(Rebecca Uralcher | photo courtesy of Uralcher Guitars)
Urlacher Guitars is a custom, hand-crafted guitar maker based in Bend. The guitar maker, also called a luthier, Rebecca Urlacher, has a background in fine arts and is a graduate of the University of Oregon. She was also raised in Bend and graduated from Bend Senior High School.
“While I was in college, I took advantage of my time and spent it learning about all different kinds of artistic mediums, focusing on crafting ceramics,” Urlacher said. “I practiced that for six years after graduation before learning about some renowned luthiers in Portland.”
Urlacher realized that creating guitars by hand was a very unique and rewarding type of artistic expression, and decided to dedicate herself to the craft. With no experience in guitar playing or woodworking, Urlacher made her first attempt at constructing a steel string guitar in 2002, and completed the build a year later. While she is self-taught for the most part, Urlacher credits other luthiers like Jeffrey Elliott for her skills and success. Aside from learning from established luthiers, she also credits plenty of YouTube videos and old VHS tapes for educating her on the subject.
“Once I got through my first build, someone asked me if I could make one for them,” Urlacher said. “In this next build, I realized that I can really improve, build on my skills and sell handmade guitars.”
After a few years of building, a classical guitar builder in Eugene reached out to Urlacher and helped hone in her skills even more. “I went from being mostly self-taught to learning from a well-established master of the craft. Things got more serious from there, and my passion for guitar-making guided my business growth,” Urlacher said.
Urlacher set up shop in Eugene but moved her life and business to Bend, her hometown, in 2011. She fully set up a workspace in her home and has been handcrafting high-quality, steel string guitars ever since; her motto has always been and will forever be, “quality over quantity.”
Urlacher is the sole luthier in her business, and one of the only female luthiers to exist in the industry. She offers five different styles of guitar to choose from, ranging in size from the small parlor guitar to the large tenor and dreadnought styles. Over the last few years, Urlacher has been able to create guitars for high-level, touring and performing musicians. To Urlacher, this is incredibly rewarding and encourages her to maintain this craft.
“When I deliver a musician their guitar, that guitar gets to live a new life with them,” Urlacher said. “Seeing their talent expressed through my craftsmanship is incredibly rewarding, and it’s one of the reasons I moved away from the more traditional fine arts.”
Urlacher will be celebrating her 50th birthday in February, and will also be stringing up her 50th guitar. At this point in her life, she has considered taking on an apprentice, but she imagines this will happen further down the road.