UNITY — At the end of a dirt path in Unity sits Craig Lowe’s wooden palace.

Lowe motions with both hands toward the garage and the room above. It is barely 30 degrees outside, but he is in a short-sleeve shirt. He doesn’t care. The cold won’t hurt.

“This is my dream,” Lowe says.

He is talking about his art studio, which will soon also be his guitar studio, both above a two-car garage. It smells like a hardware store, with a shiny wood floor and bright, vibrant tone.

Lowe spends two hours there every other day painting watercolors atop a desk he built from “scrap lumber I couldn’t throw in the wood stove.”

In the garage below the art studio, vintage toys await, including a 1980 Corvette and a 1973 Harley-Davidson FLH.

“Remnants of the wild days,” Lowe, 69, says.

To say Lowe is handy would be a gross understatement.

Craig Lowe, 69, holds the guitar he is making from Brazilian rosewood at his workshop in Unity. Lowe has made 32 guitars and four ukuleles. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Adjacent to the garage is the 2,200-square-foot house he built.

A 20-foot walk away is the 62-by-24-foot woodshop he built in 1989 with locally sourced lumber. That is where he has made the Wood Design magic happen for decades.

Atop the red painted Wood Design studio was Anne’s Book Loft, where his wife of 46 years ran a part-time bookshop for 15 years. There are still 20,000 hardcover books up there.

Lowe built the guitars he plays. He built the studio in which he works. He even built the log cabin in which the couple lived before moving in 1989 to their current digs.

Lowe will soon move his guitar-making studio to the large room he built above the garage, where he paints and holds art classes for his five grandchildren.

Lowe’s current guitar-making studio is the size of a bedroom, just off the kitchen in a hidden cove. Time does not exist in the studio. There is a calendar from September 2015 on the wall. The door is covered with his grandchildren’s artwork. Guitar- and ukulele-building guides are taped up there, too. Appalachian red spruce is there in abundance, and Lowe can knock on the wood and know if it sounds right.

The guitar on which Lowe is working now, a dreadnought modeled after the Martin D-28 he has owned since 1972, is being built with wood he has saved for 17 years. He might sell it, or maybe not. Lowe looks forward to playing songs by singer-songwriters John Prine and Townes Van Zandt.

Craig Lowe explains the design of a ukulele he is making at his house and workshop in Unity. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

It typically takes Lowe about 150 hours over three weeks to build a guitar, but his latest creation requires even more care. Lowe has made 32 instruments, including guitars and ukuleles. A Martin D-28 acoustic guitar is his guide for the more than 20 guitars he has built.

“It’s all-consuming. It’s starting to get obsessive. Man, I don’t stop until my stupid back. ..,” Lowe says before pivoting the conversation back to his guitars.

Lowe, perhaps one of the most accomplished woodworkers almost no one knows, grew up in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area. He moved to Brooks in 1971 and settled in Unity in 1975. He met Anne at Fair Haven Camps in Brooks.

Sitting in the kitchen while taking a break from a 1,000-piece puzzle she plans to finish that day, Anne Lowe reflects on the house Craig Lowe built.

“This wasn’t even on the horizon,” Anne Lowe says. “It just grew out of his interests.”

Anne Lowe worked for the Maine Department of Transportation as a construction project inspector from 1984 to 2019. Now retired, she has gotten a taste of what it is like to be around Craig when he works.

“He’s a bit of a perfectionist, which is needed as far as guitars and furniture go,” Anne Lowe says. “He gets a little tense, one-tracked.”

Craig Lowe, 69, is surrounded by guitar cases as he talks Wednesday about his watercolor paintings at the studio and house he built in Unity. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Craig and Anne Lowe have two adult daughters — Ina Hollins and Morgan Lowe — and five grandchildren.

Lowe studied at the Columbia International University seminary in Columbia, S.C, and served as a lay pastor for two stints, totaling seven years, at South Unity Community Church, before having his contract terminated for what he believes were financial reasons. Lowe later served on the church board for 20 years.

He started doing woodworking projects he had seen his father, Thomas Lowedo. Early on, he was asked to make a bookcase. He then carved a sign as a gift. From there, he has worked with wood full time for 30 years.

Lowe, a self-described workaholic, began at age 13 as a part-timer at his father’s construction company. From the early 1990s to the mid-2010s, he and a few helpers contracted with Colby College in Waterville to make bookcases and portable wardrobes. His son-in-law at the time, Kevin Petrak, helped with the projects.

“I know people and word got around, but I started making things for friends at first,” Lowe says. “Word got out and my opportunity came at Colby College. They needed someone to make dormitory furniture, and I turned out to be their guy.”

In 1996, one of Lowe’s closest friends, Mark Kerns, pitched a collaborative guitar project. Another friend brought over a book on how to make a guitar. They did not finish the project. In 2000, however, Lowe decided to pick up that guitar and finish it. He has been making guitars since, especially since his retirement.

Kerns, Lowe and Kathy Harriman formed Rural Route 3, a bluegrass combo group. The trio performed on request from 1992 until 2019, when Harriman moved away.

Watercolor paintings by Craig Lowe are displayed Wednesday at the studio and house he built in Unity. Lowe, 69, was an accomplished painter before be began making acoustic guitars. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“It was small-time, but it was so much fun,” Lowe says.

Lowe retired in 2012 due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. He says he remembers waking up one morning unable to move his arms or legs and had trouble breathing.

He was hospitalized for three weeks. Intensive physical therapy followed. Once he regained strength, Lowe began painting watercolors, which he continues to do today.

He never leaves his house because of the coronavirus pandemic, but says he is content.

“I’m not really resentful or bitter, even though I don’t smile all the time,” Lowe says. “But I feel very fortunate. Can you imagine the last good years of your life painting pictures and building guitars? I just love it.”


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