Updated: Oct 26, 2020
For today's Handpan Maker Spotlight we'll be taking a look at PanSmith Handpans of Guthrie, Oklahoma.
PanSmith was created by Curtis Smith and is currently the only handpan company in Oklahoma. Curtis is a dear friend who I first met at Steel Mountain Handpan Gathering in the fall of 2018. It's hard to believe, but when Curtis showed up to Steel Mountain he had never played a single handpan other than the ones he himself had built! Oh yeah, and did I mention he brought almost a dozen PanSmith handpans with him? Curtis's humility and skills with the hammer have made PanSmith handpan rise to near the top of my list of handpans made today and with only 2 full time years under his belt, I could not be more excited to see what the future holds for this emerging handpan company. (Did you know that me and Curtis are giving away a FREE PanSmith handpan in celebration of the release of my new album Bird of Paradise? There are only 2 days left to enter! Click here to sign up!)
What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?
PanSmith Handpans. The name was chosen after my first Steel Mountain handpan gathering. I mostly just like that it uses my last name while keeping to the familiar theme of trades like blacksmith, etc.
Do you have a specific name for the instruments you make? If so what is the meaning behind this?
Undara. I wanted the name to symbolize my long journey and the desire for it to continue, but I was having trouble coming up with something, so I decided to just wait and see if it would present itself. After visiting Pantheon Steel headquarters with my friend Daniel Baird in August of 2019, we were talking with the owner of the Airbnb we spent the night at. Her name was Benka Pulko, an author, entrepreneur, and Guinness world record holder for the longest solo female motorcycle ride around the world. When she saw the logo stamped into the handpan that I had shown her, she stopped and said "no way, you have to see this", and showed me the logo for the foundation she had established. The logo itself, a spiral, was nearly identical to mine. She started explaining the name of her foundation, which she herself discovered in her long journey around the world while in Australia. I was gifted the name I had been searching for. The name was "Undara", which most commonly means "long journey" or "endless journey" in the spoken Aboriginal language. It was perfect, and she gave me her blessing to use the name she had chosen for her foundation for my instruments. The written Aboriginal language consists of symbols, with the symbol for "long journey" being a combination of the symbol for a campsite, resting place, or watering hole (generally either concentric circles or a spiral) with lines drawn on either side, to indicate a stop on a "long journey". With this in mind, I designed the overall PanSmith Handpans logo (with help from Danny Sorensen) to resemble the Aboriginal symbol for long journey, which in turn is also referred to as "Undara"
How did you first discover the handpan?
I came across a video on YouTube of Manu Delago playing "mono desire" on a couch with egg crates on the wall. I was instantly hooked and started doing lots of research.
What made you decide to start building handpans?
I wanted to build a steelpan as a child, and after learning about the origins of the handpan, I had to try. The results of my first attempt were very encouraging, and I haven't thought about stopping since.
What is your goal as a handpan builder?
To continue learning and increasing my skills, and bring the highest quality personally possible to as many people as I can.
What would you say your instruments are known for?
Fit and finish. I have heard that they sound "different" more than once. I'm gonna go ahead and assume that's a compliment!
What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?
Paperwork and publicity stuff (not including gatherings) are my least favorite, I'm pretty content to be in my shop building. My most favorite thing is seeing someone playing one of my instruments and smiling. After my first gathering, (which was my first public outing with my pans) I was pretty emotionally overwhelmed, but getting to see everyone enjoying what I had put so much work into really stuck with me the most.
If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?