A little background about Jeffrey Weitzel
I’ve been a sculptor by trade for the last 20 years, and have pursued art since I can remember. I got a degree in sculpture in 1995 from the University of Oregon, then became fairly established, too, as far as those things go. Most of my sculpture has been in cast bronze and I’ve done public commissions for the University of Oregon, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, and for the City of Eugene, a large piece for a private aquarium in Saudi Arabia, and private commissions for Evergreen Bank and a number of individual collectors. I have been in galleries nationwide and had work purchased by the Maryhill Museum of Art, as well as being part of a number of invitational shows. You can check out most of this work in the galleries to the right. I have also taught sculpture for credit and non-credit at the college level. For the last 7 years I worked full time at the University of Oregon’s Craft Center, helping run a facility that includes a large wood shop, a glassblowing studio, ceramics studio, photo darkrooms, metalsmithing studio and much more. During all of this, I occasionally found myself with a need to make musical instruments. Less often I actually had time to do so, but I did manage to build a few guitars, a ukulele, an experimental harp and few other odd experiments as well. The more I made them, the more I realized that making a sculptural object that can make music is far more fulfilling than just making a sculptural object.
But any sane person can realize there must be more to the story of the transition from sculptor to arts administrator to banjo luthier, and there happen to be a lot of sane people out there, most of whom feel the need to ask me, “Why Banjo’s?”, usually followed immediately with, “have you built a lot of them before?”, to which I have to answer, “no.” Next is, “Does your wife have a good job to support you?”, “no, she’s a stay at home Mom.” Then there are just dumbfounded looks and a polite end to the conversation. So if that short ending doesn’t fill in enough of the story for you, I’m sorry, I’ll have to politely end the conversation now.
Okay, I’ll give you a hint, though. I have a strong belief in my Creator, and His way of doing business is different than ours. But as we attempt to be more like Him, we can find ourselves doing things that don’t make sense to the rest of the world. Well, the banjo never has made sense to a lot of folks, and it certainly never occurred to me that this would be something I’d be attempting to make a living at until recently. But here I am making banjo’s. I have taken this abrupt turn in my life very seriously and I think the resulting banjo prototype shows that these strange directional changes can lead to something very special.
I live in Eugene, Oregon with my wife, Sanae, and our son, Hinoki, in an 865 square foot house and an even smaller workshop to build out of. We grow (in order of production) weeds, flowers, fruit and vegetables in our yard.