For our first Handpan Maker Spotlight officially as Planet Handpan today we will be learning about Elysian Instruments of Bellingham, Washington. While Elysian is a new face to the handpan scene (formed in 2019) their ascent to handpan greatness has been rapid! I have personally only played a few of their handpans, however, from what I have heard and seen I certainly am excited to see what the future holds for this budding handpan company.
What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?
My company name is Elysian Instruments! The word elysian comes from the Greek legend of the Elysian Fields. The Elysian Fields were where Greek heroes would go after death. Essentially, it is Greek heaven. As an adjective, elysian means blissful, ethereal, heavenly, celestial, and divinely inspired. To me, this is the perfect description of what a handpan sounds like!
Do you have a specific name for the instruments you make? If so what is the meaning behind this?
As of now, it’s just an Elysian Handpan. In the future, I might begin adding various models.
Who is your company run by? Do you work alone or with a team of people?
Elysian Instruments is run solely by me (Patrick Verschoor)!
I started building handpans in October 2019. It took me about 3 months to make my first one (it did not sound good!) and about another year to start selling them.
I am based in Bellingham, WA. The very northwest corner of the U.S. mainland!
How did you first discover the handpan?
I was traveling in Peru when I first heard a Hang. As a lifelong musician, I instantaneously became obsessed with them.
What made you decide to start building handpans?
After initially discovering the Hang, I was absolutely fascinated by them. I had never before heard an instrument as beautiful. I went down a deep rabbit hole learning everything I possibly could about handpans. And of course, I was broke and couldn’t afford one! About a year after I discovered handpans, I first saw one in person at the Oregon Country Fair. The owner generously let me play it (it was one of Dave’s Island Instruments) and I was absolutely blown away by it. After thoroughly inspecting the instrument, I concluded that it couldn’t be that difficult to make one (I was so, so wrong). That was the point I decided to put everything I had into learning how to make them! I read nearly every thread on handpan.org about the building process and eventually learned how to make them through (A LOT) of trial and error. It turned out to be much more costly than just buying one, but now I have a business and get to share this beautiful instrument with my corner of the world!
What is your goal as a handpan builder?
I have several goals as a handpan builder: I want to spread the joy that these instruments gave me and believe them to be powerful vessels for emotional healing. I hope to build a community around these instruments by introducing people to handpans and the growing arts scene in the Pacific Northwest. Handpans are such a young art and have yet to be fully incorporated into most communities. There is so much potential here! I aim to continuously improve the quality of my instruments. I’m consistently refining my timbre, tuning methods, and building process to work towards perfecting my craft.
What would you say your instruments are known for?
I have been told that my instruments sound particularly warm and soft with pronounced harmonics. However, every pan I make has a different soul!
What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?
The absolute best part is seeing the joy on people's faces when they first play one of my instruments or when they first hear a handpan. It is such a privilege to open that door for people! The most difficult part of building handpans has to be the constant failure! I have a huge pile of failed instruments. Dealing with doubt and dissatisfaction has been a major part of my handpan journey. There have been many times when I wanted to quit! However, I have come to view failure as a useful tool (even essential!) for refining my instruments.
If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Oh no! This is the most difficult question to answer of them all. I would say it depends on the occasion. In my opinion, nothing beats a Hijaz when you are playing by a campfire or feeling contemplative. Pygmy’s are really wonderful all-around scales and are great to jam with. And for songwriting, of course, nothing beats the versatility of a Kurd.
What's one interesting fact about you, your company, or your instruments?
I had only played a handpan once before building them! I didn’t get an opportunity to play another handpan until nearly a year into my building journey as there are no other makers in the Pacific Northwest and the pandemic put an end to most handpan gatherings.
Do you take custom orders?
Do you have instruments currently available to purchase?
I do! They can be found on my website. I do also have a few that are not listed that I haven’t gotten around to putting up.
Do you have a waiting list? If so how long?
At the time of writing, there is no waitlist!
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