Avant-garde wood

Art and culture

David Sánchez from Tenerife reinterprets the profession of instrument maker by bringing artistic and emotional elements into the craft of instrument making.

This article should have been about a sports teacher. You have read correctly, because that was the path David Sánchez León, born 37 years ago in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, chose for himself. In fact, he studied this subject of teaching at the University of La Laguna, when suddenly the music exerted an unbridled seduction on him. He always liked to play Timple, but when he decided to play the Canarian instrument in a group at the end of his studies, his enthusiasm grew to be more than just a hobby: he realized that music was his new philosophy of life. “I’m always looking for emotions,” is his maxim.

So this could be the story of another professional musician if there hadn’t been another twist…the construction of instruments. In short, he wanted to become an instrument maker. But not just any instrument maker. The “leap into the abyss”, as he himself describes it, was a very personal one for him, as you will notice.

The long and complex process had several stages.

From reading a book by Benito Cabrera, one of the most famous timple players in the Canary Islands, to a handwritten letter to the old school addressed to the artisan Francisco Fariña. The aim was to learn the basics of his work from him and he was successful. At the same time, this young Tinerfeño was able to learn a decisive amount of autodidactic skills. This included disciplines such as architecture, sculpture, painting…or marketing and design, to name but a few. That’s surprising, isn’t it? Well, we’re talking about a slightly different professional here.

For a better temporal orientation, 2007 should be mentioned, which marked a turning point in his development as an instrument maker. He created his first, complete instrument (which, how could it be otherwise, he of course still keeps today). Since then Timples, guitars, basses, double basses were created. They are all unique pieces (both in their number and in their innovative designs).

“I wanted to cross borders”. David Sánchez, also known as Ds, was immersed in the challenge of finding his own language that combined touch, dialogue, functionality and artistic expression. For him “they are not just instruments”.

„I wanted to cross borders”

He gives them the “contradictions” he likes so much, like folds in the wood, the consideration of texture, smell – and the sensations he evokes – light and even ergonomics. He adapts his creations so that they can be played, for example, with a straight back.

It is just as important to him to pay attention to sustainability by using materials such as recycled paper, linen or beeswax glaze.

Now that you have gotten to know his interesting profile, you may be interested to learn more about the phases of his creative process. First, he draws on paper to feel free, without prejudice or stereotypes. The next step is to create a model to see what is feasible and what is not. Thirdly, the wood comes into play: the choice of which type to use and the transition to a standardised production process that is then revised.

Once the instrument is finished, its sound is tested and the previously mentioned ergonomics are also tested. The fifth step is to make the product known. He explains it, shows it in photos and videos, uses his blog and social networks. He emphasizes how important it is to take care of this part of advertising.

Precisely because of all that you’ve learned about him so far, one of the obstacles that Ds had to face was the lack of understanding and resistance from outside, which was reflected in various critiques. The multidisciplinary instrument maker acknowledges that there were experts and relevant personalities, the latter of whom could not understand what he was doing. Having gone through his particular time of assimilation, he believes that he has been able to gain many answers from these situations and has learned in the end to accept constructive criticism. “Failure can be healthy,” he says.

At the same time and with the progress of his creations, he also received a dose of “safety”. The confidence that he was awarded prizes and consideration by committees and experts of various disciplines outside his home. They were incentives to continue searching and to overcome the moments of doubt that keep reappearing.

And in this constant quest, the guitar maker on Tenerife had to find manufacturers who manufactured components that matched his instruments and not the other way round. There was an extensive contact with craftsmen and companies of the Spanish Peninsula, Germany, Brazil. And this led him to bring herrings from the United States.

When he sent references of his work, more doors were opened for him. Something that made him a supporter of an Italian side instrument company. David Sánchez reflects on how life on an island can affect you.

“I try to be avant-garde”

“I try to be avant-garde; I need flowing processes and I don’t succeed, especially when it comes to logistics,” he says. Contradictions that don’t just play a role when it comes to getting the materials he needs. But also when he wants to show his instruments and take part in competitions far away from the Canary Islands. In addition to the difficulties of the necessary journeys themselves, it is aggravating that the instruments almost always suffer damage during transport. For this reason, he had to interrupt his efforts in this direction. However, he does not rule out the possibility that he will have to leave the islands professionally behind for the future. Certainly, to cross more borders.

In fact, he faces daily challenges without leaving his workshop. Every time he faces a new creation. He tries to create them one after the other, which usually takes an average of 6 to 7 months per instrument to complete the assembly process. Sometimes it takes up to a year. In the past, more timepieces were ordered and now it’s the guitars that are in demand. The trends determine the direction. And what about the prices? From 120 to 3,000 Euros, which depends on many variables to be considered. And as unique pieces, the instruments naturally have their own exclusive name; he almost always chooses them at the beginning of the process, inspired, for example, by readings of philosophy and architecture.

And speaking of reading, David Sanchez found out at the time that there was no published book dealing with the construction of the timple. He wanted to close this gap by writing “El Tratado. Barniz: Mito o realidad”. One of his concerns is that there will be a generation change in the profession of instrument maker, as there are currently hardly any “up-and-coming talents”. He has contributed to articles in various magazines along this informative line and is playing with the idea of publishing another book. That all sounds very good, just like his instruments. Authentic works of art that stimulate the senses.




Mobile Phone:
(+34) 652 147 298

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