By Taylor Barrett & Max Wellman
Andrew Olivo grew up in a place much different than Bozeman, but even though he was born in The Bronx and grew up in upstate New York, he found his home in the Gallatin Valley. Four years ago, Olivo left the East Coast for Montana, and he hasn’t looked back since–finding a community that supports his business of crafting instruments.
Being an artist at heart, Olivo’s inspiration for the craft has always been inspired by his artistic leanings. Always having a desire to work with his hands, Olivo finds satisfaction in the process of crafting wood into guitars, and especially in seeing, and hearing, the final result. While Olivo’s artist endeavors ended as a luthier, he began through more traditional avenues: drawing, painting and sculpting, which eventually led to Olivo predominately drawing guitars.
Of the many ways his art could take life, Olivo has always had a love for wood because of the variability that it offers. For him, it keeps things exciting, because every new piece of maple or walnut brings something unique and personal to the table. Olivo also mentioned that with this type of art, “everything can speak for itself”, and he enjoys letting the wood tell it’s own story, fostering a sort of symbiotic relationship between the artist and his medium.
Unlike many luthiers that produce large quantity batches, Olivo’s focus has (and will always be) to build instruments as an art form more so than a means of production. For him, he’d rather sit down and work with the vision of a particular artist than produce large batches of instruments to which he will never know the owner, for him it’s personal.
Olivo’s operation is minimal, and as he mentioned himself, he’s “a 25 year old dinosaur.” After visiting his shop for myself, I can agree. Rather than working with technology and drafting on a computer, Olivo prefers to start with just a few supplies–a pencil, paper, and centerline. This is where the artistic process begins, and it seems more natural. Even though he uses what some in the industry may consider “primitive”, Olivo couldn’t be more content.
Not only is his process of drafting rather minimal, but his shop is home to only the essential tools and machines of his trade. Rather than depending on large machinery, Olivo does a lot of the carving and detail work by hand.
It is this aspect of his trade that keeps his craft true to his vision. In starting out, he had the goal of making art, and it would be easy to think that it was merely happenstance that he was able to make something practical along the way.