Illustrator, tattoo designer and Digital Arts contributor Ollie Munden has collaborated on an awesome new project with a guitar-builder and a leatherwork craftsman to create two stunning engraved guitars.
Brighton-based Ollie, aka Megamunden, was approached by Portland-based Jeff Nichols earlier this year about a possible collaboration for the guitars, which led to the recruitment of leather expert Johnny Mateu to craft the guitar straps.
Jeff Nichols, an advertising art director, had received positive feedback for a cigar box guitar he had built, so decided to take the project further and build a "proper guitar."
That's when he approached Ollie, an illustrator who, alongside working as lead designer at ilovedust, also works on side projects under his Megamunden brand. He's worked for Samsung, Levis, Nike Snowboarding, Volvo and more.
Once on board, Ollie reached out to Philadelphia-based Johnny Mateu, who has been working with leather for about three years, to create the straps.
Together, the three creatives have collaborated on the new project, and we caught up with them to find out more about it.
To see more photographs and read what Ollie, Jeff and Johnny had to say about the guitars, use the slideshow controls above and right.
AA: Can you tell us how the project began, and how Johnny and Ollie came to be involved in the collaboration?
Jeff Nichols: "The first guitar I built was based on a Telecaster Thinline design. It is beautiful and sounds incredible. But ultimately, I didn't want to create Fender clones. I wanted to create something unique.
"While having the neck plates laser engraved for the first few guitars I had built, I got the idea to laser engrave the entire top of the guitar. Because the semi-hollow body construction used a thin piece of wood for the top, I could engrave the art before assembling the body.
"I was really interested in the Nike nesting doll project that Ollie had illustrated. I emailed him and discussed paying him to create the art for the guitar I wanted to build. He didn't want to get paid. He wanted a guitar. Perfect. We would collaborate. He would create unique illustrations for two guitars and I would build the guitars."
Ollie Munden: "Jeff had seen the project I did for Nike which involved customising a set of 10 nesting dolls and took an interest in my work all the way from Portland. He asked if I'd like to create two designs for electric guitars that he would hand build. I checked out some of his previous builds and was really impressed. Of course I wanted in!"
Johnny Mateu: "I did some key fobs for professional skateboarder Omar Salazar, and pictures of the fobs caught the eye of Mr. Ollie Munden. Ollie had designed a logo for Omar. Ollie contacted me about doing some straps for some super sick guitars and of course I was 100 per cent down."
AA: What was the brief?
JN: "The two guitars would have tattoo-style illustrations laser engraved into them. They would depict crows and snakes and skulls. They would also give a small nod to the collaboration – a rose for Portland and a crown for England."
OM: "We'd come to the conclusion that we were designing one guitar for Jeff and one for me. This materialised into me wanting to go for a black on black guitar with touches of gold and for lazer engraved artwork to be a snake inspired pieced (as I love drawing snakes) and for the other guitar to be a crow-inspired design."
JM: "For me, it was to incorporate elements of Ollie's artwork into the straps with some highlights of my original ideas. I think we were all on the same page from the get go."
AA: How did you go about creating the guitars and their designs?
OM: "Jeff supplied me with a finalised Illustrator template once he'd built the two bodies of the guitars. I opened the vector template in Photoshop and began sketching out different compositions for the two pieces.
"Much in the same way as I do tattoos, I wanted the design to flow around the guitar's shape and also have symmetry so that it would have a bold and striking impact.
"After some loose sketches, I found one I was happy with. I then printed the sketch out and used tracing paper over the top to begin firming up the sketch and adding in more intricate details by hand. Once this was done I sent it over to Jeff and he was digging it.
"The second crow piece for Jeff was done in the same way but came together a little slower. I was aiming to keep symmetry in the piece but when I showed Jeff he felt the crows I'd drawn were a little static, as the only way I could get them fitting in the template symmetrically was to have them perching.
"He asked if I could try them flying, and although it required re-sketching I'm glad he did. I'm really happy with where we took the design from there. That's often the way in design: sometimes you hit it right away, sometimes it takes a new set of eyes to make you work something a little harder to find a better solution."
JM: "I wanted the straps to be bullet proof so I used high-quality, heavy duty tooling leather. The straps are double layered and saddle stitched by hand. Everything about the straps is done by hand.
"I purchase the side of a cow. The leather is vegetable tanned and ready for tooling and staining. After cutting out my pieces and tooling, I then stain and, if need be, stitch the leather."
AA: What will happen to the guitars when they're finished?
OM: "Jeff will keep one guitar in Portland, and hopefully he'll shred the hell out of it as he plays. I will be keeping my black snake guitar in the UK and hopefully exhibiting it at my first solo show which I'm planning for next year. But who knows, maybe looking at it but not being able to play it will inspire some guitar lessons."
JM: "I hope someone rocks the fuckin' house!"
AA: Did you enjoy the project?
OM: "I definitely enjoyed the project. What's been great about it is that each week I'm seeing new progress from Jeff. He's been awesome with the updates and allowed me to have input on what finished the guitars should have. He's allowed me to specify colours of components (I have a liking for black and gold. Who doesn’t – it looks rad). Plus, he's educated me on how guitars are built and what it takes to maintain a guitar.
"I can't wait to see the guitars in the flesh and find out when I will be able to get hold of my one for keeps!
JN: "It has been an honour and a joy to create something unique and radical in collaboration with two amazing artists. Any day that you do what you love is a great day. This was especially fantastic because of the three way international team up. What an amazing experience."
AA: Would you like to do something similar in the future?
OM: "Hell yes! I'd like to work with Jeff again too. My hope is that some rock star will commission us to design a custom piece for them after we've publicised."