ABOUT THE MAKER
Stephen Hill's workshop on Mount Pleasant, Lewes 2002
My obsession for the guitar started at a young age. My mum always strongly encouraged me and my two brothers to be musical and urged us to learn an instrument. The violin was my first choice but a strong brotherly rivalry led me to the guitar - an instrument with which I soon fell in love.
I was about eight years old when a guitar-maker by the name of Stephen Hill moved into the shop next door to my mum’s house on Mount Pleasant, Lewes. I spent the next five years in and out of Stephen’s workshop offering to sweep the floor and tune the guitars in the shop window. I was forever pestering Stephen and despite being a continual source of irritation, he was extremely patient with me - he evidently saw more in me than just a curious and annoying young boy from next door. One day I decided that sweeping the floor and tuning the guitars was not enough for me, so I plucked up the courage to ask Stephen if he could teach me how to make a guitar. But alas, I was far too young and he told me to ask again when I was older?
Unfortunately, time passed and Stephen moved to Spain. New neighbours moved in and changed the workshop into a herbalists which I had no particular interest in. With no workshop to hangout in after school or at weekends, I concentrated my efforts back on playing the guitar, and was inspired by players such as Nick Drake, John Martyn and Davy Graham whose CDs I had pulled out of my mum’s collection. However, my mind still always lingered on the idea of guitar making.
One day, out of the blue, there was a knock at the door and a familiar face on the other side. It was Stephen! He had returned to Lewes and set up a new workshop just up the road at the Star Brewery. I saw my chance and immediately took him up on the offer he had promised me several years earlier. I was about fourteen when I finished building my first guitar in Stephen’s evening class, but this just increased my hunger to build another. I had built a Flamenco Blanca with Stephen which I gave to my brother, who was by this point a very accomplished classical player and I needed a steel string to sound like my heroes!
I had met Richard Osbourne years earlier when he was apprentice to Stephen at the shop on Mount Pleasant. By this time, Richard had established himself as a mandolin and steel string maker in his own right and just as I had finished my guitar with Stephen, Richard had started his first evening classes in steel string guitar making. And so inevitably, I found myself conveniently building that steel string I had been after. I finished my second guitar with Richard when I was sixteen and this coincided with me leaving secondary school. I was not a big fan of the idea of college and then university as I had had a pretty rough time at school, suffering badly from dyslexia, so I took up a part time job at a local cafe and Richard agreed to take me on as his apprentice.
I spent the next five or six years learning how to repair and setup guitars with Richard, who was now probably offering one of the best repair and setup services in the country with people traveling from all over to have their guitars worked on by us. This is also where I learnt the method of guitar-making that I still use today. I owe a lot of my career and knowledge to Richard who was and still is, such an inspiration to me. Richard moved his workshop to mid-Wales in 2015 and handed me the well-established repair and setup service in Lewes that I still run today.
I have also been a student of Nick Benjamin's, one of the UK's top guitar makers. Stephen, Richard and Nick have offered me tips and support throughout my career and I am very grateful for their wise words. I have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be taught by and work alongside, three of the finest guitar makers in the UK. I strive and I hope I achieve, the levels of excellence set by such fine craftsmen