Ed Stilley is a preacher and homesteader in Hogscald Hollow, Arkansas. One night almost 30 years ago, he fell asleep with a gun in his lap. After a tough period in his life, he had begun to feel that there was no way out. After falling asleep, he says that God spoke to him in a dream. He promised to “take care of the matter” as long as Ed obeyed one command: make guitars and give them away to children for free.
It was then that Ed embarked on a 30-year-long pursuit. Having never built instruments before, he had a lot to learn. He used scraps and found objects to begin a series of incredibly unique guitars, ukeleles, violins and even dulcimers. Most were carved with the words “True Faith True Light Have Faith in God.” He gave them away free of charge, and you won’t believe how unique and beautiful these creations are.
X-ray revealing the insides of Stilley’s “Butterfly Guitar,” with a circular saw blade used to create harmonics
As promised by his divine interaction, his spiritual despair subsided.
It wasn’t long before local news outlets caught wind of his gorgeous instruments, and it was their coverage of him that brought Missouri photographer, Tim Hawley to Stilley’s door. The two quickly became friends, and after placing some local ads, Hawley was able to track down the many recipients of Stilley’s instruments. It is then that he began compiling photographs of the creations into his new book, Gifted: The Instruments of Ed Stilley.
According to Hyperallergic:
” Gifted: The Instruments of Ed Stilley, compiles the striking photographs Hawley took of the Ozarkian craftsman’s world: His hand-built barn and chicken coop; the creeks of rural Hogscald Hollow; 40 of his 200 handmade instruments; and the 85-year-old Stilley himself.”
Check it out!
Detail of a dulcimer Stilley adorned with marbles
Stilley’s Butterfly Guitar
An X-ray revealing the intricate inner workings of one of Stilley’s guitars
Ed Stilley’s hand-built barn, chicken coop, and workshop in Hogscald Hollow, Arkansas