View Full Version : Artwork - go or no go?

09-03-2008, 10:57 PM
Since most of the instruments I see these days have some sort of inlay work, running from simple initials all the way through a narrative (haven't seen full narratives on an `ukulele just yet), I'm just curious as to what the members of this board think about artwork on their instruments.

Let's make this an open discussion (no survey), and run the gamut, from names, signatures, all the way through to narratives (a la Laskin). We've already gone over where to and where not to, so lets focus on the what.

So what do you think about artwork on an ukulele - go, or no go?

Kaneohe til the end
09-03-2008, 11:11 PM
heres an interesting story about this: my first uke (kala ka-c) is no uber-quality uke(obviously) so i decided to put some artwork, in the form of stickers, on my uke, namely my uu sticker, a brandon boyd artwork sticker, and a sticker my brother got for me this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2132&highlight=stickers). the uu sticker is parallel to the Brandon boyd sticker. when my dad saw the stickers, he flipped out. he said it was disrespectful to the art and that i had to take it off. i didnt see it that way, i saw it as personalization, beautification etc. i ended up taking them off w/ the exception of the UU sticker(which i still hide from him).:D
anyway, experimentjon has UH stickers on his ovation, fred has stickers on his uke, and even aldrine has stickers on his. (not mika of course), then when i took my gramps uke to mgm to get repaired, instead of doing some more difficult work, he suggested putting a sticker to cover it up. (its pretty clear mgm knows what hes doing, and respects the art) my dad was there too, but he said nothing. "BLASPHEMY!! that is wrong, you're disrespecting the art!" is what i thought he might say, but nope, crickets.
so ultimately, i still believe artwork on a ukulele of any kind, (in moderation), is good, it breaks from the norm, especially if you designed it. if you designed it, it makes you personally stand out. my dream "artwork" on my uke would be an inlay that says "kaikea" my middle name in hawaiian on the fretborad, and something representing the lotus in bloom on the headstock
Art represents who you are, just like any other art, be it visual, or those that apply to the other senses. (i consider food an art:D)

09-04-2008, 01:27 AM
I could go either way on this one. I would say it depends more on the uke than anything else. If it is a "affordable" uke mass produced in a factory somewhere I really don't see the art in the uke as much as say a handmade custom uke. I have seen ukes where they themself are a work of art. And I have seen some that became that way by inlays, stickers, and painting.

Some of the inlay work I have seen on Ebay seems over the top and I think the uke is ment to be a looker not a player, personally I want to play an instrument, not just look at it. I have seen some amazing inlay work on players (assuming). Check out some of Moore Bettahs ukes.

I personally don not have any extravegantly decorated ukes, or stickers, paintings, or even much inlay work on any of my ukes (yes all 3). But I still appreciate tastefully done artwork on a uke.

09-04-2008, 04:56 AM
your dad sounds like a real winner...:uhoh:

I don't care what others have on their instruments. As for my own, when I make them, I'll add whatever custom things I see fit. So far I've made one uke, and I did a hand cut inlay on the headstock.

09-04-2008, 05:11 AM
I'd love to get a cheap playable uke like a Makala or a cheap Ohana and give it an interesting paint job. It would certainly add a personal touch to an otherwise run-of-the-mill instrument.

But solid wood instruments would probably suffer more noticeably from stickers/paint on the top. I'd never do something like that to my Kamaka. It feels personal enough as it is, because it makes me smile every time I pick it up. :D

09-04-2008, 06:09 AM
your dad sounds like a real winner...




09-04-2008, 07:17 AM
I'm not a huge fan of MOP inlay. It's too flashy for me. I like rosettes and inlays made of wood. If the design is something personal to the owner, so much the better.

Something like the uke Mike Da Silva made for Honey is right on the money for me as far as artwork goes.


If I were to get a Da Silva, I'd treat the artwork personalization process as I would a tattoo - something intensely personal.

Howlin Hobbit
09-04-2008, 08:20 AM
Not much for bling on my own ukes but I do enjoy seeing pics of the more ornate ones.

If the whole purpose of the instrument (no matter what type) is a "bling canvas" rather than a player I have a bit of a philosophical dispute with it, but as long as it plays nice and the owner loves the look, they can just have it covered in MOP or whatever.

I do rather like the ones with the herringbone (or similar pattern) stripe of wood inlay up the middle of the fretboard. I really like it in the old-school looking copies (like Dave Means' copy of an Augusto Dias ukulele he made for Patsy Monteleone). I like the narrower body and the rope binding and other decorative touches seem to go well there.

09-04-2008, 08:38 AM
I love stickers! I have this guitar that my uncle let me have, its not the best guitar so I customized it with stickers cause its not really worth that much. Most of them i made myself.


Neil Cursed Diamond
09-04-2008, 10:18 AM
I like the simpler inlays, the real intricate stuff can look gaudy. I wouldn't cover up wood with a sticker.


That's perfection to me, looks wise.

09-04-2008, 11:00 AM
I absolutely love MOP inlay! I put a lot of stickers on my baritone uke.(its a hilo so whatever) but im not touching my lanikai. lol. as for me, I wouldnt put stickers on my (higher) quality ukes and i definetely wouldnt paint any of my ukes, except my hilo soprano which i am already doing. paint can mess with the vibrations of the wood, which has been said here on the boards numerous times before. once i get a pono or a kamaka or even a custom uke, then i would put stickers on my lanikai but i want to keep it in the best shape that it can be in for right now.

09-04-2008, 11:09 AM
I put tons of stickers on my ukulele. It cheers me up that way and I just love the hawaiian theme stickers and had to put them somewhere :)

I think the sound has gotten worse of it, but it is still okay. It is a cheap ukulele anyway. Once I play better I will buy a new one and that one will probably just get one sticker :uhoh:

Here is my current uke with stickers everywhere!

09-04-2008, 11:25 AM
^^^ nice stickers! are those vynil stickers?

09-04-2008, 11:59 AM
Personally, I don't care for stickers. They don't look aesthetically pleasing. I think they just make things look messy or vandalized. :) I won't even put bumper stickers on my car! :D

09-04-2008, 12:12 PM
^^^ nice stickers! are those vynil stickers?

Yes, those are vynil stickers. And I put some flower stickers on the car as well :D

09-04-2008, 10:37 PM
Little did I know there would be stickers involved with this thread.

Interesting, though.

So how's about we change directions a bit. . .my thoughts were more along the lines of:

And, of course:


Kaneohe til the end
09-04-2008, 10:46 PM
i still say art reveals more about yourself than any words could. you can tell alot about those people with those crazy inlays.
those are a little exquisite for me, but hey, its not my place to say, there is no right/wrong in art. some will love it, others will hate it. id still like a small lotus though, but nothing big like some of those.
but more important than my opinion, what do you think kekani?

09-04-2008, 11:04 PM
. . .but more important than my opinion, what do you think kekani?

Your opinion is what this thread is about.

As for what I think - I'm heavily biased, naturally.

edit post:

Because of that bias, I didn't really want to go off into Neverland to respond, but, since you asked. . .

When I first saw Robinson's work, amazement is all I could say. Suffice to say, his book, and his video's don't do his artwork, or him, any justice. "In person" is what its all about with Larry. He is THE man.

Not to discount Larry, I went on to study elements that all have to offer. Harvey Leach's detail is impeccable, Lavin's marine execution is untouchable (which I can relate to, living on an island), but for me, Grit Laskin and realistic engraving and artistic impression is out of this world.

However, I didn't always appreciate their work in that sense. I viewed extreme inlay as something that shouldn't, or wouldn't be played. In some cases, this is true. As I delved deeper, I found a place for those types of inlay - its called a fretboard and headstock. Even true on an `ukulele. There are a number of builders working beautiful inlay into their builds. Ko`olau has used Larry Robinson and Craig Lavin. Bob Gleason (Pegasus) does very nice work, as does Mike Chock (and Asa). There are a host of others as well. UU's own Chuck Moore showed a Mermaid inlay last year, absolutely gorgeous. Derek has his laser, and brings inlay to the masses at a low cost, and Joe Souza has his hands in there as well. Of course, mentioning Paul at KoAloha seems redundant (for me, specifically) at this point.

Laskin is probably the one that screamed too much to me the most. Then I found out the meaning and motivation behind his inlay work (books are a wonderful thing).
Bottom line, he approaches his inlay the way I approach `ukulele - its a very spiritual thing when you're doing one by one.

If building instruments for the player (consulting for 1-2 hours just on woods) from a spiritual standpoint allows the instrument to become an extension of the performer, then adding inlay work to that instrument (consultations range from 1 hour to decisions over the course of weeks) will connect that player to the instrument.

For me, artwork is not about bling, especially on a Custom instrument. Artwork is taking the craft into an area where most will not (or aren't willing to) go. It is here that music truly comes from inside.

I think that's more than $.02