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Katie Tertell, Professional Cellist

“Judith did an exceptional job on my 1888 Collin-Mezin cello. I can’t remember it ever sounding as good as it did after her restoration! Judith was a delight to work with. She listened compassionately to my concerns with the instrument and was incredibly sensitive to my needs. I was delighted that she finished the work two weeks ahead of schedule, which enabled me to use my cello for international performances. I would highly recommend Judith- she is a restorer of the highest quality and I feel so grateful that she was able to work on my instrument.”

Just days after collecting Katie messaged……“I just wanted to let you know the cello is sounding absolutely incredible! And everyone is commenting on it! I did a session online a few days ago and my colleague could not believe how resonant the cello sound was. I am so over the moon happy!!”

Ross Hume, Violinist, Guildhall Conservatoire, London

“I don’t believe my instruments can be in safer hands than those of Judith Blackwell, attention to detail and perfection is at the heart of her work. It is very difficult to find a luthier whom you whole heartedly trust with your most important possessions, but I know without question that my violin is safe, secure and treated with the greatest care in her workshop. Judith provides a unique service tailored to the individual customers’ requirements, regardless of whether you’re a student or a professional.

I have known Judith for a long time and I know that whenever I have the smallest problem, she will always be on the end of the phone or make time to see me no matter how busy she is. This commitment and flexibility towards her customers has been critical for me as a player, I often have only small windows of time that I can be without my violin, and Judith will always accommodate this.

Her tireless efforts have also meant that in recent years, I have been able to secure a fantastic instrument which I absolutely love.”

Alan Edwards, Retired Professional Violinist, London & Northumberland

“I am now a retired professional violinist living in Northumberland after spending almost 30 years as a member of the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, London and other major Symphony Orchestras. My violin is very special to me. I am more than delighted with the excellent work carried out by Judith. A problem I had for so long was addressed very quickly, and the work done is of the highest quality. I do not hesitate in recommending any work carried out by Judith.”

Helen Mason, Violinist, Kensington, London

“Judith Blackwell has restored my violin to perfection. Judith provided expert advice and guidance for set-up and string choice and I am delighted with the transformative results. It is a huge bonus to know that my violin will remain in first class condition through regular visits to such a distinguished and sympathetic Luthier.”

Sian Scaife, Cellist, Newcastle upon Tyne 

“I thought my cello was beyond redemption following an accident when I was a teenager. I found Judith on a google search and following many great reviews travelled to Berwick for a consultation. Judith fully understood why the restoration and the instrument was so important to me, and sent a really comprehensive quotation but one that was free of obligation or any sort of sales pitch. She did a wonderful job, sensitively returning the cello to its former glory despite the damage being worse than originally imagined. She then provided valuable advice for its insurance and after care. I will always be grateful for Judith’s care and attention in returning my precious cello to me.”

Jane Finlayson-Brown, Cambridge

“We approached Judith to see if she could help us with obtaining a full sized violin for our daughter. We had a slightly demanding brief in that we were looking for a broadly equivalent instrument to my son’s violin & bow which had belonged to me and had been much loved over the years. It had been made by a Glasgow violin maker, Alexander Smillie. Well – when we arrived at Judith’s workshop a few days later, she presented us with several instruments to try, including, to our amazement, another Alexander Smillie, as well as an instrument by his son, Andrew Smillie. Judith had scoured available sources to find a match. She had even obtained a bow by the same maker as mine. Having loved my Smillie over the years and assumed it was pretty unique, I was very intrigued to try another by the same maker and to hear that he had a son who had carried on the tradition. The Alexander Smillie violin Judith had found sounded absolutely stunning and we were immediately smitten with it. The Andrew Smillie was also a lovely instrument, but we could not look past his father’s instrument.

“We had brought my son’s violin with us for Judith to see and to compare to the various options that Judith had found for us to try. She instantly proclaimed that it “had a woolly jumper on” – and indeed by comparison to the violin we were about to buy for my daughter, it did sound a bit muffled and less open in tone. She was also concerned about the varnish which had deteriorated on the shoulder. So we left it with Judith – she had various very tiny adjustments to suggest – a new bridge, a new sound post, a different set of strings, and some work to the varnish. A week later we returned and the woolly jumper had gone. The tone was noticeably improved and more resonant. These nuances had transformed the sound the violin made. My son was delighted and even over zoom violin lessons, his teacher commented on the change instantly.”

“We are very grateful to Judith both for finding for us the perfect instrument for our daughter and for helping to improve my son’s violin. She had listened so carefully to what we were trying to achieve and really went out of her way to help us and to fit in some very subtle but hugely effective adjustments to my son’s instrument. Although we live a long way from Judith, we will certainly return to her to help us with some further work to touch up other areas of the varnish on my son’s violin. BRAVO!”

Nan MacFarlane, Journalist and Violinist, Scottish Borders

“Judith repaired my grandfather’s violin which dates from the end of the 19th century but had not been played for many years and was badly broken at the neck after it was accidentally dropped. It looked terrible and had lain in a state of disrepair for some years as we thought it was probably beyond fixing. However after Judith repaired it, the violin literally did look as good as new and, in fact, sounded even better than we remembered. It was quite an emotional moment when we saw it again as we could hardly believe how good it looked and sounded. We feel very lucky to have someone of Judith’s skill and expertise repair what is, once again, a treasured family heirloom.”

Kuniko Toda, Berwick

Ms Judith Blackwell is an excellent violin repairing and restoring master. She repaired a full size violin and a ⅛ cello for me which had travelled from Tokyo to Berwick. The violin is old and had been repaired many times, including in Japan. She instantly noticed problems and after a careful consultation she suggested what should be done. When the violin was repaired it sounded amazingly good. The ⅛ cello was not severely damaged but needed to be repaired a little and it was really nicely done. Judith is not only skilful but also knowledgeable and helpful. If someone asked me to recommend a violin repairer or restorer, I would be confident and happy to introduce Judith. Thank you for your wonderful work!

Katherine Baxter, Violinist, Berwick

“I recently asked Judith to look over two violins for me – one which I knew needed a fair bit of work, as it hadn’t been played for around 30 years, and one that was going to be having its first work done other than essential bits and pieces over the years.

Judith arranged for me to drop the violins off, and within a few days, emailed me with a list of what work she recommended, with no obligation quotes. I decided to go ahead with all the work on both instruments. After the chat we’d had when I dropped them off, I felt completely confident leaving them with her, and confident that she’d do a good job.

Judith gave me a rough timescale of how long she thought the work would take, and emailed me during that time to let me know how things were going. The violins were ready within the time she said, and arranging a pick up time was so straightforward.

I couldn’t be happier with the work Judith has done on both instruments. One of them was made by my Great Great Grandfather, and my 10 year old daughter is about to start learning on it. It had always had what I now know to be cigarette burns on it, and they’re now gone – I didn’t even know getting rid of them was possible! It had quite a bit of other work done, and Judith also provided a new bow and shoulder rest. It’s lovely to have it back in working order.

The other one, I have used for the past 30 years, and I had absolutely no idea that it could sound like it now does – it sounds absolutely amazing, and has a much more powerful and warm sound than ever before. She put a lovely set of strings on it too, which really suit it. It’s like playing a completely different instrument, and I couldn’t be happier with what Judith has done. I’ll be going back to her when I’m ready to get a new bow, and will also be asking her to do an annual check on both violins.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Judith to anyone and I’m so glad to have found her!

PS: I’m still completely shocked at its beautiful tone now, and it feels so lovely to play. Never in a million years did I think it would ever sound like it does now – I liked it before, but now….I just have no words. I just wish I’d known you years ago!

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