Reuben Forsland in his East Sooke studio with the guitar he crafted from hemp wood that he hopes will start a conversation about sustainability. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)

Reuben Forsland in his East Sooke studio with the guitar he crafted from hemp wood that he hopes will start a conversation about sustainability. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)

B.C. artisan strikes a chord with unique and thoughtful custom guitars

Forslund channeling Hendrix for Slash and finding Equilibrium for his father with his creations

Every custom guitar Reuben Forsland crafts begins with conversations and connections.

“The focus is how to create an artisan guitar that inspires the player to make an emotional and spiritual connection,” said Forsland in an interview from his East Sooke studio.

“The guitar to a guitarist is their voice. It has a large effect on what and how they express through their music. I think the guitar is the best connection of storytelling outside of written words, and music’s a beautiful way to show that connection.”

Forsland went to great lengths to find a source of inspiration when he was hired by renowned rock guitarist Slash to make an acoustic guitar.

ALSO READ: Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Once he found out Jimi Hendrix was one of Slash’s heroes, Forsland spent six months tracking down Pete Sikov, the owner of the Seattle house Hendrix grew up in.

“I asked Pete if he was open to the concept of using some of the wood from the house for Slash’s guitar, and he was good with that,” said Forsland, who has since completed four other guitars using some of that wood.

Another one of his guitars, Equilibrium, embodies the sense of spiritual connection and conversation that permeates his work.

“It was inspired by my father’s struggles with addiction, and that guitar is a broader conversation about the human experience,” he said.

Forsland, who grew up in central Alberta and Ottawa before moving to B.C. in 2008, worked as a Red Seal carpenter for many years before gravitating towards building guitars.

“I’ve done every field of carpentry, including bridge building, large commercial, custom houses and log homes,” he said.

He also made furniture in the evenings and weekends, searching for something he couldn’t put his fingers on that would feed the creative fire burning within.

After working on skateboards and longboards for five or six years, Forsland crafted his first guitar in 2008.

“I was looking for something different that incorporated my carpentry skills that totally fueled the passion I was looking for,” he recalled. “I felt like, ‘OK, now I know what I want to do’ and wanted to put everything I have into it. I base my work on 50 per cent art and 50 per cent guitar. Every guitar has a part of me and what I believe in.”

ALSO READ: B.C.’s ‘Captain Maniac’ has seen close to 1,000 concerts since 1964, starting with The Beatles

By 2013, Forsland was devoting his time to his business, JOI Guitars, with 99 per cent of his orders coming from outside of Canada. His work has been featured with Jimi Hendrix memorabilia at Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, the Robert Bateman Gallery in Victoria, the National Music Centre of Canada in Calgary, and the Sarah McLachlan School Music in Vancouver.

Although Forsland has worked exclusively on acoustic guitars until now, he was recently commissioned by a musician in New Hampshire to make a reproduction of Eddie Van Halen’s electric Frankenstrat guitar.

When asked if he plays guitar, Forsland shared a story about how he collected pop bottles when he was young until he had enough money to buy a guitar and cover a year’s worth of lessons. He picked it up again in his late 20s, acquiring a level of skill that resonated sweetly through the workshop as he strummed a few chords on one of his creations.

Forsland’s focus these days, however, is on his most recent acoustic creation, the first world’s first traditionally built guitar made from hemp wood, a wood substitute made from hemp fibres.

“It’s 20 per cent stronger and grows 100 times faster than oak,” he said. “Environmentally, it absorbs four times more CO2 in its lifetime than the same area as a forest.”

If just 2.6 per cent of the farmland in the U.S. was dedicated to cultivating industrial hemp, it could displace a massive amount of the annual consumption of wood, letting the trees stand, Forsland said.

Hemp wood is also an agricultural diversity plant that allows farmers to make a good living, he added.

Forsland embraces environmental sustainability with the same passion he brings to making guitars because they strike a similar chord. That’s why he chose Earth Day (April 22) as the perfect time to unveil his hemp wood guitar officially.

“Although this guitar can’t save the environment, it’s a piece of the conversation about what can be created with a sustainable product in today’s marketplace. Hemp wood can have a dramatic positive influence on the future market of wood production.”

Take a listen to a video of Forsland playing the hemp guitar at https://youtu.be/Al6RC2Mnr-o.

“It’s more than just an instrument. It’s an opportunity to have conversations for different reasons, social and environmental.”

Check out joiguitars.com/hempwood for an in-depth tour of Forsland’s hemp wood guitar, and joiguitars.com/guitars for more photos and info on his work.]

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

West Shore

Just Posted

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos’ Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

No dental coverage for low income Canadians. (File photo)
OPINION: Penticton MP’s proposal for universal dental coverage rejected

One in 3 Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Sandra Krauer, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and Barb Hoolaeff were in Skaha Park to announce the return of Ribfest for September, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Ribfest returns to Penticton

Festival runs from Sept. 17 - 19 at Skaha Lake Park with proceeds going to new splash park

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
UPDATE: Lake Country home destroyed in massive blaze

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read