About Avian

About Avian

Two of the world’s most highly regarded luthiers, Michael Bashkin & Harry Fleishman, come together to create a new breed of acoustic guitars for the contemporary player. Through their relentless pursuit of excellence in craftsmanship and lutherie along with the knowledge and passion of geometry and design, Avian Guitars was born.

Avian Guitars came to be with the intention of creating harmonically rich and extremely comfortable guitars that would encompass many of the design ideas both luthiers had been developing for several decades.

“AVIAN”: (adj.) relating to, or characteristic of, birds. (Noun) a creature that flies.

Avian Guitars came to be with the intention of creating harmonically rich and extremely comfortable guitars that would encompass many of the design ideas both luthiers had been developing for several decades.

Handbuilt by specially-trained luthiers, all five models in the Avian range work well for strumming, flatpicking, and fingerstyle.

Avian guitars are inspired by the golden age of North American contemporary handmade guitars, demonstrated in the modern design of the Skylark, with the soundholes placed on the bass side of the guitar, giving more spacial sound to the player and expanding the soundboard’s active surface.

All of the five models in the range are offered with various modern features, such as Ryan-style arm bevels, Demi-Cutaways and multi-scale, fan fret designs, which are only usually found on very high-end custom guitars.

Luthier History

The Avian concept was born from late-night conversation between renowned furniture manufacturer Timothy Oulton and his colleague and guitar enthusiast Roger Kimp. Having one of the world’s best furniture workshops gave the pair the rightful idea of utlilising their craft and resources to build guitars – but not just any guitars. In order to do something that no one else was doing in the world of acoustic guitars, the pair would have to find the right luthiers.

Enter Harry Fleishman and Michael Bashkin; two of the most accomplished and admired builders in the business.

Designing the Range

Michael Bashkin takes up the Avian story from his workshop, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado:

“We began with Harry designing the Skylark – all of his trademark, contemporary look with the off-set sound-holes and asymmetrical features – while I designed Songbird and the Dove along more traditional lines. A reflection of our personal preferences, really, though we were totally in agreement on an overall ‘aesthetic’ for the entire range. There has to be underlying similarities in how the tops are processed, the braces fitted and shaped, all that technical side. We compliment each other, maybe even to the point of the collaboration bringing out the best in both of us.”

Michael’s far too diplomatic to suggest that his more classical sensibilities serve to temper Harry’s space-age radicalism. It’s more a question of linking new ideas to old-fashioned business savvy.

“We could do wild things but is the market there? Yes, we wanted to move away from the traditional to an extent and bring in a design aesthetic and features you’d only normal find in custom-made guitars (arm bevels, pierced headstocks, off-set sound-holes, the distinctive, scooped “demi” cutaway, curved body-shapes) but we also wanted to make all that previously high-end stuff available in a more affordable, small-production instrument. We have total respect for tradition but at the same time, every one else is doing the traditional stuff.”

A key aspect of Michael Bashkin’s overall philosophy dovetails perfectly with the company founders’ vision. Bashkin insists that, based on their body-shape, bridge design and headstock, his guitars should always be instantly identifiable from across the room, in the same way you can spot an E-type Jaguar way down the street. Genuine design classics don’t need big flashy logos to set them apart from the herd.

Harry Fleishman

Harry Fleishman has been building custom guitars in California for more than 35 years. A long-serving design consultant for Fender, he’s also director and chief instructor at Luthiers School International.

As a leading member of the Guild of American Luthiers, Harry lectures on acoustic guitar amplification and, significantly with regard to the Avian range, on unconventional acoustic guitar design. With his insatiable appetite for research and experimentation, he’s the man the experts go to for all-round, acoustic wisdom; be it on design, amplification, multi-scale fretboards, asymmetric body-shapes, multi-soundports and no doubt, things they haven’t yet thought of that Harry’s already been cooking up.

A constantly-evolving, floating-brain-in-a-tank of ideas and knowledge (weird, wonderful but always practical), Harry Fleishman is the guitar world’s answer to the legendary ‘Doc’ Brown; except he’s real.

Michael Bashkin

Michael Bashkin’s adventures in lutherie began in 1994 when he was a graduate student in forestry at Colorado State University. Teaching tropical forestry in Belize gave him the perfect opportunity to learn about (and select) the hardwoods he’d soon be fashioning into his own beautiful and much-coveted, high-end guitars.

From knowing the source to learning the process, he then studied with the renowned West Coast luthier Ervin Somogyi and future Avian collaborator, Harry Fleishman. Most guitar builders like to talk up their eco-credentials; as a former soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service and research assistant at Duke University studying global warming, Bashkin has been there, done that, got the full t-shirt collection.

His love of the simple beauty of unadorned hardwoods is reflected in the clean, bling-free lines of both his own instruments and those he’s helped to inspire under the Avian banner. He simply “gets” wood; how it works and how best to work it. Where Michelangelo spotted David hiding in a block of marble, Michael Bashkin hears the voice of the wood in the living tree.