The Story of Muse Catchers

     A fusion of influences and passions, the creation of Muse Catchers began when I was ten years old. I was learning to play trumpet for my school band, and with it, learning responsibility for a delicate instrument. One of the tools used to clean the inside of a trumpet, commonly known as a pipe snake, is a flexible cable with stiff-bristled brushes at either end. I preferred to keep the inside of my trumpet case neat and organized, so I began storing my pipe snake by creating a small loop and winding the remaining length through the loop in such a way that it made a neatly wrapped circular cable.

     Years later, when I started to learn to play the guitar, I found it disappointing that I had to throw my used strings away. It seemed a waste and I eventually stopped tossing my old sets in the trash. Instead, I took them, and, in a bunch, wound them just as my pipe snake storage method. Over time I had a line of circles hanging from the ceiling to the floor. However, when I packed up to move, they didn’t make the cut and now are likely a rusty blob buried in an Upstate New York landfill.

     

     After relocating to Portland, Oregon, I found myself living in an old farmhouse that was in the first phase of becoming the main house of a small Eco-community of artists, healers, and teachers. I was thinking about learning wire wrap techniques, but jewelry making isn’t a cheap trade to get into. The house had dream catchers made of used bike parts hanging in the living room and while changing the strings on my guitar, I decided to try something a little more complicated than just the round cable I had done so many times before.

    Using the E, A, and D strings (the thickest gauge strings), I made a ring about three inches in diameter and twisted the ends so it would hold. I then took the G, B, and high E strings and twisted a bent, chaotic pattern into the middle of the ring. Looking at it, I thought I might be able to make more, but I only changed my strings once every few weeks. Satisfied with what I had created, I hung it over the front steps of the house.

      Just a few hours later, my friend returned from class and asked if I had made the guitar string dream catcher thing on the front porch. When I said yes, he told me with firm sincerity, “That’s it! Never mind wire wrap, make more of those!” How could I deny such encouragement? I played my guitar more often to justify changing the strings more frequently and in just a few weeks I made four more, each one vastly different from the previous.

     I couldn’t afford to change my strings every few days, so I went in to the shop where I was purchasing my strings and asked what they do with the used strings they get from replacing strings for customers. I was told that just like the other shops they just toss strings in the dumpster. I asked them to put a box at their guitar tech’s work space for used strings and I’d be back. That was in late 2012 and in the two years following, we prevented over 100lbs of string waste from their trash.

     Once I had an abundant source of strings, I was able to bring each piece further and explore the behavior of the strings more. Some pieces came together easily while others were more difficult or failures all together, but I kept experimenting, and I kept receiving (and believing) compliments and encouragement.

     I’d like to give special thanks to John Trowbridge and Chris Minges for opening my mind to music; Gary Evans for replanting the seeds of artistic expression and giving me soil to set my roots; Will Lillard for pointing me in this direction; Lori Love for the endless encouragement, patience, and support; and to everyone who has helped this art be realized.