.

Hearing the sounds of a ukulele drifting from an Idaho garage may seem a little out of place, but for Gardner, building his first instrument back in high school just struck a chord.

“Let’s build a guitar, let’s learn how to play, “ he said, “And from there it just spiraled into building almost 100 ukuleles. Lots of of research, watching videos, talking with other luthiers that are in the craft, reading books.”

Gardner was working a typical 9-to-5 and then the Covid pandemic sent him home. He returned to his workshop and found carving and creating actually improved his mental health. And so Stigma was born. A reminder that asking for help is never a bad thing.

“It’s the most enjoyable job in the world. I get to come out here [to the workshop] early in the morning, work at night, work throughout the day."

Now, Gardner makes ukuleles for clients all over the country.

“You want something that’s gonna look really really nice, but also has acoustical sound performance,” he said.

Each instrument is crafted by hand using solid wood materials from the big island and the Pacific Northwest. He says it’s the perfect instrument to pick up because it’s so portable and fun to play.

“It’s become quite a popular instrument in several genres of music,” Gardner said.

So, if you are looking for your next career or maybe need encouragement to find your happy place, Gardner says sometimes it’s no further than your own garage.

“Make musical instruments and listen to music while I do it.”