Design Daily: Clara Ukulele by Blackbird GuitarsAuthor:Sarah Virginia White
As a luau mainstay, the ukulele might not be widely percieved as a cutting-edge instrument. But San Francisco’s Blackbird Guitars is changing that tune with its new Clara ukulele, a compact version made of a new, plant-based composite called Ekoa.
You can geek out on the new Ekoa material, which is a biofabric-in-resin matrix—similar to carbon fiber—that is both sustainable and natural-looking (Blackbird’s chief musical officer, Joe Luttwak, named the material after the engandered Koa wood native to Hawaii). But the most compelling aspects is how the material enables the design of a durable, lightweight instrument while also crafting a vintage look and sound. “The tone was engineered to be more resonant than best ‘tone’ wood, through greater material stiffness and lower mass,” says Luttwak. The ukulele body is one solid, hollow form, and is resistant to the humidity and temperature changes that can plague wood instruments.
…also, it’s beautiful. The rich umber color is a nod to the old-growth hardwoods popular in the construction of traditional string instruments, and I love the matte finish. If I had even a smidgeon of musical talent, I’d be pulling this out at pot lucks and taking it on camping trips. Portability was key to the inspiration for re-making the ukelele, says Luttwak: “We thought that the world needed a great instrument that fits in a backpack and is up the to rigors of ‘the road.'” While he’s more of a guitar man himself, he fell in love with ukuleles when Blackbird first starting making them four years ago. Who tops his playlist? “Jake Shimabukuro is the man.”
Find the Clara at Blackbird Guitar in San Francisco’s Mission District, 2180 Folsom St.
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