For this week's edition of Handpan Maker Spotlight, we're returning to The USA's handpan capital city, Asheville, North Carolina for a closer look at Saraz Handpans! Saraz is one of the United States' original handpan pioneers and still remains a dominant force in the artisan handpan community to this day. So join us this week as we sit down with founder Mark Garner for a closer look at the world of Saraz Handpans!
What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?
Saraz Handpans - This name was inspired by the Vedic story of Saraswati (the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, music, art, and wisdom) with perhaps a pinch of linguistic spice from Snoop Dogg.
Do you have a specific name for the instruments you make? If so what is the meaning behind this?
We call them the Saraz a Handpan.
Who is your company run by? Do you work alone or with a team of people?
Mark Garner – Founder, Tuner, Imagineer, and captain of the tuned steel steamship
Papa Steve Garner – Co-Founder, Mathematician, Drafter, Shell Sinking and Pressing Maestro
Jason Razillard – Communication Extraordinaire
Chris Genereux – Shipping Manager, Port Former, Polishing, and Grinding Superhero
Chet Plant – Port Former, Finer Shaper, and Shell Sinking Magician
Asheville, NC, USA
How did you first discover the handpan?
Around 2005, a friend told me about an amazing percussive UFO that he saw at the Burning Man Festival.
What made you decide to start building handpans?
In 2011, I purchased my first handpan and was amazed by the instrument. Wanting to purchase another one, I quickly found that it was next to impossible because of how rare they were and how few builders existed at the time. Then I thought "How hard can it be to build them?" I dove in too deep to turn around and the rest is history.
What is your goal as a handpan builder?
Since the beginning, our goal has been to build the finest instruments we are capable of crafting. We have always focused on quality over quantity but it has become a greater focus in recent years as we find increased balance with our lives, an ever-evolving art form, and the spirit of our instruments.
What would you say your instruments are known for?
Like many people, we feel that handpans are not only just musical instruments. There is a magic within them that can touch people very deeply, inspire them in novel ways, as well as provide relaxation and internal healing in the busy world of our lives. Our customers are collaborators in a journey of creative expression. We feel that each Saraz is a musical paintbrush awaiting its owner to paint musical landscapes of possibility. We hope that each player finds a gateway to endless inspiration, creativity, and a greater depth of themselves as they explore what their Saraz can do.
What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?
We have met a lot of really amazing people over the years and also thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing stream of instruments, however, our most favorite thing has been the endless challenge that keeps us from getting bored and our least favorite thing has been the endless challenge that has driven us crazy at times! Tuning steel will show you the depths of yourself. It can inspire triumphant confidence when successful while also forcing you to deal with your weaknesses. It has created builders that are admired worldwide and also destroyed some builders mentally, physically, and especially emotionally. I have personally been on a 10-year roller coaster of that journey...up, down, and all around. Over the years, it has challenged me in ways unlike anything else to look at the deepest parts of myself and find peace with them. It has forced me to face frustration repeatedly and learn to release it into ease, relaxation, and success. It has pushed my body to the max, broken me, and then forced me to rebuild myself in balance with my capacity and the bandwidth of my life force. Mentally, it has pushed me to dream and shown me repeatedly how much is possible in this world with determination and dedication. In all honesty, there is nothing more difficult I have done in this lifetime and I am enormously grateful for it. The journey has brought me to a place of peace that perhaps no other endeavor could have cultivated.
If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Tough question or simply blasphemy lol? It is too hard to choose only one. I truly love Celtic Minors however there is a sweet spot in my heart for Mixolydians, Dorians, and even a little spicy Harmonic Minor once in a while.
What's one interesting fact about you, your company, or your instruments?
For a few years, we have been interviewing players that use their Saraz in their work including sound baths and meditations, breathing workshops, plant medicine ceremonies, and professional counseling. It has been interesting to find a similar story in each interview. The handpan has a power to bring people into the present, pull them out of their internal dialogue, and away from their emotional reactions. So many times in our lives, this can be a powerful tool for release, healing, and contentment. You can find the first 4 episodes of the series, "More than Music", on our YouTube page or our website. We have two more episodes in production.
Do you take custom orders?
Indeed we do. Custom orders typically require 3-4 months for completion
Do you have instruments currently available to purchase?
Currently, available instruments are listed on our website.
Do you have a waiting list? If so how long?
Since early 2017, we have guaranteed the completion of 99% of custom orders within 3-4 months. (100% have been completed within 4.5 months)
For more information about Saraz handpans:
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