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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelsey Johnson, the City of Penticton’s manager for parks and recreation, was recognized by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association as an emerging leader for her work. (Submitted)
National recognition for Penticton’s head of parks & rec

Kelsey Johnson was deemed an emerging leader by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two Summerland businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

Memorials have been set up to honour those who died during the Second World War. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: It’s time to stop making comparisons to Hitler

The deadliest, most destructive war in human history should not become a metaphor

Oliver’s Fairview Bridge needs work to remove the lead-based paint, but it may cost the town more than they’re currently willing to pay. (Google Maps)
Oliver bridge work may not happen until 2022

Bids for the project came in over what the town had budgeted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Most Read