Alumni Stories

Clay Conner (C’95)

After graduating from Principia College, Clay was hired for an entry-level position at Hamer Guitars, a Chicago-based company known for making high-quality electric guitars with a vibrant vintage soul.

In 2000 Clay relocated to the San Francisco Bay area to apprentice with the well-known guitar builder Ralph Novak. Now Clay lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he thinks nothing of spending 14–16 hour days in his workshop. Even so, constructing a single guitar takes four to six months. Clay’s guitars have been featured in Jazz Guitar Life and have caught the eye of musicians from various genres.

Reflecting on his Principia education, Clay says the strong foundation he received as an art major developed his eye for design. “I lean on that training every day,” he says. While at the College, he went on an art abroad to Scotland and had a creative breakthrough while painting there. “That experience probably planted the seed for wanting to live a creative life,” he remarks.

“On a spiritual level, I feel any creative pursuit is a move toward God,” Clay comments. “Growing up as a Christian Scientist and being in the Principia community gave me the courage and confidence to pursue this career. I absolutely love what I do!”

To learn more, visit Clay’s website at, check out his blog, or become a fan on Facebook.

Excerpted from an article written by Heather Shotwell and printed in the Summer 2010 issue of Connections

Prin provided a strong foundation in the creative software I use daily, as well as the ability to translate an idea into a tangible piece of design work. Prin also gave me important communication skills that prepared me to interact with clients.