Guitar maker molds the most of talent, creativity

Creston Lea is the modern New England version of a renaissance man — he recently published a collection of short stories entitled “Wild Punch” and began a successful custom guitar studio.Tall, bald and towering, Lea donned a pair of grey tortoiseshell-esque glasses in a mellow Muddy Waters. Over sounds of stereo jazz and coffee cups clinging, sunlight flooded in as Lea talked about growing up in New Hampshire. Early on, he put his schoolwork second to guitars. By the age of 19, Lea had begun writing more seriously and had to deal with conflict with his parents.”I wasn’t in a situation to run away from home to be accepted … like [my parents] were leaning on me to be a veterinarian,” Lea said.  After a moment of resolution, Lea decided not to attend art school in Philadelphia, but rather  the University of Iowa for creative writing.This gave him the opportunity to receive an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Since then, he has published stories in journals such as “DoubleTake” and “W.W. Norton’s 25 and Under: Fiction.” In his first collection of stories, “Wild Punch,” the border between New Hampshire and Vermont lay the setting. In a fictional town based on his hometown in northern New Hampshire, Lea wrote 15 stories each with a shared landscape and common characters. Lea feels that inspiration for artists’ work originates from where they were raised.”When I’m [home], everything I look at seems like an idea for a story. It’s one of those things [in which] where you grow up is super charged — or at least I’ve romanticized it,” Lea said. After 10 years of looking for a publisher, New York-based Turtle Point Press offered Lea a book contract out of the blue. This led to “Wild Punch” and several positive reviews. In addition to his writing success, Lea began creating custom guitars in 2005 out of his Burlington-based woodworking studio.  At his studio, a blacksmith and bike designers surround him.While Lea did not begin playing with Burlington-based bands until later in life, he had an early appreciation for the utility of guitars. “The guitars I make are really in style,” Lea said. “[They’re like] the first mass-produced [ones,] you known, take a piece of wood and then bolt it together. At the time it was like a tinker toy, a joke, like real post-war assembly line kind of technology. But they’re really utilitarian … not fancy, really simple.”Lea recalls making a toy guitar out of wood scraps and twine at eight.  Since then, he has developed his skills — Lea works with various woods and unconventional materials, such as old beetle and nail-ridden barn parts. Working closely with his clients, Lea tries to stay away from recreating famous guitar models.”I try to make them look like they could have come from 1952, but I try to get people to chose colors that are not conventional guitar colors. Not like crazy colors but something that means something personal to them, not just like a replica of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite guitar,” Lea said.Creston has wet his feet in many creative outlets.  Yet his creativity comes with a private personality — he lists only his e-mail as contact information on his website and his studio is in a secluded area of Burlington.