I made my first instrument, a lute, when I was in the eighth grade. Inspired by a painting of renaissance musical instruments, I thought that something that looked that beautiful must also sound incredibly beautiful. I wanted to learn to play the lute, but had no money, and even if I did, had no idea where to buy one. I decided I needed to make an instrument. In my family, if we needed something, we made it. My father, an artist/sculptor, and my mother a seamstress/quilter, made anything seem possible. I didn’t have any plans, just some pictures and a description in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I found some scrap wood and cobbled together something that looked like a lute and strung it with guitar strings. So began my path of designing and making instruments inspired by renaissance art.
In my senior year of high school, I made a “real” lute from detailed instructions written by Ian Harwood and used it during my studies in music and history at Harvard University and Longy School of Music. I moved on to making bowed string instruments at Indiana University School of Music, where I completed a degree in violin making and restoration. I am still inspired as much by the visual beauty of musical instruments as their sound, and try to integrate the entire sensory experience into my work: look, sound, and feel.
I have had the good fortune to have made most of my instruments for professionals with clear ideas about what they needed in an instrument. Creating instruments to fit individual needs has been demanding and challenging, but a great experience. The wonderful thing about lutherie is that I am constantly learning, even after 30 years, as I keep my eyes, ears, mind open. In short, I love what I do, and am constantly striving to instill that love into my work.
See a division viol in the making.