Jamie – Violin maker




I transform wood into music.


You see I am independent. I can walk you through all the process, I make all the tools I need, I just buy the raw materials, but I can go all the way and plus I can also play it. No machines, see, I nearly use no machines, I sharpen all my tools, I’m auto-sufficient, only thing I don’t make is the string, and sometimes I do make them, I can take the process from beginning to end. Of course I don’t grow the tree, but besides the violin itself I can totally make whatever I need.


I could give you an example, something that happened to me a few days ago. A lot of people admire my shop, they like to see me working, everyday, a hundred people a day from every country. The problem is that, even if people admire me, I need to stay away from them otherwise I don’t have time to work, so that’s the drawback of me being so visible like this. A man came with his young son, and told me his son was extremely interested in doing violin-making and he asked me how to learn. I told him “You’re son is lucky since he’s Italian and he can go to the school in Cremona with no problems”. And then the father asked “So how long it takes?” and I told him “It’s a five years school”. He told me “He can’t do that!”, and I was so surprised, you know? What do they think, it takes five minutes? And you actually don’t learn in five years at all, you just start your journey, and maybe after 20 years you’re still learning. People believe everything must work right away, and it’s really sad. I mean I think it’s worth doing it, in five years you can learn the basis of a craft who will potentially set you free from having a 9 to 6 job, working for somebody, and I think that’s a big gift today. I couldn’t believe his reaction, what do you want to learn in two months? If you learn a musical instrument, or to be a football player, what’s five years?

There are so few people that I’ve met…they ask me if I would teach and I say “no”, but I think I’ve only met one person who’s really interested into this kind of job and is capable to follow what I’m doing, you know, to be able to make the instruments and to play it, to make something that it’s significant. People just don’t understand that if I have to make something that is just like anything else, what’s the use? My colleagues, try to make many violins per year, but I’d rather make one and when people play they simply freak out. For instance I take pictures of people hands because the violin is for them and they’re going to play it for the rest of their lives.


When I was 15 I had to think what I wanted to with my life, what kind of job I would be more adapt to do in order to give me satisfaction. I played violin since I was 8, and I was very strong in art, general sculpture, drawing, painting, ceramics. I discovered that I got more satisfaction out of making things, making something that remained, wheres playing music is a job that goes away in the air, you study for six months and then play and then in two seconds it’s gone. At that point I didn’t think that becoming an artist would have been “complete” for me so I thought that I could make violin and my knowledge of playing would be important – and that’s what I did. In my area I went to the violin makers (in California) and I asked “How can I make these? How can I learn?” and they told me “Players are not meant to be violin-makers!”. But that didn’t stop me and by the time I was 19 I had decided to go in Italy since I checked out any type of school in USA and none of them where close to the one in Cremona, so I went straight to the best. Now the thing is, my father’s business went bankrupt three months after I came to Italy and he told me he didn’t have the money to bring me back home, so I had to work day and night, even working for my own teachers who didn’t know how to sculpt or make things. The funny thing is that out of 4000 violin makers in Cremona at that time, only three of us knew how to play violin. You see most violin makers want to learn how to play when they start making it but if you spend 12 hours a day in the making when will you find the time to learn? For me was the other way around since I started playing when I was young, six hours a day.


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