Sinuous Guitars: Strumming the Songs of Sweet Success
"Music is the cup, which holds the wine of silence."
-- Robert Fripp
Greg Opatik, 42, is a design nerd. For this, he makes no apology. “I love anything to do with Charles Eames,” he says. “He was a big influence for me.”
Opatik is director of design at Genesis Seating in Grand Rapids, where he has worked for 12 years. He has also worked at Herman Miller and knows members of the Eames family.
“I love their approach, their philosophy of design: Simplify, make something the way it should be, something that makes sense,” he says.
Hold that thought. It’s kind of important.
In January, Opatik formally launched his business, Sinuous Guitars
. He’s been selling guitars online to discerning musicians ever since. Sinuous guitars have a gorgeous, sculptural look that fits the body like a hug. Opatik has a design and utility patent on the contoured shape. That sound you hear? It’s the song of genius.
Playing the guitar has been Opatik’s passion since he was 11 or 12. Not content with the guitars he had, he put the skills he learned in his high school woodworking class to work and painted his guitars, improved upon them, but still he was never quite satisfied. A degree in furniture design from Kendall College of Art and Design in 1996 set him on the path to fix all that.
“I was in a lot of bands until my early 20s, but nothing that went anywhere -- garage bands, just for fun,” says Opatik. “I would’ve liked to make a guitar and be in a band, too, but I’m too conservative to take the risk. You have to really want to be a rock star. It was frustrating to give it up, but I realized it was a better hobby than career.”
He named his design "Sinuous" because it was the best word to describe the guitar’s shape. “It hugs and conforms to your body where you want it to be," he explains. "It doesn’t get in the way. It fits. It makes sense. It’s the way it should be."
Prices for Sinuous guitars start at $1,500 and go up from there. Custom orders cost more. In comparison, competitors’ guitars start at around $2,500.
“I wanted to offer a good, American-made, electric guitar at a fair price,” says Opatik. “I didn’t want to drastically change the shape. My guitar isn’t just a really good guitar, it’s more ergonomic and more comfortable.”
Guitar design has not changed much in the last 50 years. Well, until now. And Opatik didn’t want to design something different just for the sake of doing it. First, he solved the ergonomics problem with design curves. Then, he made it beautiful. (Form follows function, anyone?) The thinner body brought the strings closer to the body, and voilà! Simplicity strummed its way into a clever guitar design.
“It isn’t that easy to design something different,” Opatik says. And there’s a lot of trial and error involved. Over the course of two or so years, several talented musicians hand-tested and critiqued iterations of his guitar design before Opatik settled on Sinuous. Then, he had a prototype crafted in Germany.
“My guitars have the same quality as good guitars,” says Opatik. “The higher price comes from the handwork. People want customization, and now there is more of that available.”
The design process for Sinuous guitars comprises a blend of computer meets handcrafted, manufactured meets old school, utilitarian meets high design. Each step of the process happens in Southwest Michigan. The guitar bodies are precision-cut by CNC machines in Grand Rapids to computer-controlled dimensions. Opatik sands and drills holes at his business in Grandville, and the bodies are sent to a local finisher. A Verve Pipe band member wires the guitars, which are then sent back to Opatik for polishing and shipping.
Patience had better be one heck of a virtue: Lead times are six to eight weeks. Because it is more economical to make several bodies at once, orders are sometimes held until there are enough to fabricate at one time. But Sinuous guitars are well worth the wait.
The demand for the guitars sings volumes. Every guitar built so far has been sold. One guitar is currently on loan in Los Angeles, but it may not come back if the musician likes it enough. Well, let’s just say that one’s spoken for.
“I’m not trying to say that my guitar is better,” Opatik says. “It’s not just a really good guitar, the design pairs ergonomics and sculptural together. It’s a high-design guitar. An actual design process is put into it. Take it or leave it.”
Somehow, I don’t think that’s a problem.
A Grandville native, Opatik lives there with his wife, Shannon, 37, and their two sons, Isaac and Gideon.
In his “leisure” time, Opatik covets old Volkswagens and collects vintage modern 1950s furniture. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. It’s just another way of saying “Eames.”
Victoria Mullen writes, acts, paints, does lawyerly stuff, and is the Research and Media Maven for MP Talent Management Group.
Greg Opatik is the owner and designer of Sinuous guitars.
Photography by ADAM BIRD