Maintaining High Standards

May 2022: I wonder what the last thing was that you did where you were learning to do that something you have carried out for years, on auto pilot, but being shown how to do it ‘better’ by someone else?

By ‘better’ I mean maybe more accurately, more efficiently, more simply, more astutely’. Maybe a way that is easier for your mind to comprehend or for your body to physically master. Whether it is the crossword or daily ‘Wordle’ or playing Bach every day, picking up tips from a friend or ‘You Tube’.

It always surprises me how easy it is to learn from others, and what a pleasure it can be. I constantly question my own actions to try to work out the best approach for just about everything I do, and this is absolutely true of every job carried out meticulously in my workshop. I also love to share and teach less experienced restorers, and over the years have taught many.

To continue to learn and evolve involves sharing ideas. Talking and discussing openly about how we ourselves approach things, and if we share and listen in equal measure we will learn.

I recently attended Lutherie 2022’ at Newark-on-Trent. It’s the first since the Pandemic and it has come back bigger and better than ever. It is a full day of lectures from leading restorers and makers in the violin world. In the audience sit amateur makers rubbing shoulders with professional makers. We all listen attentively and it leads us into conversation and analysis over coffee breaks and lunch. As the day draws to a close the vast majority head for the pub and roll home or stagger back to their hotel at closing time.

Every year I am there to learn, to network and to share. This year my charity the ‘RAB Trust’ held a table to sell donated items to all the attendees, with a 50% discount to all the students who purchased something.

We were also instrumental in encouraging the violin-making students in attending.

I see it as an important lesson for them, to witness how we all communicate on the day, learn and share. My ‘Trust’ offered any attending violin-making student from any of the colleges in the UK an envelope when they came to see me. In that envelope was £50 to help them with their travel expenses and/or purchase some tools from our stall.

Two other trustees (see pic below) joined me at our tool table for the day, helping with sales and playing ‘Father Christmas’ by handing over the said envelopes. Mark Robinson and Elaine Spicer both ex J&A Beares employees, really did a first rate job. And it made us all feel good when the students showed their gratitude. We made a lot of money for the ‘Trust’ but we also empowered the next generation by offering them the opportunity to see how the violin world learns, networks and shares!

Celebrating the wonderful Wooler Arts

I have only recently come across this great little organisation and I attended one of their lectures by professional viola player Piero Gasparini from The Halle Orchestra. He spoke about his viola, and played a few pieces for us. He talked about his life with short amusing anecdotes. Afterwards I had a chat with him as the maker of his beautiful viola had been a good friend of mine and I told him a secret about his viola, something he did not know, that the maker had once shared with me!!!

They have a concert series that has just started and which appears to be attracting some fabulous artists. I believe the mastermind is John Casken, a brilliant world-renowned English Composer who now lives in North Northumberland.

The picture at the top of this blog features the young Solem Quartet who are bringing a very exciting programme of works by two musical giants, early Bartók and late Beethoven, to Wooler on Sunday 12 June at 15.00.

Please check out their website and do all you can to attend the concerts and support them.

Is my ‘coat’ worn? I don’t just wear it in winter!

Does your instrument show signs of ……scratches, wear, bald patches, chips……….? All a regular occurrence and often caused unknowingly in a normal days work for musicians. However, for your instrument, not so good.

The varnish on your instrument is the precious ‘coat’ it wears to protect it from the rigours of being handled daily, or manhandled in some instances.

When this is worn away (maybe where the hand sits regularly, rib areas are especially vulnerable), the instrument is itself more vulnerable and compromised. The ribs may be as thin as 1.2mm and having bare exposed wood is not clever. The elements can then affect the wood, with heat and moisture, cracks or shrinkage are more likely to occur.

Both top ribs either side of the neck had huge wear.

Varnish in progress, building up colour and layers to exact copy of original varnish on the rest of the violin

Just get in touch and lets get it sorted. I can touch in the varnish and your instruments ‘coat’ will once again be doing the job it’s meant to. Not only will the varnish look good it will also protect the wood underneath. Simply email  judith@judithblackwellviolins.com or call me on  01289 304383 or mobile 07770 846148

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