How and Why I Do It
When violins appeared about 400 years ago, violin makers were not considered artists. Compared with other craftsmen, such as carvers, violinmakers were doing something second-rate. Despite this, they tried to make original products, and used their imagination freely.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, most products today are produced for consumption, thus making them more difficult to recycle. Contemporary violin factories are not an exception. For example, you should never put a broken violin, glued by a disperse glue and polished by polyurethane varnish in the oven. It would contaminate the environment!
However, making quality violins by hand has been very difficult during the past 400 years, and therefore their production has become an art. Every contemporary violinmaker decides how much they will implement industrial methods into their work, thus determining which category their work will be ranked. Only some handcrafted violins are valuable, and though I don’t yet know what the real value of my violins will be in the future, my decision is clear – I will only make the best.
I don’t want to compete with the perfectionism, sterility and coldness of machine-made instruments.
In the beginning, I tried to make violins in series, using machines to do many things such as spray varnishes with a compressor airbrush in an effort to achieve perfect results. The violins were precise and flawless and they even succeeded in competitions, but I didn’t have a good feeling about them because they were not handcrafted with care. They were not products that I wanted to put my name on.
After this, I started to make the best from what I could do only with my hands. I resolved to not make a big number of violins. It would be tempting to let machines shape my own wood, thus speeding up my work and to use standard product methods such as the micrometer, imbuskeys, and auto keys. But I knew that a violin maker loses the need to use his own senses, skills, and knowledge on how to apply a chisel, plane, scrape blade, and knife when modern machines are involved
Machinery production can no longer be called an artistic craft. The violin made by these methods radiates an artificial, displeasing effect that is immediately recognized by an expert and felt by a layman. This difference in working methods explains why one violinmaker can only make six violins per year, while others make up to thirty.
I can already hear your objection, “What about Stradivari who made 500, or maybe even 1000 violins?” The truth is that Antonio Stradivari worked until the unbelievably old age of 93 years, but it was his two sons, Francesco and Omobono, who did not build a single instrument under their own name while their father was alive. They too died as very old men within a few years of one another. Still, when we omit the apprentices and friends who worked with them, they had to have been very diligent.
I make my violins by the same method as violinmakers 300 years ago. My violins have an improvisation regarding the inward form, every piece is different. When a violinmaker starts with this way of work he finds out that old technological procedures are not entirely forgotten and the “secret” of varnish has its own logical historical development.
I spent several years traveling to see precious instruments that, by their expressive character, reveal how they were built and what kind of people produced them. Therefore I would be very proud if you could recognize, or at least feel, the enthusiasm, knowledge and skill that I make my violins with.
This was nicely expressed by Czech violinmaker Věnceslav Metelka when he said, “When I pass away, my violin will never pass over.” I would like to be proud of my violin even 400 years later!
I wish you a lot of fun in your playing and deciding which violin, viola or violoncello to buy!