Sharleen Simmons has always had an interest in musical instruments.
Sharleen Simmons is seen working on one of her custom guitars in this undated photo. — Submitted photo
I grew up playing in all the local bands and the high school bands in Corner Brook ... playing trumpet and singing in choirs,” said the 31-year-old Little Rapids woman.
A little later in her life, she taught herself to play guitar and while living in St. John’s and playing music, would spend her days at O’Brien’s Music Store.
“And I picked up learning how to do instrument repairs there.”
From there things spiralled out of control for her.
“And I just wanted to keep learning more.”
So she started building her own folk instruments — cigar-box guitars and cookie-tin banjoes.
“And then after that I decided I really wanted to learn how to make the real deal.”
In 2010, she studied guitar building at the Galloup School of Lutherie in Michigan.
For Simmons, the daughter of Keith Simmons of Little Rapids and Janet Simmons of Corner Brook, the interest in creating guitars comes not only from her background in music, but also from growing up on a farm.
“I was always in between practising music, or doing chores or seeing people in my family building things.”
She said building guitars for her seemed to be “a way to marry those two parts of my background.”
When the program ended, she went on to take an apprenticeship with master luthier Michael Greenfield in Montreal.
Somewhere in between attending school and apprenticing, Simmons met Gustav Fredelle at a guitar trade show in Montreal. Fredelle is also a guitar builder and had been working with a luthier in California.
The two started a relationship and in July, Simmons moved with Fredelle to his native Sweden.
They are living in Lidköping and it’s there that she has set up her own shop, practising her craft at Simmons Custom Guitars.
“I think it’s just really one of those professions that doesn’t get boring. It involves such a wide range of skills,” she said.
Simmons said you need to know all kinds of hand skills, about machines, safety procedures, the materials and wood used in the process and design skills.
She’s currently working on her first line of guitars and at least two of those will find their way back to Newfoundland.
The first will go to her dad, who is also a musician having played drums in a number of local bands for years.
“He’s supported me a lot through the process, so I promised him to have one of my first that are coming out of here.”
She also plans to eventually send another guitar home so that some of her local musician friends can give it a try.
But before she sends that first guitar home, Simmons will take it and another one to a guitar show she’s been invited to attend in Italy in May.
She’s hoping the exposure at the show will help her business take off.
“I hope to make it a lifelong career and to build as many guitars as I can that will hopefully inspire people to make music for a long time.”