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David Tseng

Violin Making Workshop

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On another note--David, isn't it true that even if a person can make a living at strictly new making, it is impractical, as there will always be someone who has a repair that needs doing,and they really want you, "their" luthier, to do the work?

I know some great makers simply refuse to do repairs anymore, but it seems a little cold, to me, when the people are folk you know, and who respect you. I guess there are only 168 hours to use, each week, though, and you have to choose how.

Besides, there is a certain joy in resurrecting a "dead" instrument.

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In local shops of my area they do repair work but very expensive. They do not want someone who bought a

broken instrument from ebay or garage sale and asks them to fix it. The reason is obvious. I have never taken such advantage

but other people must have tried.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess

Most makers have other sources of income from dealing, repair, retail resale etc. or have unrelated "real" jobs. Are there even a dozen truly full-time makers in the United States?


Hey David. This could be a good mental exercise.

If we're talking about making a living "primarily" through making, I came up with 22 as a first pass. Could be arguable, depending on how one defines "primarily" or "full-time", however. There are a few others I was tempted to include (like Bellini), but I don't know how much restoration/dealing/other they do for supplemental income, or if they can still be considered "full-time". There may be a few here who do more "other stuff" than I know about as well.

Workshops notwithstanding (Lee, KC, etc.), my "rough draft" list of US makers would include Burgess, Kuttner, Gusset, Curtin (though he has a genius grant), Jiang, Darnton (though he's now partnered in a firm), Young, Alf (though he does deal some), Zygmuntovich, Van Zandt, Wallin, Matsuda, Lane, Whedbee, Needham, Croen, Rabut, Grubaugh & Seifert, Dungey, Ruth, Wiebe.

Any you can add, or any you'd subtract?

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quote:


Originally posted by:
COB3

On another note--David, isn't it true that even if a person
can
make a living at strictly new making, it is impractical, as there will always be someone who has a repair that needs doing,and they really want you, "their" luthier, to do the work?

I know some great makers simply refuse to do repairs anymore, but it seems a little cold, to me, when the people are folk you know, and who respect you. I guess there are only 168 hours to use, each week, though, and you have to choose how.

Besides, there is a certain joy in resurrecting a "dead" instrument.

I've found a way to turn down repair work which isn't too cold. I just tell them the truth, which is that repair is a skill which must be practiced to stay good, and that I'm really rusty. Then I recommend someone good who does it every day and still has their "chops", maybe someone who used to work with me.

That usually takes care of it.

I'll still do some minor stuff for people with my instruments if they have an emergency or can't schedule with one of the others.

Sure, I miss repair. But people have gotten so good in both categories (making and repair) that I think there's an advantage in specializing. Good to have both in your background though.

Since most "luthiers" make their living in repair and restoration, we're debating whether to put more emphasis on restoration in future "Advanced Topics" workshops. VSA/Oberlin started years ago as a restoration workshop taught by Nigogosian, then evolved into a violin making workshop, two bow workshops, an acoustics workshop and a setup workshop, so this might take the Oberlin back to its roots. The major difference with ours versus other restoration courses would be that we'd have a revolving staff of different experts, the notion being that no one person comes close to possessing all the knowledge.

What do you think?

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quote:


Originally posted by:
COB3

On another note--David, isn't it true that even if a person
can
make a living at strictly new making, it is impractical, as there will always be someone who has a repair that needs doing,and they really want you, "their" luthier, to do the work?


I think David answered your question rather well (I'd bet it wouldn't take him long to shake the rust off though )... but I'd add that unlike David, some rather good makers have a limited background in repair. It's probably best that those makers pass on the work once it gets complicated (past maintenance, setup, components, or cosmetic work).

quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess

Since most "luthiers" make their living in repair and restoration, we're debating whether to put more emphasis on restoration in future "Advanced Topics" workshops. VSA/Oberlin started years ago as a restoration workshop taught by Nigogosian, then evolved into a violin making workshop, two bow workshops, an acoustics workshop and a setup workshop, so this might take the Oberlin back to its roots. The major difference with ours versus other restoration courses would be that we'd have a revolving staff of different experts, the notion being that no one person comes close to possessing all the knowledge.

What do you think?


I'm all for it (but you knew that). I'd also like to see the schools spend more time on subject, either within the curriculum or in addition to it. I'm presently working within the board Chicago school to try and get this going... and the idea appears to have support.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Jeffrey Holmes

Workshops notwithstanding (Lee, KC, etc.), my "rough draft" list of US makers would include Burgess, Kuttner, Gusset, Curtin (though he has a genius grant), Jiang, Darnton (though he's now partnered in a firm), Young, Alf (though he does deal some), Zygmuntovich, Van Zandt, Wallin, Matsuda, Lane, Whedbee, Needham, Croen, Rabut, Grubaugh & Seifert, Dungey, Ruth, Wiebe.

Any you can add, or any you'd subtract?

I'd need updated information on Gusset, Lane, Curtin, Darnton, Rabut, Van Zandt, Grubaugh and Seifert, and Ruth.

Some of these have been significantly involved in repair recently, but I don't know how recently. I think G and S still do some. Lane's most recent Federation listing mentions both restoration and making.

Gusset was more of a historical home restorer than a maker for a while I think he's finally finished that project. Don't know how much repair he does, but I know he sells instruments other than his own.

Curtin (I read) is setting more time aside to write and do research.

Would expect that Darnton has a broad range of activities in his new partnership.

Etc. etc.

Young? John or David?

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess

I'd need updated information on Gusset, Lane, Curtin, Darnton, Rabut, Van Zandt, Grubaugh and Seifert, and Ruth.

Some of these have been significantly involved in repair recently, but I don't know how recently. I think G and S still do some. Lane's most recent Federation listing mentions both restoration and making.

You may be correct about Tony (Lane) still performing restoration... but if so, I think he's done his best to limit it. G mentioned to me that they were making an effort to restrict that part of their lives.

Not sure if Guy is doing repair... Thought he wasn't, but then again, never asked him directly about it.

Same with Ruth.

I'm pretty sure David Van Zandt stays away from repair.

quote:


Gusset was more of a historical home restorer than a maker for a while
IMG] I think he

Rod Mohr did that too, didn't he? i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif' alt='face-icon-small-smile.gif'> Didn't know Gusset sold other fiddles.

quote:


Curtin (I read) is setting more time aside to write and do research.

I'd assume what you read was correct.

quote:


Would expect that Darnton has a broad range of activities in his new partnership.

Yes.

quote:


Young? John or David?

I was thinking of John.

Can't help but think I'm forgetting a couple makers, though. Do Folland and Scott repair? White? I think Melanson gave up repair a good while ago... but I'm not sure what else he may be into.

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Wow...that is a short list. Kind of sobering.

Again, though, I see that what you are saying is that there is a matter of choice involved. Paul Schuback, perhaps could make a living at just violin/viola/cello making, but chooses to repair, maintain, lecture, teach, etc. The ones you list, not only CAN make a living doing nothing but new-instrument making, they choose not to do the things that eat up their time, and limit their productivity as new-instrument makers.

So the list could be broadened a bit, and give a bit more hope to those of us who simply would like to make a living at lutherie, and do not require the kind of income that people like Joe Curtin generate. I happen to enjoy repair, but am not nearly good enough at it. I also enjoy making a new instrument--and also am not nearly good enough at it. I do a fairish amount of repair, and it frustrates me that it keeps me from doing the new-making that I want to also do.

When I told Michael Darnton that I was doing all the local School district instrument repairs now, he offered to put me out of my future misery on the spot ...all in kind sympathy, of course... and I didn't have the experience to understand the warning, at the time. Now I see his point.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
COB3

Wow...that is a short list. Kind of sobering.


Yup. It is... especially considering that the schools graduate a few-to-several new makers each year.

In addition, I believe (my opinion is) that the opportunities to learn fine restoration (which I can assure you there is a very healthy market for) are shrinking... hence my hopes for programs like Oberlin and a bit more basic training within the schools.

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I've found the list quite short too!!! I imagine that in Italy the number may be even shorter... That's a sad thing indeed. We read in many biografies that many makers gave up restoration to dedicate themselves just to new making, it seems it's hard to happen today.

It's difficult to imagine what caused that but the globalization and the high cost of life today may have an influence in this small number.

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My violin maker told me that he would take me in and show me his violin making process, however, he was very clear that there is little to no chance that I would be able to make a living and support my family within this profession without going to one of the schools mentioned in this thread. Even then, it would be a tough road. Luckily for me, I'm one of those that supplements income with a full-time unrelated job and performing gigs. Unfortunately, that leaves limited time in the shop...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess
The major

difference with ours versus other restoration courses would be that

we'd have a revolving staff of different experts, the notion being

that no one person comes close to possessing all the knowledge.

What do you think?

Not that my two cents count for much, but I think this sounds

wonderful.  I make my living at a bench, and it's been the

same bench for a long time.  It's getting kind of stale and

frustrating being in a bubble.  If something like this is

offered in the future, and I can get the shackle off of my leg,

count me in.  

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Add Michael Weller to the list of outstanding makers that find little time to make new stringed instruments due to the large volume of repair work that his community requires. I think he slowed down with new work after he hit the mid 400's for new instruments.

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Here are some details on the New Hampshire workshop:

SUMMER

VIOLIN CRAFTSMANSHIP

INSTITUTE

Week-long Workshops with

Master Violin and Bow Makers

Karl Roy . Horst Kloss . Lynn Hanning . George Rubino

http://www.learn.unh.edu/violin

The 35th Annual Violin Craftsmanship Institute, sponsored by the University of New Hampshire Professional Development & Training, will offer weeklong, hands-on workshops with master craftsmen from June 23 through July 25. Register now for workshops in violin and bow making and repair. All workshops will be held on the University's campus in Durham, New Hampshire, which is located about 15 minutes from the New Hampshire seacoast town of Portsmouth, one hour north of Boston, Massachusetts, an hour south of Portland, Maine, and within short driving distance of numerous summer recreational activities.

This acclaimed institute will be led by internationally prominent master craftsmen, Karl Roy, Horst Kloss, Lynn Hannings, and George Rubino, and Jim Robinson.

There is still some space available in some of the workshops. Others have reached the maximum capacity, but we are keeping waiting lists on those in case any spaces free up. If you have an interest in any of the workshops this summer and have not yet registered, it's not too late.

For complete information, to download a brochure, or to register:

http://www.learn.unh.edu/violin

Here is a list of workshops offered:

Bow Rehairing Waiting List Only

June 23-27

Distinguished Craftsperson: Lynn Hannings

Bow Repair

June 30-July 4

Distinguished Craftsperson: Lynn Hannings

Machine Techniques for Bow Repair

and Bow Tool-making

July 7-11

Bow Maker: George Rubino

Bow Making Techniques

With a Focus on Historial Perspective

Offered twice: July 14-18 and July 21-25

Distinguished Craftsperson: Lynn Hannings

Basic Violin Maintenance and Repair Waiting List Only

June 23-27

Geigenbaumeister: Horst Kloss

Intermediate Violin Repair: F-holes

June 30-July 4

Geigenbaumeister: Horst Kloss

Advanced Violin Repair: Carving a Scroll

July 7-11

Geigenbaumeister: Horst Kloss

Advanced Violin Repair II: Touch-Up & Making Varnish

July 14-18

Geigenbaumeister: Horst Kloss

Advanced Violin Repair III: Varnishing a New Instrument

July 21-25

Geigenbaumeister: Horst Kloss

Violin Building Workshop Waiting List Only

June 23-27

June 30-July 4

July 7-11

July 14-18

July 21-25

Master Craftsman: Karl Roy

Shop Assistant: Jim Robinson

The institute is designed for violinmakers, bow makers, professional musicians, music educators, and instrument repair persons at all levels. The number of spaces available in each workshop is small to allow for individual attention.

Participants may obtain room and board on the Durham campus for a modest amount that is not included in the cost of the institute.

If you have any questions about the institute, please email professional.development@unh.edu or call (603) 862-4234.

Space is Limited

So Don't Delay - Register Now

HOW TO REGISTER

On the Web, by Mail, or by Fax: http://www.learn.unh.edu/violin

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Web: http://www.learn.unh.edu/violin

Phone: (603) 862-4390

Email: professional.development@unh.edu

P.S. Please share this email with your colleagues!

Note: if you do not wish to receive emails about UNH professional seminars, please send an email to bjl@cisunix.unh.edu. (Please be sure to include your name and email address.) Or reply to this email with Unsubscribe in the subject line.

University of New Hampshire, 6 Garrison Ave., Durham, NH 03824; 1 (603) 862-4234; http://www.learn.unh.edu/

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Seth_Leigh
David, haven't

you made over a hundred violins already? Are you only an "amateur"

because you don't make your living doing this?

Isn't that the difference between somebody who does something as an

"amateur" and a "professional"?

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The discussion of amateur vs. professional has touched a strange nerve for me. I came up with the following thoughts, which are not directed at any particular person. I don't know anything about the circumstances of anyone on this forum; I am speaking in generalities, so please don't anyone take offense!

In the original sense of the word, a true amateur is someone who pursues an activity purely for love, not money. Maybe if you make and sell violins for just the cost of your materials, you can still call yourself an amateur even if you have perfected your craft. If you charge for your time, I think you've crossed over the line. Especially if you have factored your experience, craftsmanship, recognition by other luthiers, musicians, etc. into your "labor" costs and charge high prices for your violins. In that case, I would consider you a professional violinmaker even if you are living off your multi-million dollar trust fund and donate all your violinmaking proceeds to the underemployed and underpaid luthiers guild. [What, there isn't one of those??]

If you need to work to support yourself, you can do your work with love, devotion, and passion equal to that of an "amateur" who obtains their living from another source. Any suggestion that needing the money you get for doing your work somehow "dirties it up" would be wrong. Quite the opposite, I think. It's hard to do a beautiful, perfect, painstaking job of, say, restoring an old violin when you have to worry about paying for kids' orthodontics, etc. Hard not to sacrifice quality for quantity when you have bills to pay.

If you strive for perfection in your work, even though you don't need to make money, you have my respect. However, if, in the dog-eat-dog world of working for a living, you still strive for perfection, then you have my utmost respect.

Mary

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Mary, your points are well taken.

The "real" distinction which emerges from this forum is between professionally-trained and self-taught makers/repairers. Not that either of the two will guarantee you anything, but "making it" as a "professional" self-taught maker/repairer (doing it for a living) makes the upstream journey of spawning salmon look like a Sunday picnic.

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"Violin making schools only teach commercial violin making" and they prepare students to make a living out of this profession. It is possible but more difficult for a person without going through the formal training to become a professional. I also know that certain skills cannot be learned from the violin making establishment. Take for instance, I don't think Greiner, Zygmuntovicz, Burgess, etc. would teach someone to create unnecessary competitor. For this reason, I did my own homework R&D. Nowadays the info about woodworking and violin construction are much easier to obtain from publications, forums like this, and workshops. My objective is to produce great sounding instruments, not beautiful wall-hangers.

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I think I feel more comfortable without market and its complications.

I am a happy amateur and every piece of truth I reach, reminds me what I am making violin for.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Jacob

The "real" distinction which emerges from this forum is between professionally-trained and self-taught makers/repairers. Not that either of the two will guarantee you anything, but "making it" as a "professional" self-taught maker/repairer (doing it for a living) makes the upstream journey of spawning salmon look like a Sunday picnic.

Jacob, I understand what you are saying. From this discussion I can envision a degree of disdain or resentment on both sides, along with, I hope, some respect. Selim envisions truth and beauty apart from the taint of the "market and its complications" But "one must eat," as the French say (but they say it in French.) Oh well, it is fun to talk about it.

Mary

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Tseng

"Violin making schools only teach commercial violin making" and they prepare students to make a living out of this profession. It is possible but more difficult for a person without going through the formal training to become a professional. I also know that certain skills cannot be learned from the violin making establishment. Take for instance, I don't think Greiner, Zygmuntovicz, Burgess, etc. would teach someone to create unnecessary competitor. For this reason, I did my own homework R&D. Nowadays the info about woodworking and violin construction are much easier to obtain from publications, forums like this, and workshops. My objective is to produce great sounding instruments, not beautiful wall-hangers.


David;

I'd say that violin making schools have taken up the job of teaching fundamentals of violin making (tool prep, use and maintenance, basic design, woodworking, etc.) that might once have been learned through an apprenticeship. Not sure I'd really say they teach "commercial making". As a matter of fact, I believe the schools are often out of step with what the changing commercial market requires... The programs are light on restoration and repair, for example.

In my own case, school training essentially provided the opportunity to work with one of the makers on your list (David Burgess) twenty some-odd years ago. David has had other assistants in the past as well. Sam works with a number of grads in New York, on occasion, though I don't believe he hires long term. Don't know Greiner, so no comment.

Like many grads, I'm sure I had some "attitude" (ready to take on the violin making world) when I was a recent graduate... I'm sure David had a few amusing moments watching me back then. The reality is, I probably didn't (I hope I didn't) have as much of an attitude as many grads. Some of the "new Stradivaris" are pretty hard to take.

This is not to say that there aren't other ways to learn the craft... there are some pretty fine makers who have never attended a violin making school.

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"From this discussion I can envision a degree of disdain or resentment on both sides, along with, I hope, some respect."

From my point of view, the only "negative" feeling I may have towards formally-trained makers/restorers is envy for having had the opportunity to take a straighter (and quicker, and less painful perhaps) route from point A to point B- theoretically one can learn by oneself, but it's a lot harder, and much more time-consuming. It can take a teacher a second to tell you "that's wrong!" when it may take you several years to come to that conclusion by yourself.

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