If you’ve been to Motion Gallery at all you will have noticed the cigar box guitars plugged into the amp, confettied guitar picks ready for anyone to pluck at. These incredible instruments are the handwork of Mark Kost, an Aircraft Engineer teaching Aircraft Structures at SAIT.
Mark does not play guitar himself.
Mark Kost grew up in Windsor Ontario, feeling lucky to have a talented grandfather who could make or fix anything. His cousin, who was much older than him, also mesmerized with things that he would make or create. Mark spent many hours in the garage building whatever caught his interest. “I did not look at it as being creative, I just like to figure out how something is built, and then make it myself.”
“I am inspired when I see quality, and an eye for detail.”
Over the years Mark has worked with just about every material there is, carving duck decoys and English Rocking Horses out of wood and then painting them. He has formed medieval steel armour with a tree stump and hammers, and experimented with vacuum forming plastics. Now it is Cigar Box Guitars, involving woodwork and some metal work.
The creation of each Cigar Box Guitars, starts with shaping a guitar neck, then laying out the fret board, installing the mother of pearl inlay, and shaping the frets. Then the neck assembly is mated to a cigar box, but the most challenging part comes from trying to design a layout on the guitar that works with the art on the box he says.
“Most of my guitars are 3 and 4 strings, but I have made a 6 string classical cigar box guitar for Jesse Cook, and a cigar box violin for Chris Church.” Mark’s latest pursuit is a limited number of a special 5 string guitars with a banjo style neck inspired by a blues player out of Independence Missouri named Matthew Ritchie. Calgary Bluesman Tim Williams also plays one of his 5 strings.
Another project Mark is working on is a hand-formed copper resonator or dobro style 6 string guitar, which will take a year or more to finish. His interest in making these instruments is to satisfy his curiosity, and his first few guitars were an experiment to see if he could, but now his inspiration comes from hearing them being played.
Mark generously donated one of his guitars signed and played by Col. Chris Hadfield to an auction aimed at raising money for the Calgary flood relief of 2013, which alone raised $2500.00. More recently a cigar box guitar was sent to the Canadian Troops in Afghanistan to help build morale. His ultimate goal is to get as many of his cigar box guitars into the hands of musicians, and to hear the music that they make with them. “That is worth everything” he admits.
When first approached to show his guitars at Motion Gallery, Mark did not see his guitars as art or think of himself as an artist but when people started buying them to hang up on their walls he took a closer look at his work. A handcrafted cigar box guitar is a functional piece of art.
The guitars displayed at the gallery are all a little bit different from each other, simply due to its voice which is unique to each guitar. No two sound the same, even if made from the same type of box so pick one up and try it for yourself.
Motion Gallery is proud to be the only gallery carrying Mark Kost signature Winston & Fidel Cigar Box Guitars. You can also view his current and past collections on his website www.winstonandfidel.ca or catch Mark at the annual Calgary or Edmonton Guitar Shows.
Written by Sandra Montgomery
Edited by Renee Laferriere