Monday, January 5, 2009

Coog Instruments & Folk Art No More

It's official! Coog Instruments & Folk Art is now Ron Cook Studios. A new web site is now up and running at I'll keep the Coog Instruments site going for another six months or so, for those who have links to specific pages, but please check out the new site and re-set your links, because after I return from my Summer shows, I'll be shutting down the Coog Instruments web site for good. I'll be notifying many of you through my e-mail newsletter long before that, so you'll have a little time to re-set those links.

Also, the Coog Instruments & Folk Art Blog will be closed out later in 2009, so I only have to maintain one web site and one blog.

This is a big change for me. I've been known as "Coog" since 1967, and most who've known me with the nickname "Coog" over the years have either rented harps from the music store in the sky, or moved on and away. Coog is no more.

As I always say, "Onward through the fog!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coming to the End of an Era

I've been known as "Coog" to friends and acquaintances for over 40 years. Unfortunately, only one 0r two people I now associate with understands the name or how I got it. Lately, many have asked me "what's a Coog?" or "what is a Coog instrument?"

On January 1, 2009, Coog Instruments will be no more. The name will officially change to "Ron Cook Studios." Hopefully, the Coog questions will end.

This will probably be the last, or maybe next to last blog entry for Coog Instruments and Folk Art. All newsworthy updates will be posted on the Ron Cook Studios blog from now on. In fact, click HERE to read about what's happening in my studio this week.

It's been wonderful educating, working with, and selling to all the great people I've met over the last eight years or so as Coog Instruments. I hope to meet and enjoy the company of many more in the years to come as Ron Cook Studios.

As I've said so many times for the last 40 years, onward through the fog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

I can't believe the amount of work I have right now! Not only do I have a number of restorations and repairs to do, I have to make at least four more new dulcimers to replace those that sold late this year.

A few days ago I finished a commission. A fellow wanted an epinette des Vosges, which is the French ancestor to the Mountain dulcimer, that dates back to the 1700s. I call it "Frere Jacques." This version is based on instruments from around 1850 to the present. I made it from some beautiful figured maple with black walnut and ebony accents. It has an 18" scale and a very lovely tone. The other day I was listening to a French CD of epinette folk music, and the sounds of the instruments are very similar to this one.

Earlier this year I made a much smaller epinette based on an 1850 instrument that I saw on the Boston Museum of Fine Arts web site. I'm also working on a larger epinette, with around a 24" scale, with a double-headed medieval-style carving. I should have it done by the end of the year.

Today I finished a very interesting repair. A friend stopped by during our Fall neighborhood garage sale and asked if I could take a look at one of his old Weissenborn guitar copies. In their day, these were very inexpensive instruments being sold to cash in on the Hawaiian craze of the 1920s and 1930s--like the ukulele. He brought two of them by and told me to go ahead and make one of them playable. That I did. They were both in very bad shape, very scratched up, gouged up, and a little weathered, but they were both easily fixed. The one I finished today even has a label in it with three Hawaiian-looking figures playing instruments around an old radio microphone, with "Hawaii" on top and "$35" printed on the bottom. The fingerboard was a thin piece of wood with a paper fretboard glued on top of it. I made a real fingerboard for it, sanded most of the scratches and gouges out, re-stained it, put mechanical tuning gears on it, and had a lot of fun playing it.

More work: Besides all the above, I'm starting to work on a reproduction of the Pennsylvania German Scheitholt I restored a few months ago, another banjo-dulcimer, and a lot of dulcimer noters. Whew! The year seemed to drag for quite a while, and now it seems there's not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I really need, like the Beatles song, eight days a week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Open Studios is Over for 2008

Open Studios is over for another year!

Even with the economy being down in the dumps, this was the best year I've had in the eight years I've been doing Open Studios. I went into this event with a heavy heart and low expectations, since all the big shows I did this year never paid for themselves.

Studio Space

That all changed after the first weekend, and disappeared after the second. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of you who bought my instruments and folk art. I know you'll enjoy your artwork now, and I'm sure your future generations will enjoy it too.

This year we set up my exhibit differently. Instead of putting everything outside under the event canopy, we set up the guest bedroom as a gallery. This worked out great for display and also for demonstrating instruments.

Bedroom Gallery

In a normal size room, the instruments sounded great. Sound is lost in large convention center halls or at outside arts festivals, and people can't get a good idea how an instrument sounds. So... they say "nice, see ya," not "wow, I'll take one!" In our bedroom gallery setup, they did say "wow, I want that one!"
So, some of our old favorites seemed like they were heard like they've never been heard before, and several customers fell in love with them. They all went to very appreciative and loving homes.

Now that I've taken a few days off to put everything away for the year, it's time to finish current projects and start thinking about what to do for 2009. The next year will be an interesting one, since I'm not planning to do a lot of the shows I've been doing. I'll stay off the road until the economy picks up and stabilizes again. I may do one or two fairly local shows, but nothing expensive and away from the west coast or immediate southwest. There will be a change in my company name next year too. Instead of "Coog Instruments and Folk Art", it will be simply "Ron Cook Studios". That way I can go beyond musical instruments and into other sculptural realms.

Stay tuned! There's more to come!