This article was first published in The Strad May 2010
DOUBLE ACTS Inside views on relationships in the string world
The Strad plays matchmaker: this former editor and her luthier husband met in 1997 through the magazine
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I’M A VERY CURIOUS PERSON, and editing The Strad gave me the chance to learn about things I’d otherwise never have known about – 17th-century Italian history, Heifetz’s teaching methods, varnish ingredients. I always loved going to conferences and other events for work, meeting people and asking about what they did.
I MET ANDREAS at the British Violin Making Association convention in Dartington, where I was, as usual, in the bar talking. He was looking for an orchestra to play in, so I told him about mine; we started playing quartets occasionally, before beginning a relationship a few months later.
ANDREAS INTEGRATES HIS WORK AND HIS LIFE much more than I do. Although his workshop isn’t at home, he doesn’t think twice about getting up on a Saturday morning and researching acoustic measurement tools or varnish recipes. He knew at the age of 17 that he wanted to be a violin maker, and he’s still following that dream.
WHEN WE GO to a concert, I’ll be much more concerned with the performance or the piece, whereas Andreas is very sensitive to tone quality. He’ll leave the hall having conducted a full analysis of each player’s sound on each string and the set-up of each of the instruments. It means we don’t always agree on what we thought of a concert, but that makes life more interesting. We’ve gone to a lot more opera since I left The Strad – that seems to get round the problem!
IT’S GREAT TO KEEP IN TOUCH with the music world through Andreas. When he comes back from an event, I’ll always want to know who was there, how people are, what the news is. Andreas always has more street cred than me at parties now – being a violin maker is much cooler than being a businesswoman!
WE RECENTLY BOUGHT AN OLD HOUSE to restore. My friends think it’s marvellous, because Andreas must, surely, be really good at this kind of thing? And he is – only he hates it after the precise demands of making a violin. I maintain that I’m quite happy with ‘del Gesù’ floorboards rather than Stradivari ones – a few gaps here and there are fine. Andreas’s antiquing chemicals, UV light tube and aging techniques came in very handy when we had to replace one old board, though – no one has yet spotted the replacement. [/column][column width="47%" margin_left="3%"]
I WAS LIVING IN BERLIN IN 1997, looking for a new job, when a friend spotted an advert in The Strad for a workshop manager at the London violin shop Frederick Phelps. I’d been in the job for a week when I went off to Devon for the BVMA conference, never dreaming that twelve years later I’d be settled in London as a result.
I LEFT PHELPS in 2002 to set up my own business – just as Joanna left The Strad. Her knowledge of the violin world was enormously helpful. Because she knew how so many other makers worked, she could make helpful suggestions on little things, such as how to keep records, or bigger ones, such as ways to approach musicians.
SHE’S VERY GOOD AT GETTING ME TO FOCUS on what’s important. She’s always been insistent that, if I’m making only six instruments a year, I have to know what kind of customers I want, and how I’m going to work with them. Recently she’s been helping me work out how to fit in my own projects, and how to expand my market even when I might not have an instrument for sale.
I USED TO ENVY Joanna for travelling the world with The Strad and meeting lots of interesting people. These days we’ve reversed roles, and I travel each summer to the Oberlin violin and acoustic workshops. I have a fabulous time with some fascinating people, a few of whom Joanna knows. The New York luthier Guy Rabut has become a good friend, and enjoys reminding me that it was him that Joanna put on the cover of The Strad!
VIOLIN MAKING IS AS MUCH A WAY OF LIFE as a job for me, which can cause tensions. Over the years we’ve learnt to compromise: I won’t necessarily visit a wood dealer we’re passing when we’re on holiday, and she’ll find something else to do while I spend hours in front of paintings of instruments in an art gallery.
WE STILL PLAY CHAMBER MUSIC TOGETHER, though we don’t get round to organising it as often as we should. When we got married, we decided we’d like to put a few pieces of chamber music on our wedding list. All our musician friends and family loved the idea, and we kept having to add more! We didn’t get many plates, but we have a wonderful collection of sheet music. [/column]