Ben was granted a second award from the RAB Trust in 2014; money to buy the materials for his first cello and a placement with Kai-Thomas Roth to start work on this instrument. Ben writes:
Working with Kai-Thomas in his workshop in Somerset we started from scratch. I decided the model from the templates he has made from measuring cellos in the past, choosing the Ruggeri 1694 cello now owned by the Royal Northern College in Manchester.
After making the mould in the first two days we prepared the plates and ribs. By the end of the week I had finished my rib structure, and was already working on the final arching shape of my plates, as we had done the outline and rough arching the days before.
Working with Kai was an amazing experience, I learned a lot of new methods and got ideas for my own making. In fact it really felt that the enthusiasm for the work and the learning was both ways; during the making process, when looking through books we found a very nice Ruggeri model and by comparing it to the one I was working on we really went into the material and we both got inspired by that!
The most important thing I took from our talks during long days of working is that the only thing which is not taught very much is “trust your own judgment”. I am so ‘born’ into “Stradivari is the thing to achieve” that everything which would add a bit of character to my instruments seems wrong to me and I never ask myself if I might like it, I only ask if this in Stradivari’s style or not (I am not talking about mistakes due to inability here!).
If, on some point of my life, I want to find myself working in my own style, I feel that this is the thing to develop: “Keep your mind open towards everything new and still encourage yourself to work on finding your own style.”
As I am coming closer to my final year at college, working with Kai-Thomas really gave me a good deal of new inspiration. I will work on developing my eyes rather then my ability to make templates. I realised how dependent I am on plaster casts etc. without really understanding how an arching works, because even a plaster cast will only be as good as the understanding of principles I use to look at it.
I had a wonderful time with Kai-Thomas and his family and I am really grateful for how warmly I was welcomed and I am looking forward to return to Kai-Thomas in future!
The RAB Trust had played a big part in this, for me, so “successful” year. I was given a grant to purchase my cello wood as well as the placement with Kai-Thomas. I was able to buy a really nice back and front when the RAB Trust was selling workshop materials from the late Koen Padding’s workshop which made it a joy to work!