The China Guitar by Robinson Custom Inlays
One of the most exotic custom musical instruments in CustomMade’s galleries, the China Guitar by Robinson Custom Inlays is more “an exotic MIDI controller” than an electric guitar. The story behind this 11-year project involves one of the Four Heavenly Kings, a 700-year old dragon made of 1,800 hand-cut pieces, brush-and-ink paintings on wood by a renowned Chinese artist, and designs based on influences over 2,000 years old.
It all started with wood that was going to be thrown away in 1988.
After rescuing the wood, Larry Robinson recalls finally figuring out what he wanted to do with the materials “in one of those early morning half awake Alpha states.” In the years that followed, that original vision was brought to life.
This instrument features exquisite inlays on the peghead, ebony fingerboard, and flame maple body. The figure of the “Guardian of the North,” Bishamon-ten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings in Buddhism, graces the peghead. He holds a spear in his right hand, appropriate for the god of war and the scourge of evil, and the Robinson Custom Inlays logo in his left hand. His raiment is made from shells, metal, and wood, while his face and hands are made from ivory. The dragon on the ebony fingerboard is made from dixgold and Philippine mother-of-pearl. The design is based on a fragment of a picture painted on a leather-covered box believed to be 2,100 years old. On the guitar top, the inlay of the pagoda and woman holding a vase is made from over 100 pieces of hand-cut pearl, abalone, ivory, hardwoods, and metals.
The back features a stunning dragon inlay based on a 14th century image in the Tokyo National Museum. The dragon is composed of over 1,800 hand-cut pieces, and each scale is engraved with over a dozen marks. The flames are made from translucent red Plexiglas.
Some observers have noted the unusual cloud-like patterns around the dragon. Those details, as well as the landscape on the top of the guitar, are actually brush-and-ink paintings on the wood itself by Lampo Leong, currently a Professor of Art at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Using the natural striped grain of the maple wood and autumn-based colors, Prof. Leong created waterfalls, pools, and clouds that capture the look and feel of a misty atmosphere that surrounds the inlaid pieces.
As for the hardware, the bridge and scalloped string nut are made from hand-machined brass. The custom tailpiece and truss rod cover are solid sterling silver. The electronic controls for the Roland synth pickup are buried in the tailpiece.
Have you had your own Alpha state vision of a custom guitar? Do its influences and designs span nations and centuries? When custom instrument accessories such as inlay designs are combined with the musical instrument of your dreams by artisans like Larry Robinson, you can rest assured your project will become a one-of-a-kind work of art. Get in touch with Robinson Custom Inlays or find a CustomMade artisan near you who specializes in custom musical instruments.