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Functional Art

The Story of the Art Guitars

The Story of the Art Guitars

As we look back at the history of Emerald Guitars, one of the biggest themes throughout our 10,000 guitars in 25 years has been the combination of Art and the Guitar. This has taken the form of both sculpted instruments such as the Ultra guitar, Bahamut and Draco but also by using a guitar as a 3D canvas.

We have been fortunate to work with a number of remarkable artists over the years who have helped us to create a range of beautiful pieces of functional art.

Oliver Jeffers

Stars and stripes guitar - Oliver Jeffers
Stars and stripes guitar – Oliver Jeffers
Circus Guitar - Oliver Jeffers
Circus Guitar – Oliver Jeffers

Back in 2003 we were going to display at our first NAMM show in the US and took the opportunity to collaborate with a fantastic Belfast based artist, Oliver Jeffers. With the idea of having him paint eye-catching designs onto our guitars for display. We approached Oliver and asked him to let his inspiration guide him as to what he would add to the guitars. With no more input than that, Oliver delivered two remarkable painted guitars to us; one with the first ever Emerald guitars ‘Stars and Stripes’ design and the other, the ‘Circus’ Guitar, featuring a circus tent scene encompassing the whole guitar.

Emmett Shinners

When Emmett Shinners came to work for Emerald, it was clear from the start that he was a talented artist and it wasn’t long before we decided to collaborate on a series of Art guitars which came to be known as the ‘Welcome to my head’ guitars. These intriguing pieces were each one of a kind and featured a series of hand-drawn doodles that reflected not only whatever came to Emmett at the time but were also inspired by life around the Emerald factory at the time.

Emmett also produced a wonderful painted map of the world on one of our guitars which has since gone on to travel the world aboard a sailboat.

Phil Aitkenson

Alistair Hay & Phil Aitkinson
Alistair Hay & Phil Aitkinson

One of our most successful long standing relationships with any artists is that which we have with the wonderful Phil Aitkinson. We first reached out to Phil to help in creating a special guitar for country singer Robert Mizzell. Robert is originally from the USA but has made his home in Ireland and the idea was to reflect his American background with an aged American flag represented on his guitar. This project kick-started a recurring series of flag-guitars painted by Phil which have celebrated not only more American flags but also Irish flags. This has even led to the hands of unity guitar featuring the two flags joined in unity together to celebrate the special connection between the USA and the effect that Ireland and its people have had on the US over the years.

Alistair Hay & Robert Mizzell
Alistair Hay & Robert Mizzell


With so many special projects over the years to celebrate, we were lucky enough to have them collected and featured into one book by Author Staci Blevins. Building Stories One Guitar at a Timetells the story of Emerald guitars from the first guitars through all of the amazing custom projects and wonderful artistic creations in one book.

Building Stories One Guitar At A Time – The Story of Emerald Guitars
Building Stories One Guitar at a Time

Crystal Ouwehand

Tibetan 9 String Guitar - Crystal Ouwehand
Tibetan 9 String Guitar – Crystal Ouwehand

Alistair had originally met artist Crystal Ouwehand whilst she was traveling through Donegal in 1993 with a friend. Alistair had brought her and her friend to stay with his mother and in recognition of the kind hospitality shown, Crystal painted them a beautiful picture of a galloping horse. After many years Alistair got in touch with Crystal who at that point was running an art school in tibet.

Many years passed by when Alistair was given a commission to create a nine-string guitar with  buddhist themed artwork. Crystal was the perfect person to deliver this so Alistair traveled to tibet to have her complete the artwork on the finished guitar.

The resulting experience was a great adventure as Alistair and Alan from Emerald spent the time helping work on building a sewage project for the village whilst Crystal finished painting the guitar.

It has been a privilege to work with so many amazing artists over the years on these projects for our customers as we look back at the history of Emerald guitars now while we celebrate the milestone of our 10,000th instrument. We look forward to the future also and all of the wonderful projects and commissions that we have yet to create.

Thanks to all of those who have participated in the colorful past, present and future of Emerald.