I’ve got a soft spot for musicians, because my wife’s a singer, my son’s a metal guitar virtuoso, my other son plays drums, and I pluck an acoustic. My older one, the metal head, he’s 18 now, and has been saying for a few years that he wanted to work at Guitar Center when he was old enough. Ask him what he wants to do, and he’ll tell you he wants to build and fix guitars. For many parents, this might not sound like much of a profession, but I know the kind of time, effort, and craftsmanship (not to mention passion) a person needs to devote to doing such a thing is substantial. I also believe in doing what you love. “Chasing money is never going to make you happy. Do what you love”, I tell my kids.
From Wikipedia…”A luthier (/ˈluːtiər/ LOO-ti-ər) is someone who makes or repairs lutes and other string instruments.”
We already know there are countless musicians in Seattle and guitar is among the most common instruments to play. What this tells me is there is a need for qualified guitar repair technicians. In most cases, the purchase of a guitar is a minimum of $200 for anything decent, and of course from there, the prices climb into the thousands. For serious students, something like a buzzing fret or a scratchy pickup can be more than just annoying, it can be a hindrance to playing. That’s where this story starts.
If you’ve recently been to The Crest Theater, or driven through the intersection of 165th and 5th in Shoreline, you might have seen a new shop has opened up where the barber shop used to be. That space is now inhabited by Dagna of Silesia guitars. Besides being a skilled bassist, Dagna graduated from the Roberto Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix and has been practicing her craft for about 15 years. Now that Guitarville has moved out of Shoreline from where it used to live on 15th Ave, I think Dagna’s is one of only two shops in Shoreline doing guitar setups and repairs.
She graduated high school and was living in Sweden. She’d always wanted to do something with her hands and was already a bass player. Dagna knew she had to do something, and this was still staying in the music business. Since she only moved here recently, she hasn’t entirely found her roots in our community yet, but she’s looking forward to meeting people and getting more involved.
She used to run the Kirkland Parson’s guitar shop and also had a space “in a dungeon” for a while before she opened Silesia Guitars. Now some of her customers are returning from her past, and some neighbors are stopping by to see who the new tenant is.
When I walked in the door, I could feel good things brewing in there. It has the delightful aroma of a shop, but with the added scenery of several gorgeous guitars here and there. Like a small assembly line, Dagna grabs her next patient off the rack and places it on her work bench. She has every tool she needs, and all the spare parts to boot. But tuning and fixing guitars isn’t all she does, She also knows how to do inlays into the fret board, replace pickups, and pretty much anything else you can think of doing to a guitar.
When she’s not in the shop, you’ll find her poised behind her bass, in her rock band called “The People Now”. She says they are one of the only bands in Seattle doing surround sound at their shows. Although Dagna’s a bass player, she’s learned how to play guitar over the years. If you’re not following me, bass is a type of guitar, but typically when someone says they play “guitar”, they mean one of those 6 stringed things. There’s an acoustic guitar like James Taylor or Dave Matthews plays, and then there’s an electric guitar, think Hendrix or Santana. A bassist meanwhile, plays a bass guitar, which can have more than 4 strings, but most commonly has only 4. Since Dagna plays bass, she doesn’t consider herself a guitar player, but I’m pretty sure she’s a heck of a lot better at guitar than she lets on. When it comes to being a luthier though, she can fix anything, because she knows how things are supposed to sound.
Besides tuning and repairing, she really enjoys doing inlays. Someone can take an outline they have and she can inlay it into the neck. “You can use different shells, like abalone or pearl, or even different colored woods or plastic; anything that comes in a sheet that can be cut.” She likes to tell people “bring in whatever picture you found that appeals to you and we’ll make it fit”. If she had to say what her specialty is, “it’s inlay work and fretwork. … anything that has to do with frets, replacing frets if they’re buzzing or if they’re worn out. I’m very meticulous; I always polish them to a very shiny, shiny gloss.”
Dagna’s not shy; rather she’s confident and willing to say what’s on her mind. She won’t hesitate to tell you what she’s thinking when it comes to your guitar. As far as my story goes, I’m not shy either. I’m an open book when it comes to my motivation for writing stories about people like Dagna.
If you pack up your $800 Martin guitar and drop it down at Guitar Center, first, they don’t really care. The luthier at Guitar Center couldn’t care less if you’re there or not, there’s plenty more where you came from. Second, the relationship you have with your GC tech doesn’t do anything to support your neighborhood. Guitar Center started as something small and wonderful, and today, is a great place to buy things, but they’re not a neighborhood business. The $100 or $200 you spend at GC to get your 12- string tuned up doesn’t do much for anyone, but at Silesia, it’s so much more.
Dagna didn’t make the decision to move her business to Shoreline lightly. She thought carefully, planned accordingly, and is now doing what she can to serve the needs of the people, your needs. She loves what she does, and she needs our support. Stop by and introduce yourself to her. Even if you don’t have a guitar, you know people who do. A gift certificate for a guitar tuning at Silesia Guitars makes a great gift and supports your community. Support local businesses.