GuitarGrip x Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
How it began...
We have an ongoing list of famous players whose hands we want to cast. Many we’ve missed out on, RIP Eddie. Many are still with us - Keith and Buddy we’re coming for ya ;) Obviously, it’s a challenge, borderline impossible, to reach some of these legends. Hence, you can imagine my surprise when the phone rings and it’s the licensing company representing Trixie Garcia, the daughter of the late, great (and yes, one of the names on our list) Jerry Garcia.
I’m awestruck by the voice on the line and attempt to keep calm. I don’t want to give off the impression of a small family biz who’s working in a 600 sq. ft. garage with no bathroom, making everything, more or less, from scratch; have to act “Big Time”, lol. I think I’m doing alright. A pleasant conversation ensues. Trixie has seen our work and thinks it’s really cool. Maybe there’s an opportunity to work together? The idea makes sense. Not only is Jerry a massive, iconic figure and inspiration to millions, his mythical right hand with a partial missing middle digit stands as a beacon to deadheads around the world. It graces merchandise, Grateful Dead memorabilia and even stands as an 18” monument at the Santa Barbara Bowl; an exquisite piece sculpted by artist Tom White. And, we just happen to make “hand shaped” guitar hangers.
You can imagine, this is a strange and wonderful opportunity. A chance to turn Jerry's legendary right hand into a guitar hanger?...WHAT! The fam and I are all in. I was fortunate enough to see Jerry with The Dead in ‘92; that show made me a fan. My second time was early 93’ at Richfield Coliseum in Ohio, but that show was canceled due to a colossal snow storm. It turned out to be a momentous party, but that’s a story for another day. Next steps begin, which involve hand- sketched ideas and concepts. There are emails, feedback and a few more phone conversations. Things are progressing well, then for whatever reason, communication stops. I have no idea why. (Ha, maybe they realize we ain't big time?) I make a few more attempts at contact, but don't want to push out of fear of annoyance, so I don’t ( I’ve come to realize, if you want to make anything happen, sometimes you gotta be a pest, especially, when dealing with larger companies who have a ton going on... that's not professional advice ). While things are no longer moving forward, I do make a vow. I will reach out again, but only when we have a physical working prototype. A sculpted piece to wow them with...A sculpted hand to rule them all! (ok, settle down now).
Original Concept Sketches by John Dykstra
Dormant...but only for five years
Fast forward almost 5 years. We’re in a much bigger shop, (Yay, it’s got a bathroom). Our focus is back on product creation and direct to consumer sales. Now’s the perfect time to revisit the Jerry project. We have a number of detailed sketches of Jerry’s hand and the sculpture in Santa Barbara for reference. Hand sculpting a “hand” is not an easy process and capturing all the details of Jerry’s hand is critical. Because of the scope of work involved, we decide to enlist artist Gabe Escamilla to model the first prototype. Gabe is an incredible sculptor, was a toy designer for years and currently makes his own killer guitar hangers.
Gabe and I spend a fair amount of time going over the initial look and direction we want to take. Jerry’s career spanned decades and his appendages evolved with it. There's young Jerry, older Jerry, and everything in between. We know, most likely, this will be the first of many drafts, so decide on a middle road and carry on, with the goal of capturing a look and feel that will be immediately identifiable as Jerry. It takes a solid 6 months of work for Gabe to complete the first prototype. This involves a few tweaks, changes, and modifications along the way. Finally, after all this time, we have a physical working model to showcase to the Garcia camp.
First Sculpted Prototype
Time to reconnect...
Gabe molds the finished sculpt in silicone and makes a few additional replicas, just in case. We paint one replica in a Bronze/Gold metallic finish and age it in Antique Patina. The original, we scan to create a digital rendering. This rendering allows us to make any future changes of the model directly in the computer. This saves a weight of time on having to make modifications to the actual physical clay model. Every tiny nuance of the sculpt needs to be captured digitally, down to .002 of an inch. We choose Detroit company Cam Logic for the task. They do a superb job and create a beautiful digital rendering of the sculpture.
Needless to say, all this is completed before we reconnect with Trixie and her management team, before we even have a green light on the project. We’re taking a chance. It’s April of 2021 and Covid is in full swing. We spent the last 8 months getting the prototype ready, it’s time to reach out. But would they respond? Oh and uh... Where did I put their email?! (ha, just kidding, it’s been stuck to a pin-board next to my desk since that first phone call over 5 years ago… it’s still next to me in the new shop).
Computer Rendering of Sculpt
It takes a few days of courage mustering to send the email. It’s short and contains hi-rez images of our new Jerry Hand. I keep my hopes high but my expectations low, a balanced concoction to keep me somewhat sane as a small business owner (again… not professional advice). Fingers crossed, I hit send. Tick tock the seconds and minutes clock. And while I’m certain, if they are to respond at all, it will take a couple of days, at the least, to get back to me, in actuality it takes 20 minutes. Yes, only 20 minutes. Five years of wishing, hoping, planning and plotting. Always imagining that one day we’d have a working model, one day we’d reach out again, when the timing was right, maybe they’d respond, maybe they wouldn’t, would we, could we ever have a Jerry Garcia GuitarGrip?…in just 20 minutes we get our answer and the answer is YES!
Green Light, Game On…
We're moving forward to a new round of development for both the Jerry Hand and a new line of Traditional Wall Hangers fashioned after Jerry’s Cherished Guitars; Alligator, Wolf, Tiger, and Rosebud. Changes are requested to the Jerry Hand and the traditional hangers we’d develop from scratch.
These next round of changes will be done digitally. While this process is a little easier than hacking and re-sculpting a clay model, it’s still a very time-consuming process. We bring in digital modeler Francesco Orru to assist with the modifications. While we’ve captured an overall aesthetic with the clay sculpt, the Garcia camp wants to more closely emulate a specific and well-known pose of Jerry’s Hand. Francesco is more than qualified for the job and has worked on projects with NECA and other great companies. I draw up mockups for the traditional guitar hangers and also decorative backing plates that will support and complete the design for the Garcia Grip. We want a cohesive feel over all the models. The key elements are wood and gold tones, fashioned after the Doug Irwin guitars built specifically for Jerry, along with roses and leaf inlays. Francesco and I spent the next several months redeveloping the models. We do a couple different variations, each needing the yay or nay from the licensing team. The Aesthetic is paramount but these have to function as hangers too. And, as musicians representing a musician who is a beacon to millions of guitarists, functionality is just as important as form. Players need to feel confident using these hangers. With all our products, this is of key importance.
Eventually, after months of reworking and getting all the final approvals needed, we only have one last person to impress, Trixie Garcia.
Alternate Logo Traditional Hanger Design
Will they pass the ultimate test?
At this point, the models are all zero’s and one’s, aka digital. This last phase of the process requires physical models…. in the flesh. We need 3D prints of the files. For this, we call up our good friend Nolan at Layer 3D Innovations to assist. Nolan’s machine’s produce detail down to smallest microns and these prints need to be clean and precise to work and look proper. After a few days, we have fresh SLA models of Jerry’s hand, two separate nameplates, and 4 Logo hangers; the complete Garcia Line. From these physical models, Aaron and Dale reproduce production pieces using silicon, industrial grade resins and pressure casting. An involved process that takes weeks of tool and mold building and lot’s of patience and finesse. Lastly, the production pieces are cleaned and painted. We sample a number of different finishes but finally settle on a specific bronze/gold metal finish, with mahogany and golden oak wood tones. We shoot hi-rez photos and take a day off to relish in our efforts. The models look beautiful. It’s time to send the samples to Trixie and the Garcia Family.
Printed 3D Models and Tooling Molds. Aaron playing peek-a-boo prepping the Pressure Caster
They loves it! They really really loves it!!!
It takes a few weeks but the feedback finally arrives. Trixie LOVES the new line of Guitar Hangers! She is very impressed by the detail and likeness to Jerry and calls the execution of design Top Notch! Our persistence and hard work has paid off. It's Official! We now have our first Artist Series, GuitarGrip. We’re beyond thrilled the artist just happens to be the legendary Jerry Garcia.
Images from the Collection
About the Collection
The Officially Licensed Jerry Garcia Hanger Collection consists of 6 designs.
Two Jerry Hand Versions;
- Jerry Hand w/ decorative “Jerry” nameplate. Retail $235
- Jerry Hand w/ ornate decorative “Jerry Garcia” nameplate. Retail $295
Jerry Hand Dimensions: 7.5" x 5.5" x 5" - Weight: 2.5 lbs.
And, Four "Jerry Logo" Traditional Style Wall Hangers. Retail $125
Logo Hanger Dimensions: 8" x 6" x 1" - Weight: 1 lbs.
The Jerry Hand versions are numbered editions and include a Certificate of Authenticity and a few other goodies.
Everything is handmade in our Shop in Michigan and casted in industrial resin to support musical and non musical items. The raw materials we use in manufacturing these pieces are supplied by US factories.
Each hanger is top coated in Gold Metal Flake and Wood Stain. After, an antiqued rubbed finish is applied to make the details pop. A final touch of red and green accents accentuates the Rose and Pedals.
A cushioned insert supports the instrument and felt backing protects the wall. All models are easy to install and rotate to adjust for various types of items and instruments, including; guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo and more. Of course, non-musical items hang great too.
As you can see, it took hundreds of hours to design and sculpt this very special collection. It takes hours of effort by our team to manufacture just one piece. From building molds, to casting raw materials, to tiny hand painted details, every step is an endeavor to create a beautiful work of functional art that reflects the beauty and quality embodied in both Jerry’s music and the instruments he played.
We hope these "hand"crafted mementos, dedicated to the legacy of Jerry Garcia, bring creativity and inspiration to your musical space. - Mike and the GG Fam