If my blog posts have become rather technical and a bit theoretical in describing my making process, it is perhaps a reflection of the early stages of making a violin, which are more repetitive and predictable. It is worth taking a moment to explore how my violin making process itself evolves.
In building relationships with other artists in my community and talking about our businesses and working experiences, I have found a common phenomenon. We all reach a point in the creative process where our work as artists is no longer to shape the work to our will and initial plans, but to respond to what is already on the canvas, or the potter’s wheel, or in the wood. There comes a point in building a violin where the goal transforms itself into making the most of all the decisions and accidents already made: to make this violin the best it can be, what it wants to be, and not forcing it to become what I had envisioned in the beginning.
Part of the challenge and opportunity of making a copy of a particular violin is comparing each creative step to a fixed reference, i.e. the violin being copied. There is much that can be learned from this referencing, but one can also lose some of the power and inspiration of new, free creation. I like to hold on to this reference for reasons that are not completely clear, it seems to be part of who I am and of the character of my work. I think I do better work when I react to a particular instrument as my reference point.
That said, I would say that my best work is 50% the inspiration of a master work, and 50% my own temperament and hand, and my personal understanding of what makes for a good violin.
So at this point in the creation of the VSO violin the instrument is taking on more of its own life and personality. I am aware that as I carve the “f” holes, they relate to the shape of the curves of the corners of this violin, as much as to the photographs of the Strad original. As I graduate (adjust the thickness of) the top and back, what I do relates to the wood and arch of this precise instrument more than to any preconceived goals or concepts. The parts start coming together and their congeniality and harmony are of more importance than all my good planning. Each new step is more driven by what I have in my hand than what I had in my head when we started.
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