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Jonathan Hai

Very First Post - how I became a Violin Maker's Wife

February 19, 2012 at 7:20 AM

Post No. 1

This is my first post ever. Pretty scary but here we go.

I don’t particularly like when people write about their own writing too much, but want to explain how this blog idea came about – how I decided to write about my husband’s violin making and specifically about the enormous challenge he took upon himself this year: to build and complete a full stringed quartet.

But let me back up a little – about 10.5 years ago I married a great guy who was a civil engineer and worked in an architect’s office in Tel-Aviv doing restoration of historical buildings. He was very good at what he did but not very happy. To make a long story short, after our first son was born, we moved to Italy for four years, where he studied to become a Violin Maker (Liutaio in Italian) at IPIALL: the Stradivari International Violin Making School in Cremona.

What a change in life!

Until that time, violin making was as foreign to me as, say, quantum physics or medieval architecture … or Chinese. Gradually, however, as sometimes happens when your partner-in-life embarks on an intensive new process, I found myself drawn by the rich, vast new world of violin making. From how the special wood is grown in very specific locations in northern Italy and the Balkans; through how it is treated and then hand-picked; through the infinite terminology, details, myths, tools, materials, smells and colors that make up the building process, and then of course to the fact that what once was a piece of spruce and two pieces of maple, becomes a playing violin, viola, cello or double bass. So in a way, though personally I couldn’t build a violin if you gave me a million dollars and a decade of free time …. violin making has become a part of my life.

Amazingly enough, Yonatan seemed to have found exactly what he was looking for; exactly the right place for him in life – doing something he loves and is apparently extremely competent in. Now how many people can say that?

Since we have returned from Italy, Yonatan opened a violin making workshop in the Artisans Compound at Kibbutz Ein Carmel, and his business is growing steadily. Though he often fixes and restores existing instruments, Yonatan’s love for this profession centers around the art, the process, the magic of creating beautiful new hand-made instruments from raw blocks of wood.

And if this in-and-of-itself isn’t challenging enough, this year he will aim to build an entire quartet – two violins, a viola and a cello – all at once, all made in parallel and all from the very same tree. Think about the beauty of this – four instruments, originating from the same hundreds-of-years-old tree trunk, created simultaneously to form a perfect quartet. It was just too romantic a notion, too unique an opportunity, too much of a challenge to pass up.

I decided to accompany his creation process by creating my own blog.

So as the New Year begins, from my perch as the wife of a violin-maker, I will try to accompany this unique process of creation by hopefully managing to share some of the steps, thoughts, decisions and pictures with you, and together we will witness how pieces of raw wood will gradually, lovingly turn into a stringed quartet.

One hint for future reference – time is a major factor here, since the entire quartet needs to be ready for submission by November 2012. The countdown has begun!

Until next time – you can check out Yonatan’s website and see existing instruments as well as a slide presentation of how “a violin is born“.

From Emily Hogstad
Posted on February 19, 2012 at 4:48 PM
What a cool blog. And a quartet of instruments...a very romantic idea, indeed!
From marjory lange
Posted on February 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM
How wonderful (and how wise) for Yonatan to follow his dream, and how good of you to follow.

Mazel Tov to you both.

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