What the heck's a luthier? That's what I wondered as I started reading Eric Peterson's profile on Rich Sharpies, a self-taught luthier --or maker of stringed instruments, I learned--who has had a hand in crafting thousands of high-end banjos during his 27 years with OME Banjos in Boulder.
Sharpies is one or 10 "people behind the products" profiled by Peterson as part of our annual Made in Colorado issue. The "makers" whose work he examines span small-shop craftsmen to large-scale manufacturing overseers, and this range underscores the variety and scope of manufacturing in the state.
We learn, for example, about Michael Clark, a former construction superintendent who since 1979 has made bamboo fly rods out of his shop in Lyons that now sell for up to $3,000 each; we learn about Victor Ortiz, head cook at Denver-based Hammond's Candies, who oversees a staff of 14 that transforms more than 3,000 pounds of sugar a day into magical treats; and about Manuel Rubio, a manufacturing supervisor for Vestas Blades in Brighton where 54-meter blades are made by teams of up to 16 people.
Colorado boasts more than 5,900 manufacturing firms that are responsible for $16.3 billion in annual economic output, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. It estimates that 120,000 people are employed in manufacturing in the state; the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment puts the number even higher, at roughly 140,000 workers.
Yet as significant as they are, giant numbers like diat can overshadow the individuals...