String theory

Borghino Guitars

Italian guitar maker Mirko Borghino draws from a lifetime of experience to create unique instruments that help musicians express themselves – both musically and aesthetically

“My time is too precious to be wasted on making things that many others can make,” says Mirko Borghino, maker of Borghino Guitars. Driven by his skill for creating one-of-a-kind guitars, the artist, based in Desenzano Del Garda in northern Italy, isn’t shy about turning down requests for proposals he doesn’t feel resonate with his creative core.

“In a nutshell, I’ve always tried to create beauty,” he explains. “Something that stimulates the emotions through the eyes, the touch and sometimes – with the right wood – with smell.”

Mirko trained as a guitar maker and is fastidious about detail. “Guitar making is like fashion,” he says. “It’s about matching colours, paying attention to the shapes, lines and finishings. When it comes to the creative proces, I usually prefer to start from a white sheet of paper and let my hand go.”

Inspired by his love of music, Mirko worked with his hands from a young age, painting, designing, repairing and modelling various stringed instruments – and, in 20 years, he hasn’t looked back. “I never consider changing my job. Instead I constantly evolve it and improve it.” Such ambition helps Mirko stay focused. “I feel like a kid in a playground,” he says. “I have no limits and no walls in my creative process, and all the successes and failures are exclusively up to me.”

Right now, Mirko has just finished his first archtop guitar made of one of the rarest and most expensive varieties of marble on the planet. “It’s probably the most amazing instrument I’ve ever made,” he says. “Its black and gold colouration has given me the opportunity to perfectly match it with real solid gold, which I’ve used for every single decoration, perfectly inlaid in the ebony fretboard.” When making guitars out of such unusual and fragile materials, the challenges include predicting the behaviours of elements that are not traditionally used in association with wood, which can include unexpected cracks. It forces Mirko to be all the more careful and meticulous in his craftsmanship.

“In this particular guitar there was also the need to keep the weight reasonable and, of course, to make it sound good,” says Mirko. “The marble guitar is called Miraggio Portoro and it is the first real experiment in the story where you can find the art of the stone carving, of lutherie and of jewellery all brought together on one archtop guitar.”

The Shakti Deluxe is another of Mirko’s proudest creations, commissioned by the legendary British guitarist John McLaughlin for his Indo-jazz outfit Shakti. When McLaughlin’s iconic original acoustic guitar was accidentally broken, Mirko was tasked with recreating another in the same style. “When spirituality meets music something really special happens,” says Mirko, and his range of Shakti Deluxe guitars are now all personally signed by McLaughlin. “For 20 years nobody had the bravery and wilfulness to study how to rebuild it,” he continues. “It took me a couple of years, but in the end, I realized my personal version of the original model improved on many features, including sound and decoration.”

What thrills Mirko is the idea that his guitars will outlive him. “I want my creations to keep living for centuries, played in live concerts rather than stored in a private collection or art gallery, and this will also keep me, in some way, still alive,” he says. “But the most ambitious and stellar guitar I can make is still in the air. I’m just waiting for some dreamer, like me, who’ll give me the opportunity to amaze the world even more than I did until now.”