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Meet Shawn Weimer of Zoe Guitars in Fallbrook

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawn Weimer.

Shawn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Shawn grew up in Southern California in the 60’s and 70’s playing in local bands ranging from school symphonies to rock bands and, yes, a traveling accordion band! He was occasionally frustrated as a young musician of not being able to afford high-end quality instruments, in particular, guitars. Already being efficient in working with wood and metal, he turned that frustration into a desire to learn what went into the making of a high-end guitar.

Although his ultimate career choice ended-up taking him in a different direction, music and guitar building was never far from his heart. It was during college in Santa Barbara in the 80’s that he got his first taste of what the building process entailed as he was able to watch and learn from a couple of local luthiers. Back then, there was little to no available information on how guitars were built, and the internet was still a pipe-dream. So, watching closely and a lot of trial and error was the only way to learn. Building the first few guitars was a continuing process of making critical mistakes, forcing him to starting a new one before the last one was finished. There were lots of partial guitar skeletons lying around the make-shift shop.

In 1991, Shawn earned a BA degree in illustration and advertising, and soon most of his time was spent as owner and operator of a successful media production studio on the Central Coast of California and being the father to a baby girl, Kelly, the day after he graduated.

Even though he continued to learn and build guitars, it wasn’t until 2009 that an opportunity to sell his company allowed him to begin turning his attention toward his original desire to build quality acoustic guitars. Although other crossroads detracted him from diving into building full-time, he was always building something in his shop, learning, and trying new techniques. For the last few years, Shawn is finally able to work full-time as a luthier, working out of his shop located in Fallbrook, California. A dream thirty years in the making!

Another side passion. In all of his non-existent spare time, is growing wine grapes. Fittingly, his shop is centered in the middle of the vineyard overlooking the wine of tomorrow.

The Personal Story Behind Zoe Guitars. 

As mentioned above, we decided to sell our production company back in 2009. Unfortunately, as with most of life, the decision to sell wasn’t an easy one or one we saw coming. In 2008, our family was hit with the loss of our 12-year-old son, Zachary, who was involved in a zip-line accident at our church’s youth retreat. Our daughter Kelly, who was also at the retreat, was able to be with him immediately after the accident. Unfortunately, after a long and hard five days in intensive care, Zachary succumbed to his injuries in October of 2008.

As you might imagine, the next few years were definitely not easy, and the road to recovery was a long one for our family. Although I continued to try to move forward in guitar building, it was never at the level and pace I envisioned. After what seemed like a lifetime of trying to find a passion to just live again, things didn’t truly change until our daughter Kelly and her husband, Daniel (both incredible musicians and songwriters themselves), gave birth to our first grandchild, a little girl named Zoe. Zoe in Greek, by the way, literally means “life”. But, not just life itself, but to live life in a more full sense. Abundant life.

Seeing the incredible beauty of this tiny new life seemed to renew our desire to want to live again. But, not just live, but to actually thrive. This renewed energy and desire enflamed my continuing old passion to build high-end quality acoustic guitars. Zoe Guitars is more of a symbolic statement to breathe and live again than it is to be a thriving, successful business.

Having lived through our own journey also made us realize that everyone has a story! Everyone has or will have to find a way to decide to live again. For us, our lives will never be the exact same as it was before and, in a way, we will always mourn for that old life. There is a sweet sorrow in remembering those days but, for the first time in a while, there is a new desire to move forward and take one day at a time and try to appreciate and enjoy as much as possible from each day.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The learning curve of creating instruments has taken the better part of 30 years. Besides the intricacies of detailed woodworking, learning how to intonate an instrument was one of the steeper learning curves. Intonation allows an instrument to stay in tune no matter where a string is compressed up and down the neck. Considering that the string is being stretched as a player presses it to the fretboard, intonation takes that stretching into account.

Please tell us about Zoe Guitars.
Zoe Guitars builds hand-made custom acoustic guitars using unique and sometimes exhibition quality rare tonewoods from all over the world.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Start when I was a teenager. The learning curve is steep but also involves a lot of time. I’ve been involved in building guitars for 30 years but with it could have been 45.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shawn Weimer

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