Born in Mexico City, luthier Federico Sheppard is currently living and building guitars between his workshops the US and Carrion de los Condes, Spain (his workshop is in a 1000 year old church that also serves as a guitar school, concert hall and acoustic laboratory) where is also founder of 'Asociacion Caminoartes'. He is also a scholar of the life and work of Agustin Barrios Mangore and a prolific member as both writer and speaker for the Guild of American Luthiers. One of Sheppard's instruments is published in the book A Collection of Fine Spanish Guitars, 2nd Edition by Sheldon Urlik.
This instrument was built in Sheppard's workshop in Carrion de los Condes, Spain which is about midway between Burgos and Leon, and situated right on the "Camino de Santiago" - the 500 mile trail to Santiago de Compestela that pilgrims have been walking since the Middle Ages. The area of Carrion de los Condes is littered with Medeival churches and castles built largely in the austere and breathtaking Romanesque style. Sheppard has walked the trail in its entirety 3 times, and has become enamoured with the rich artistic history, Catholic mystical tradition and pilgrim culture that is associated with the area. Not surprisingly, he infuses these elements into a series of instruments that he calls the "Camino" guitars.
The most obvious and striking thing one notices about this guitar at first glance is the use of the scallop shell - carved in the headstock (a la Francisco Simplicio, one of Sheppard's heroes), engraved in the custom Alessi tuning machines and beautifully inlaid as the mosaic in the rosette and tie block. Aptly, the shell is perhaps the most imaged symbol seen all along the pilgrimage trail, and has been loaded with metaphorical and deep mystical meaning for centuries - indeed the shell is seen on posts and signs along the Camino in order to guide pilgrims along the way, and it is also seen regularly on the pilgrims themselves, who identify themselves as pilgrims by wearing a shell that is either sewed onto their clothes or backpack, or worn around their neck. And so this guitar is built truly in the spirit of the Camino by exhibiting its most well-known image. And the instrument itself? Federico Sheppard is a veteran of the craft, having built for many years from his storage of high-grade wood that he has amassed over several decades. His deep love of traditional guitars, pre-modern repertoire and old-world craftsmanship firmly places this instrument in the early 20th century Spanish schools of Madrid (Manuel Ramirez/Santos Hernandez/Domingo Esteso) and Barcelona (Garcia/Simplicio) in its style of sound production, quality of tone and playability. It has a beautiful, singing and dark, mysterious sound that is perfect for late 19th-century and early 20th-century Spanish music. Overall this is a very inspired maker with an incredibly unique (yet traditional) approach to guitar making that harkens back to what many would call the golden era of Spanish guitar making. We are incredibly pleased to be offering this instrument and as Federico Sheppard's exclusive US dealer, we look forward to many more of these in the future.