And then I remembered. Now if I could just find a suitable pic of that elusive beast for this blog.
A quick browse through the 'archives' yielded this Ibanez ad from 1976.
The Artwood Nouveau, the strat-style axe at the center of this trio of instruments, had a hand-carved mahogany body, a maple neck, and a carved mahogany cap on the headstock.
Using a carving technique called 'raised relief', or 'high relief', the carved patterns have the effect of emerging out of the wood. Even the Ibanez logo on the headstock was engraved!
There was an Artwood Nouveau at the music store where I used to work at back in '91. Apparently the store had got it as a freebie from Hoshino for taking on the Ibanez dealership. And they had kept it in storage for years and only brought it out around the time I started working there.
For a few months, it was the 'tester' guitar for customers to try out amplifiers. I remember it used to leave ornate welts in the right forearm of everybody who played it for awhile.
But it did sound a little thin with its heavy, dense body, devoid of any kind of resonance, combined with particularly weak sounding single-coil pickups. It was not the most ideal guitar for trying out that Mesa Boogie or Marshall -- these were after all, the high-gain/post shred/Seattle grunge-era early 90's.
Then one day it was taken off the hanging hook and placed high on a shelf on a guitar stand directly behind the service counter where it had pride of place.
And I couldn't tell you how many times I was asked if it was for sale, and for how much.
"Don't touch it. Don't even look at it!"