Heartstrings: How Love Led a Luthier to the Valley

Photography by  Devon Balet

Photography by Devon Balet

When asked what brought Beau Hannam to Grand Junction, the world-renowned luthier simply smiles and answers, “Love.” In 2013, Beau moved to Grand Junction from Sydney, Australia, to join his now-wife, Laurie, and her two children.

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    Leaving behind his dream job with Gilet Guitars, Beau set out to start his own business making stringed instruments. “The best part is that I can be a luthier anywhere,” he notes. Beau is a lighthearted, jocular Aussie whose talents can be a bit hidden in a small town such as Grand Junction. “The Grand Valley as a hub for my business, which is an international one, is a bit small. Not being in a big city means there aren’t thousands of people showing up to my workshop door to meet or ask questions,” says Beau. Still, he adds, “I love the sense of community here, especially downtown. It is as if everyone knows each other, which I never got in Sydney. Here I don’t feel like a tiny speck of water in the ocean.”

    “The perfect place for my wife and I would be Colorado mountains with Hawaiian beaches,” he chuckles under his breath, uncertain if such a place even exists. “Maybe in New Zealand,” he says with a shrug. Here in western Colorado, he loves the mountains and outdoor activities from Fruita to Aspen. “The skiing, the mountain biking, the rafting — you don’t have that in Sydney at all. It has made me fitter,” says Beau, his Australian accent coming up on such words as fitter.

    Beau finds inspiration for his work in the simplest of things. “I can stare at the angle of a rock and the light hitting it, and the water flowing by with a trout in it, and find inspiration. When you are creative, you can look at the most boring thing and find some inspiration from it.”

    Spend an hour in Beau’s shop and you will quickly realize how inspired his work is. Over a hundred hours of laborious love go into each ukulele and guitar that Beau makes. When you see his finished products, you can understand why. From the intricate inlays on the neck, to the decorative rosette of the sound hole, to the fine custom details of his curved heels, Hannam guitars and ukuleles are true pieces of art. And that’s not even touching on their sound, which musicians praise as “bright,” “warm,” and “superb.”

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    Beau jokingly says that his stepkids keep him in Grand Junction, and his smile reveals the soft spot in his heart for them. “Family time is something I cherish. When the kids come home, the house comes to life. I was a bachelor in Sydney and became an instant dad when I moved to the States. A bit of a dusty dad, I suppose,” he laughs as he dusts off his pant leg. “There always seems to be another bit of wood to be glued or sanded.”

    To see some of Beau’s creations and learn more about his work, visit beauhannamguitars.com. Follow along, too, as we go deeper into his story with the first of our Creator Series videos.