Jayne Henderson builds guitars and ukuleles and creates inlay design for acoustic instruments from her home in Asheville, carrying on inspiration from her artistic mother and skills learned from her luthier father, Wayne Henderson.
Jayne grew up in Rugby, Virginia, where her favorite things to make in her father’s wood shop were board games, like a chessboard and cribbage board, and jewelry. “Anything sparkling would catch my eye, which is probably why I was drawn to the inlay work most in my dad’s shop,” Jayne says. But, the guitar shop was frequently filled with visitors, and Jayne mostly stayed away growing up. She spent a lot of creative time with her mother, who is an artist and musician.
Jayne attended law school in Vermont, and she moved to Asheville to work in an environmental law agency. Though she found work back home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jayne also had a pile of debt from school. “I saw how much my dad’s instruments were selling for, and I asked him if he would make one to help me pay off my loans,” Jayne says. Her dad offered to make a guitar if she came and built it with him. “I was apprehensive at first, but it was absolutely the best experience I ever had,” she recalls. “I got to spend this really great time with my dad, and I found working with my hands came naturally to me.”
After the first instrument was completed, Jayne asked her dad if she could help build another one. By the third instrument, she was wanting to spend more time in the shop than at her day job. She convinced her organization to give her a week off to go work in her dad’s shop, and in return she would donate the proceeds of the instrument to the organization. Jayne built the guitar with sustainable woods, and it was the first instrument that had her name on the headstock. In 2011, Jayne opened her own business, EJ Henderson Guitars and Ukuleles, in Asheville and committed to building instruments full time.
Jayne opened a wood shop at her home in December 2016, though she continues to spend a lot of time at her dad’s shop. “I have set out to learn all I can from my dad in order to preserve and carry on his incredible trade while putting my own spin on his traditional aesthetics and methods,” she says. “I am hoping to chisel a space for myself within the luthier community by working to meld tradition with environmentally friendly practices.” Jayne continues to use local wood found in the Appalachian mountains when possible, and she uses sustainably harvested materials when she has to look elsewhere.
Jayne specializes in making small bodied acoustic guitars and ukuleles of various sizes. She often builds instruments from local maple, oak, ash, cherry, and walnut, and she prefers Eastern European spruce to Red spruce simply due to its abundance and harvesting practices. Most of her instruments follow pre-war Martin patterns and forms and are made almost completely by hand, using only basic shop machines and hand tools. Jayne also loves to create inlay designs, and she has also given workshops on inlay design and technique.
For more information about EJ Henderson Guitars and Ukuleles or contacting Jayne about giving inlay workshops or demonstrations, please visit her website.