A peek into lutherie workshops around the world
My workshop is in the centre of Paris, in an area called Batignolles. It’s a friendly part of the city that feels like a village. There are families, shops and small businesses and it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the bustle of the Rue de Rome. I’m on the top floor and I have a great view of Batignolles park.
I get great sunlight on the south-facing balcony around noon each day, which is perfect for drying oil varnishes, much better than a UV box. You get a more even, transparent coat and a better surface texture. I’m waiting for the ground to dry on this cello and soon I’ll add a red–brown or brown varnish. It’s a precise copy of the ‘Cristiani’ Stradivari and it’s for the Paris-based player Alexandre Giordan. The scroll is drying on a table: I like to varnish cellos and their scrolls separately because it makes them easier to handle. Luckily we are high up, away from the dirt and fumes of Paris, and my clients often tell me it’s funny to look up from the park and see my instruments drying!
I’m studying the violin on the desk in the right-hand corner. It’s by Enrico Catenri (often spelt as Henricus Catenar) and it has not been played in a very long time. The ground is wonderful and quite close to that of many of the Stradivari instruments I’ve seen, especially on the back. I’m hoping to get ideas for my own violins from it. I believe you need something to compare your work with, and that you should look at lots of different instruments for inspiration. The three violins on the left-hand wall are also in the workshop for inspiration – an old one of mine, an old Italian violin and a German instrument – and so is the Stradivari book in the foreground.
The picture above my bench is of the von Baehr Quartet, my parents’ ensemble. It was taken about 25 years ago. They’re retired now, but they used to be quite well known in Northern Germany. To the left of the picture is a viola in the white. It’s going to be copy of an Andrea Guarneri, with a slab-cut back. I hang it up when I’m not working on it.
The little postcard on the wall, beneath the bow, is from some friends with whom I often play chamber music (I play the violin). They met up in Bavaria last year and I couldn’t make it, so they sent me the card. The poster behind the Stradivari book is of Itzhak Perlman’s ‘Soil’ Stradivari. It’s a great-looking and -sounding violin and I dream about making one like it. The poster on the right is of a ‘del Gesù’ violin copy I made about ten years ago. It’s in a private collection here in Paris now.
I bought some of the wood in my workshop from Markneukirchen. It’s from the 1890s and is really good quality, old, seasoned wood. I don’t have a machine or storage room and I keep wood anywhere I can – here and at home. When I was younger I even stored it in my parents’ bedroom.
Interview by Vicky Hancock