'Art of imperfection': East Bay man brings life to old items by creating musical instruments

"This is what I like to call the art of imperfection. It's taking things that were not meant to be together," Steve Zwetsch said.
EL SOBRANTE, Calif. (KGO) -- One man's trash is another man's treasure and this rings true for an East Bay man who is bringing life back into old items.

Steve Zwetsch is pairing unlikely items together to create musical folk art. Five years ago, Zwetsch came across a YouTube video of a guitar made from cigar boxes and was captivated by the instrument.

Being a self-taught handyman, Zwetsch was up for the challenge and started creating the instrument in his basement. Before the pandemic, he would create five cigar box guitars a year but after his bakery business was impacted by COVID-19, he has created 14 guitars in six months.

The silver lining is, Zwetsch is able to revisit a beloved hobby with hopes of turning in a profit.

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"The thing that made me want to do this was the type of music the guy was playing," said Zwetsch. "He was playing some old blues song from the 1940s and I am fascinated by that kind of music. Then I built one (cigar box guitar) and I could actually play it, so that was exciting."

Due to ligament damage in his left wrist, Zwetsch was not able to fret a normal size guitar. Since cigar box guitars are smaller in size, he is able to strum the instrument with ease.

"Smaller body guitars are just easier to play which is why a lot of people start of with them," said Zwetsch. "I can reach all the notes and I don't have to put as much pressure on my wrist."

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Despite the coronavirus shutdown, designing cigar box guitars has created an outlet for Zwetsch to think outside the box.

"I have used a lot of different items to build guitars," said Zwetsch. "I have made one out of a metal gift tin for cookies. A pool rack. I made one out of a bed pan. I have used wine cases. Anything that has a body that will resonate sound."

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Zwetsch plucks through garage sales, salvage yards and his own garage for items to build the guitars.

"This is what I like to call the art of imperfection. It's taking things that were not meant to be together," said Zwetsch. "A lot of the hardware I use is drawer pulls, and knobs and different kinds of things that I can find."

He enjoys taking things that would otherwise end up in landfill and "giving it life" once again.

"It fun to make these things and I'm making them more for the art value than anything else," said Zwetsch. "Then, the fact that it created more art with the music that you can play with it, is just phenomenal."

For more information, visit the Cigar Box Kitchen website.

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