A little background about Jeffrey Weitzel
I was a sculptor by trade and passion since getting a degree in sculpture in 1995 from the University of Oregon, becoming fairly established in the art world, as far as those things go. Most of my sculpture was in cast bronze and has included public commissions for the University of Oregon, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, 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 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, “do you play?” And then, “have you built a lot of them before?”, to both of which I have to answer, “no.” (Update: those last two answers are gradually changing, of course…) 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. Ok, fewer dumb looks now that I also have a day job as a Fire Suppression Technician, but you get the idea.
The “more to the story” is tough to explain, but I’ll give you a hint: I have a strong belief in my Creator, and His way of doing business is different than ours. 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, and here I am still trying to be more like my Creator. I have taken this abrupt turn in my life very seriously and I think the resulting instruments you see here show 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 a small single car garage/workshop to build out of. We Have a garden in which we grow (in order of production, highest to lowest) weeds (that is real weeds, not “weed”), flowers, snails, fruits and vegetables, and occasionally chickens.