Local guitar maker to set off on the adventure of a lifetime

Alistair Hay, from St Johnston in Co. Donegal, will travel to China later this week.
Alistair Hay, from St Johnston in Co. Donegal, will travel to China later this week.

An exciting project that spans three continents has reunited a local guitar manufacturer with a Canadian artist who he first met in Donegal more than two decades ago.

This Thursday, Alistair Hay, from St Johnston, will travel to China where he will have one of his unique Emerald Guitars decorated with Eastern philosophy-influenced art by Canadian artist Kristel Ouwehand for a Chicago-based customer.

Alistair, the founder and driving force behind one of the leading carbon fibre guitar companies in the world, first met the artist in 1992.

Kristel was travelling the world, financing herself through painting, and was invited by the Hay family to stay at their home for a few days after encountering each other on Main Street, Letterkenny.

While they did manage to stay in touch for a little while after, contact was lost at one stage, but, thankfully, re-established through the internet a few years ago.

When she left Alistair’s home Kristel presented him with a painting which had a profound effect on him and became a symbol for his own personal journey.

Alistair says: “She came and stayed in our house for a few days and, in return, she painted a picture of a horse for me. It was a beautiful picture depicting the horse with a flowing mane and tail galloping in the wind and it has held pride of place ever since.”

Kristel went on to settle, first in Northern India and then moving on to China where she worked with Buddhist monks, learned the way of their art and recently set up the Amdo Art Projects in the monastery town of Xiahe, Gansu.

Having found each other again on the internet, Alistair and Kristel decided they would love to work on a project together some day, if the opportunity arose.

Four years later, an Emerald Guitars customer contacted Alistair requesting a custom-made nine-string guitar.

As if this wasn’t unique in itself, the customer also said that he would like his guitar to feature Eastern philosophy-influenced art,

This prompted Alistair to contact his old friend. “We started talking about the design and I realised that it wasn’t something I could do.

“Instantly, I knew it was Kristel who would have to do this. I called her and I also spoke to the customer and he said, ‘If you can take the guitar to China in person and have the artwork done, go for it’.”

“A lot of different life experiences of mine are coming together to allow this to happen.

“It’s bringing a story full circle,” says Alistair.