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Anaheim’s annual NAMM Show features guitar designs inspired by rum and tattoos

Scott Sasser (left) of CF Martin & Co. and Daniel “Gravy” Thomas, the global brand ambassador of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. They are showing off “Ink & Wood” designs on display at the 2019 NAAM Show, which concludes Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
(Photo courtesy of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum)

Rock music and alcohol have never been strangers, but one particularly artistic instance of that union is on display at the annual National Assn. of Music Merchants conference.

The NAMM Show, which runs through Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center, brings together music technology industry experts, students and educators in a collaborative atmosphere. NAMM is a nonprofit founded in 1901, and its conference now attracts over 115,000 attendees.

This year a collaboration between rum distiller Sailor Jerry and guitar maker C.F. Martin & Co. will be unveiled in the form of a special guitar series, “Ink & Wood.”

“The Martin Custom Shop approached Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum with the idea to create art-quality special edition instruments,” said Ashley Thomas, a brand ambassador with Sailor Jerry. “It made perfect sense to bring together the authentic voices of both brands with these special instruments.”


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The guitars each took over 50 hours of work to create, making them not only musical instruments but artworks. The two guitars, dubbed “Homeward Bound” and “True Love,” are made from sand-shaded wood and colored pearl. They are inlaid with artwork that calls to mind the form and texture of tattoos.

Each features images and stories from the life of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, the World War II Navy man who, while stationed in Hawaii, tattooed other sailors as they made their way to and from the Pacific theater.

Scott Strasser, director of the C.F Martin & Co. Custom Shop, looked at Collins’ numerous tattoo designs to inform the images applied to the instruments.


“It wasn’t that I wanted to build a guitar for people who like or have tattoos,” said Strasser, a recording artist in his own right. “I wanted to employ a very unique and distinctly American artistic style for the project.”

The “Ink & Wood” designs, a collaboration between Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and C.F. Martin & Co., were made from pearl and wood that is sand-shaded to mimic skin tattoos.
(Photo courtesy of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum)

The artists who worked on “True Love” and “Homeward Bound” carefully removed fragments of wood from the guitars and replaced them with the designed pieces, which are made from colored pearl and wood and then “sand shaded” to mimic the tattoo art. Shading entails using hot sand to burn the designs into the wood to more precisely resemble the texture and gradient of the tattoos themselves.

Thomas said that Sailor Jerry, the rum company named in honor of Collins, shares a creative aesthetic with C.F. Martin, the music company founded by 19th century luthier Christian Frederick Martin.

“Where Martin focused on the art of music, Collins turned to the art of the body,” she said. “Throughout their history, Collins’s and Martin’s paths crossed in unusual ways, with Koa-wood guitars responsible for the spread of Hawaiian music and Collins’ island-inspired designs following soon after.

“The Ink & Wood series pays homage to the two men behind them.”

And they retail for a dollar shy of $20,000. Each.

Eric Althoff is a contributor to Times Community News.