Ute Zahn ~ Violin Maker
Another one of my creations goes on a trip -- I'll be accompanying my latest viola to New York, where we'll take part in the American Federation of Violin And Bow Makers' "Players meet Makers" event. Lincoln Center, here we come! I'm also looking forward to all other related events, such as a visit to the D'Addario string factory, and some (no doubt enlightening) talks on latest research into violin making and restoration.
I've embarked on a new adventure: Mould-less violin making. Most instruments are built around a form, or mould, which helps to accurately re-create the outline of a model you might be copying, or achieve something approaching predictable symmetry in the instrument design of your choice. My usual process, too, would involve using a drawing as a starting point to make some templates, from which I would make a mould. This time, I decided to skip the mould making and build the ribs directly on to the backs of the instruments.
Even though I pride myself somewhat on my rib bending skills, I found out immediately that the wood has ideas of its own. Newsflash: The wood won! A day after I had lovingly bent my ribs hewing closely to the pre-drawn lines, and glued them to the blocks, I came into the studio to find the outline magically changed.
The challenge now is to come up with an instrument which follows classical lines and looks harmonious, if not exactly as I planned ... Watch this space!
Stop by the studio any time between Monday and Thanksgiving and avail yourself of the special Fall Care Package for your instrument (to get it in shape for all your holiday gigs!). Get your fingerboard dressed and a new bridge and soundpost fitted and save 25%. (Higher savings if you are a cellist ...)
I am delighting the neighbourhood with my summer ritual: varnish cooking. What with six to seven months of winter and the summers generally dedicated to thunderstorms verging on tornadoes, there isn't much of a window. But I caught three clear days in a row, and now everyone around me gets to enjoy the smell of boiling rosin. Season's greetings!
We are trying to help our Trinidadian students come to the US this summer, where they have been offered the great opportunity to do two successive internships at Huthmaker Violins and Potters Violins respectively. Please consider helping them out with a small donation!
This is my third iteration of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu's "Lord Wilton" violin, fresh from the tanning booth and ready for its ground coat. While it looks quite dark now, each subsequent layer of ground, sealer and varnish will miraculously lighten the appearance of the tan. Just one of the many mysteries that keep my job fresh and interesting!
Having just returned home after two back-to-back trips, I'm very much looking forward to spending some solid chunks of time in my workshop building things again.
It was lovely to go to California and meet everyone at the Metzler Violin shop in Glendale, in the LA area. The shop is charming and set up to serve a broad cross section of the music community, and the exhibit of contemporary American makers the Metzlers were hosting was well-organized, well-publicized and, as far as I could tell, well-attended.
With amazing tirelessness, the Metzlers will also take the show on the road, traveling to Las Vegas with about 100 instruments in tow -- hats off to them!
For some highlights of individual instruments being introduced, click http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20174/21113/
After a quick turnaround over the Easter weekend, I packed my bags again to travel once more to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. This was part of Luthiers sans Frontieres' ongoing engagement with the University of Trinidad and Tobago's music department, specifically focusing on training young musicians the art and craft of violin repairs and set-up and bow rehairs and repairs. I worked with two of our long-term students, Akil Patrick and Ayana Smith. I'm very excited we succeeded in setting them up with two internships in US violin shops for this summer, and are hoping they'll be able to attend a varnish workshop while they're stateside, too ... here's keeping my fingers crossed their visas will come through! Meanwhile, I'll keep them on their toes via Skype lessons. It's quite telling that, as a token of the students' appreciation, I was handed a magnifying glass ....
We did manage to squeeze in some extracurricular activities (a yoga class, a morning at the beach, a dance performance, and some socializing with the generous, caring, and gifted UTT music teachers who, over the years, have become our friends). All in all, a lovely time which has inspired me to now throw myself into my own work!
I'll soon be riding the rails all the way out to Los Angeles, California, where the Metzler Violin Shop will host an exhibition showcasing the work of contemporary American luthiers. I am very pleased a couple of my instruments will be included in the show. A link to the event can be found here.
Having to speed-varnish a viola and a cello is a big task .... especially the cello, most especially because the result of my last varnish experiment is rather like tar. Which is to say, it contains a lot of colour, obliterating the need for added pigment; and also, that it is thick, stringy, sticky beyond belief. Warmed up and padded out on a nicely-figured piece of maple, it does look rather attractive, though ....