Meeting a maker

June 12, 2023, 4:47 PM · I enjoy meeting violin and bow makers. In my experience they always show devotion, expertise, and love to the craft. Some of them know important artists, places, situations and listening to the stories is fun and can even be inspiring.

This weekend my wife and I had a chance to know a bow maker that I learned about his name on Because of our busy schedules we had to schedule the trip with a quite few weeks in advance. It was worth the wait. The journey was not simple considering we had decided to take our bikes as part of the trip: one hour drive to the ferry terminal, a ferry boat trip of 1h 40mins, a bike ride of 20 mins, another ferry trip of 20 mins and finally another 15 mins bike ride.

We were warmly greeted at his atelier, and we were later joined by his dear wife, both on their 80s. Fun fact: he was a photojournalist and their path crossed when a charming violinist had trouble to find someone in town to re-hair her bow and it needed to be shipped to another town. He was quick and said: I will do it for you without even the name of that funny stick with a hair on it. And he somehow did it (the power of love?). Moving forward, he became interested in learning more about bow making, eventually moved to NY, was trained by William Salchow and the rest is history.

It was a memorable afternoon, surrounded by violins and bows, of course, with a delightful conversation, full of wisdom and experience. But as every dream comes to an end we had to depart and start all the way back home. Now without rain.

As a hobbyist violin player such moments are precious. How about you, what has been your experience when meeting/visiting a maker?

Turning to the other side of the bench, as a maker, when it comes to people, what makes you frustrated or excited?

Replies (18)

June 12, 2023, 7:01 PM · As a viola maker I love visiting other makers too! And receiving players!
June 13, 2023, 3:14 AM · Not related to violin but very nice to hear about your mode of transportation, bike and ferry!
Edited: June 13, 2023, 7:10 AM · Having purchased some new things recently for use in left and right hands, I have met my maker on a few occasions. Especially if you are commissioning something, it makes a lot of sense. But even visiting the shop to try things or ask questions is pretty cool.
June 13, 2023, 7:46 AM · My first experience meeting a maker was a bit different. He essentially said that if I wasn't going to buy anything, I should get lost. He's dead now (no, I didn't have anything to do with that).
June 13, 2023, 8:02 AM · Well, most makers are in the business of making, not marketing and sales. So a little credibility, and courtesy, from a prospective buyer counts.
June 13, 2023, 8:13 AM · Meeting makers, especially "my makers" became like "counting coup" for me. I have met the makers of all 4 of my violins, 3 of them more than once.

Meeting the fourth maker was most unexpected; I met Fernando Solar Gonzalez, at his shop in Madrid, Spain in 1990. I was there for a week of work-related meetings and had a day off. My wife and I took a taxi to a street with the same name as the street of his shop - but it was the wrong street in a residential part of the city. We were able to find a phone to call another taxi that took us to the right place. There "Solar" showed us the "Stradivari King of Spain" quartet of inlaid instruments he had made and I got to play on both violins. I had bought my 1971 Solar violin in 1975 from a seller in the south of England via a classified ad in the "old format" STRAD magazine.

Not as adventurous as AC, but it was enough for us.

Edited: June 13, 2023, 8:48 AM · I met the amateur maker of my late violin in the workshop of his professional colleague while I was on a conference trip to Florence. He was a retired medical man, friendly and charming but speaking little English. Such conversation as we managed was mainly on the topic of Princess Diana's death which had occurred a few hours earlier.

He did impress on me the need to keep his name from coming to the attention of the revenue men, to which end he stuck a false (German!) label over his own and gave me an extremely shabby case to carry through customs. I decided this would only draw attention to itself so the violin went into my shoulder bag, its protruding neck disguised with a sock. Thinking back I'm actually a bit shocked at what the consequences could have been...

June 14, 2023, 7:43 AM · This is the only place where people seem eager to meet their maker ...
June 14, 2023, 2:37 PM · Sadly, Paul, some threw themselves into that situation without really realising what was to follow. Others, more happily, chose that situation for the sake of conscience.
June 14, 2023, 7:19 PM · Is it time to meet my maker?? That’s so scary!!
Oh wait - I have completely misinterpreted the premise of this thread!

But seriously…

I have enjoyed innumerable pleasant contacts with various makers, for purposes ranging from repairs to commissioning a new instrument. I have learned something from each encounter and have formed some nice friendships.

As far as traveling goes, the furthest I have traveled to meet a maker and pick up a violin was from Brooklyn, New York to Cremona, Italy! I wrote a blog about it on my website, called “My Pilgrimage to Cremona”.

June 15, 2023, 1:04 PM · I met a local Violin Maker by happenstance. He and his wife were at a local diner years ago. I knew his wife because she was a young musician in the community orchestra where I played. She's a professional musician and he loves making things with wood with a love of joinery (a.k.a., boxes) and a violin is a fancy complex box (Read: "The Violin a Social History"). He made her a violin as a courting gift and they got married. He has a shop out of their home.
June 15, 2023, 2:22 PM · I just live 200 meters from my best friend,
One of the most gifted violin maker of the young french génération.
In a little paradise by the way, french Provence.

So we meet very often, and I try his new Kruse and Rovelli models (and one lucky day the two real Kruse and Rovelli, not every day you play a Strad and a Guarn after enjoying some Rhone Valley vineyard good wine…)

And an other good friend in the same workshop is bow maker.

Lucky Life…

June 18, 2023, 6:04 AM · Stephen Symchych wrote:
" Well, most makers are in the business of making, not marketing and sales. So a little credibility, and courtesy, from a prospective buyer counts."

Stephen, I'd say that marketing and sales people in shops can be even more likely than individual makers to snub people who don't happen to fit their particular "profile of a serious buyer".

Edited: June 18, 2023, 7:35 AM · My first serious violin was made by John Newton who was based in Owen Sound Ontario - and I heard that he had moved to Toronto. I gave him a call and was invited for the most delightful tea and cakes - while various distinguished musicians dropped in to chat about instruments.

John is a fine violist (he is well known for his) and through him I met another Newton violinist. At that point I asked him if he had made any cellos - he had made two and one was owned by a serious amateur in Toronto (a psychiatrist that happened to work in the same hospital as I did). At that point I joked that if we all four got together we would have a single maker, Newton-Quartet!

Well three weeks later I got a call - John had arranged it and for several months thereafter we would get together to play. So 'meeting my maker' led to a lovely friendship and much fine music.

Edited: June 18, 2023, 12:18 PM · @ David Burgess: well, the professional sales people probably have lots of training in budgeting their time to maximize revenue.
June 18, 2023, 9:31 AM · I haven't been able to find John in my family tree. (wink)
June 18, 2023, 12:18 PM · Morning coffee hadn't kicked in yet. Edited for clarity.
July 10, 2023, 8:59 AM · I have met the maker of my violin 'after' I bought her violin...

Laura Vigato (Brescia Italy): I contacted her via email as I could not find one of her violins to buy in the UK where I live...I asked her if she had any for sale or whether she would make me one.

she had one she just finished and was showing it at an exhibition in Italy, she said after the exhibition was over she would ship it to me...I could try it for a week and return it if I thought it was not a suitable match.

The deal was done, I loved it and kept it (this was July 2014 9 years ago). Later that year in September I went to visit a family member in Italy so I dropped her a line and went to visit her.

She is great of course, lovely lady, her workshop very fascinating.

She gave my violin a health check while I was there and a light touch up to the varnish where it got slightly marked by the packaging on transit as it was sent to me in a very hot summer week.


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