The Fender Custom Shop in Corona has turned once again to master guitar builder Yuriy Shishkov, whom The Times profiled in 2009, for a showpiece to highlight at the 2015 NAMM Show continuing in Anaheim through Sunday.
This year, Shishkov crafted the Pine Cone Stratocaster, modeled on the Fabergé "pine cone" easter egg made in 1900. The world-renowned, collectible Fabergé eggs were jewel-encrusted luxury items created for the Russian royal family in the decades before the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The guitar is decorated with 550 diamonds and incorporates 10 feet of 18-karat gold wire ribbon inlay on a single-piece maple body. Shishkov hand-engraved the instrument's hardware, and knobs and switches are also decorated with diamonds.
It also uses old-stock pickups wound by veteran pickup technician Abigail Ybarra, whose tenure at Fender goes back to the era when it was still run by founder Clarence "Leo" Fender.
Making such one-of-a-kind guitars is beyond the dreams Shishkov had as a young man living near Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, before he emigrated to the U.S. In America, Sishkov found work building guitars first at Washburn, before joining Fender in 2000.
As Shishkov put it when I visited him in Corona six years ago, "If somebody would tell me when I lived in Soviet Union, 'You're going to end up at Custom Shop building guitars for famous people,' I guarantee I would believe more if somebody tell me, 'You will fly to space.' "