Making Sweet Music: Pip’s Ukes

“At the moment, my dining room becomes my ‘factory’ four days a week, when I’m not out at my day job.”

At work in Pippa’s factory

For Pippa McKean making unique, handcrafted ukeleles has gone from an experimental craft to a plan for the future.

She added: “My dream for when I retire from my day job is to have a proper wee workshop where people could come to see my work in progress and try before they buy.”

Having been handed a ukulele kit by a friend about a year ago, which she built and customised, Pip took a starter set and refined it to a skill.

She said: “I had great fun with it- and still treasure the result- but I felt I could do better using higher quality individually sourced parts and materials. It came with plastic components and I wondered how replacing these with wood might affect the sound. 

“Before I knew what was happening, I had built about half a dozen unique ukes and was really enjoying the process. People I showed them to loved them and suggested selling them which I soon realised I would have to do as the house was filling up with my work! 

“So – this shop was born! I hope each and every one of my unique handcrafted ukuleles will find a home and keep someone company on their musical journey.”

 “I never set out to build a business and I’m not sure that what I do is on a grand enough scale to be called a business yet,” she added.

A self-taught player of the guitar, mandolin, banjolele and uke, Pippa started her musical journey with her dad’s old guitar, picking out songs by ear – note-by-note.

“It must have sounded hellish,” said Pip. “But I never let that stop me!”

Pip’s attitude to music – which means she stays open to opportunities – has opened the door to amazing new experiences.

“A few years ago I started learning the Gaelic,” she explained. “And as luck would have it, my tutor was the fabulously talented Jackie Mullen, a founder member of the band Folky MacFolk Face. She was hosting monthly music nights at her home and invited me along with my banjolele. The evenings were great fun and I got to play with people from all over the world! I even stretched myself by signing up for a couple of musical workshops by proper world class musicians. I spent most of the workshops just being in awe of their talent, but I learned too.

Pippa McKean with her guitar

“Playing with others is just brilliant – and I would recommend it to all my customers – no matter what level you are as a player, feeling a part of an ensemble- there is nothing like it.”

When it comes to her craft Pippa has a similar ethos which has led to an amazing creative collaboration with Twitter artist Red Raiph – which has led to the creation of a number of one-off ukes – including the Nosferatu inspired “Noir”.

“Noir”

Pippa added: “Working with Raiph was an absolute joy! We are already good pals and I’m a huge fan of Raiph’s art. We were determined not to compromise on any part of the original concept, so it took a while to get it exactly as we wanted but I think the results were worth it!” 

As she continues making and selling, Pippa appreciates her craft as more than just a means of making money.

“Mainly, it is how relaxing I find working with my hands – it’s my therapy,” she said. “But I get an enormous buzz from knowing that someone is out there playing music on an instrument made by me ! Some of my ukuleles were bought as gifts for others and I love to think I’m a part of someone starting on a musical journey.

Pippa McKean

The Pip’s Ukes shop can be found on Etsy.

Crafter Recommended

“Well, Raiph, of course ! But I also love the Glasgow illustrator OorPatts.com . He draws the kind of people I grew up around and captures them just perfectly!” 

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