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Owing to her intuitive sense of design, Catherine Marchand has been praised for the uniquely colourful tones—both aural and visual—of her handcrafted guitars. Based in Sherbrooke, Quebec, she brings her lifelong love of music and her creative finesse to her practice as a professional luthier. She has begun to make a name for herself as the owner of Les guitares Marchand, where she specializes in acoustic and classical guitar making. Catherine strives to find unity and harmony with every instrument she creates. She’ll start with a colour—often that of the chosen wood—and create a design using complementary colours or the shades the wood offers. The shapes and hues of her guitars are also inspired by interior designs from the ’20s and the ’70s. Sound-wise, Catherine Marchand always uses wood species that complement each other. Her guitars have a strong bass register, with a clear and precise treble.

From the first time she visited the École nationale de lutherie in Québec City, Catherine felt at home and knew she had found her calling. Throughout her years as a student there, she faced and overcame many personal challenges, from family members who questioned her career choice to the pressures of being taken seriously in a male-dominated world.

After graduating in 2012, she had the opportunity to share her know-how during a six-month internship in Brazil. There, she taught electric guitar making, as part of a program to help underprivileged youths develop career skills and move their lives in a positive direction. She may have been the one imparting her knowledge to others, but she learned a valuable life lesson through this experience: beyond making instruments, her talents could serve to initiate social projects and make a true difference in people’s lives.

Catherine Marchand has carried this awareness into her work ever since. Upon her return to Sherbrooke, she got involved with La Fabrique, a now defunct solidarity cooperative that offered shared workshop spaces to woodworkers, potters, artists, and artisans. It was there that she found a community of like-minded makers, who view their craft as a way of life combining respect for the Earth’s raw materials and a dedication to quality and sustainability.

In 2019, after several years spent freelancing as a repair luthier, she took the leap and started her own business. With Les guitares Marchand, Catherine is joining an emerging trend of progressive and environmentally conscious luthiers, who favour ethically sourced materials and innovative production methods. Aside from making classical and acoustic guitars, Catherine launched a project dubbed RE‑SI‑CLEF, where she takes electric guitars that are beyond repair and recycles their parts into new instruments. Through this initiative, she hopes to make high-quality guitars affordable for emerging artists.

Catherine Marchand’s desire to make music and art more accessible also extends beyond her practice as a luthier. With one of her colleagues, she is on the verge of launching a new makerspace in Sherbrooke, which would be open to established and emerging artists. This non-profit venture would help address the growing shortage of affordable creative spaces in the city, while contributing to a broader mission of making art and culture part of the local economy. No doubt, this project will be just one of the many expressions of this enterprising luthier’s strong social commitment.

  • 864 Boulevard Queen-Victoria, Sherbrooke, Québec J1J 3T8, Canada

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    • 9 June 2023 6 h 47 min local time

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