X20 9-String Tibetan

In September, 2015 I travelled to China to get US-based customer’s dream guitar decorated. I travelled to the Tibetan region of China to have one of our guitars decorated with Eastern philosophy art for a customer in Chicago.

I called upon the assistance of an old friend living in China for the job of beautifully decorating this one-off nine-string guitar. I first met Canadian artist Kristel Tenzin Dolma Ouwehand in Donegal over two decades ago while she was travelling the world funding herself through her art.

In 1992 Kristel had left our St Johnston home leaving us with a painting which had a profound effect on me and became a symbol for my own personal journey. 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.”

For me, Kristel was the only person who would do this unique project justice and so, accompanied by our cameraman, Alan (McLaughlin), we set out for China. What is so exciting about this project is that it was a lot of different life experiences of mine coming together to allow this to happen. It brought a story full circle; that first connection with Kristel, all those years ago, reconnecting with her in her new home in China and creating a very special piece for one of our customers.

The Amdo Art Project, located in the monastery town of Labrang, hosts eight full-time students, young Tibetans of nomadic decent, who join the academy for a five-year term honing their skills as artists under the tutelage of Kristel.

Kristel took the brief outlined by our customer Brendan and completed a beautiful mural on the guitar, taking inspiration from various sources. Brendan had a vision for a guitar with Asian artwork depicting his favourite philosophers. We chose a Shan Shui-style with a river running through it as the central theme. The inspiration for the river design came from a 300-year-old mural inside the Labrang monastery, giving it a strong local connection.

The artwork, philosophers and styles span various different cultures reflecting the global nature of this guitar spanning three continents in its creation. Water, being the central theme, became very significant as this guitar led to us being able to help install water facilities for the academy.

I have always said we are not just a company that makes guitars, we’re a company that makes stories. We always work with our customers to make a memorable experience and create something special for them.

Brendan was looking for a special instrument that reflected his life and music. Little did he know how much impact the building of this guitar would have on so many lives.

  • CLIENT Brendan (Illinois, USA)


Scale length: 29”/73,66cm on the bass side and 25.5”/64.77cm on the treble
Nut width: 2.83”/72mm
Bridge Spacing: 3.5”/88mm
Overall length: 41”/104cm
Max body width: 15¼”/38cm
Maxy body depth: 4¾”/120mm
Max body length: 19”/480mm
Frets: 21 medium stainless steel frets
Tuners: Gotoh 510 tuners 18:1 ratio (cosmo black)
Nut/Saddle: Graphtech
Bridge: Hand-carved carbon fibre bridge
Finish: High gloss finish on all surfaces

Alistair's working processin 3 steps

Alistair takes on a number of Custom Design projects a year. If you checked out our Emerald Custom Shop and couldn't find the options you were looking for and have something very special in mind, send Alistair a query!

browse & be inspired

Browse through the Alistair Hay Custom Design Portfolio and see how endless the possibilities are when coming up with your own instrument design.

contact & develop

Send Alistair a query and let him personally advise you on a one-to-one basis on all the possibilities in view of building your dream instrument.

place your order

Following consultation with Alistair, all you have to do is finalise your specifications and await the completion of your Alistair Hay Custom Design instrument.


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