g u i t a r m a k e r
- The first and only musical instrument maker to receive Canada’s most prestigious national craft award, the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence.
- Originator of the built-in “Armrest” and “Ribrest” edge beveling.
- Co-originator of the Sideport Soundhole.
- World renowned for his groundbreaking Inlay Art.
- A founder of the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA) and author of the first code of ethics for the luthier’s trade
William “Grit” Laskin wears many hats. His primary one is that of guitarmaker, a profession he has pursued since 1971. His steel-string, classical and flamenco guitars are known and coveted around the world. Players of his instruments include: k.d.lang, Ben Mink, Rik Emmett, Tom Cochrane, Jesse Cook, Wayne Johnson, Tom Chapin, Garnet Rogers, Stan Rogers, Ottmar Liebert, Christine Lavin, Ken Whiteley, Cathy Fink,& Marcy Marxer, James Keelaghan, Kobukuro (Japan). Commissions from guitarmaker colleagues and others within the trade include: Bill Collings (Collings Guitars, Texas), Roger Sadowsky (Sadowsky Guitars, New York), Dick Boak (director, Martin Guitars, PA), Bill Kaman (Kaman Industries—Ovation Guitars), Larry Sifel (pres., Pearlworks, MD), Chuck Erickson (the Duke Of Pearl). The Museum Of Civilization, Canada’s equivalent to the Smithsonian, has four Laskin guitars in its permanent collection.
In 1997, He received Canada’s prestigious Saidye Bronfman Award For Excellence, the first and only instrument maker to be so honoured. He is also an elected fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts, and included both in the University Of Toronto’s “Who’s Who In Canada” as well as the Encyclopedia of Music In Canada. Most recently he received the Estelle Klein (lifetime achievement) Award, from the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals.
In addition to building the instruments, Laskin uses them as “canvases” for his engraved inlay art. He is now internationally acknowledged as having single-handedly taken the tradition of musical instrument decoration beyond the purely decorative. For Laskin, the inlay medium has become a tool for communication, not merely embellishment.
To encourage the growth and public awareness of the luthier’s craft, he helped co-found in 1988 (and twice was President of) the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.), the international trade organization geared to professional builders and repairers of musical instruments. As president, in 1993, he authored the first Code Of Ethics for luthiers.
An additional but related hat Laskin wears is that of musician/songwriter/singer. For 40 years he has been a multi-instrumentalist performer of music, playing guitar, mandolin, Northumbrian smallpipes and concertina. He continues to give the rare concert at clubs and music festivals across Canada and the northern US. He has recorded four solo albums of original music — the first two on Stan Rogers’ Fogarty’s Cove label — as well as numerous others as a member of various bands. His songs have been recorded by other artists such as Pete Seeger and The Tannahil Weavers.
Still wearing the musical hat, in 1996, Laskin, in partnership with Ken Whiteley, Paul Mills and Bill Garrett, three veteran producer/musicians, founded BOREALIS RECORDS, Canada’s first national Folk music label. 15 years later, BOREALIS represents more than 50 different acts and has a catalogue of 125 releases. IN 2005 Laskin gathered more like-minded folks and created the first full-juried national awards for Folk music, the Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMA). In addition, Laskin is one of the coordinators of Canada’s longest-running adult folk music camps, The Woods Music And Dance Camp. He also sits on the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) Board of Directors.
Laskin’s final hat is that of author. Most recently (October, 2003) he published A Guitarmaker’s Canvas ; The Inlay Art Of Grit Laskin. In 1996 he published his first novel, Angel Could Smell The Fire. His first published book however (1987) was a celebration and documenting of Toronto’s thriving and diverse community of professional musical instrument makers: The World Of Musical Instrument Makers; A Guided Tour. It was the first book in North America to document contemporary makers.