During the lockdown of early 2021, trustee Philip Ihle had the idea of presenting a series of Zoom lectures for students, as they have missed out hugely during the pandemic, working as best they could from home with little outside world contact.
We wanted to do what we could to enrich their experience and inspire them to try new ideas. We have contacts all round the world, with some of the finest makers and restorers; Philip felt we could call on them to share their expertise with students.
The inaugural series of RAB Zoom talks was born. Our speakers were Andrew Ryan and Jordan Hess from the US and Iris Carr from the UK. Violin making students from Newark, West Dean and Merton were invited to apply. Small groups were chosen for each speaker, so that the students could interact with these experienced artisans.
For a first year student, these talks, generously organised and made available by the RAB Trust, are very formative and influential. It is such an invaluable opportunity to have an insight into the work, methodologies and processes of such renowned professionals as Andrew Ryan. Rui, first year student, Merton CollegeI applied to attend the RAB talk series with violin maker Andrew Ryan as the Covid-19 pandemic affected my final term of studying violin making and repair at Merton College. I’ve been on the look-out for any opportunities to develop my learning, and am grateful that the RAB Trust and Andrew are able to offer this informative series of lectures investigating tools and acoustic techniques to assist the modern violin maker. Emma, Merton College
Andrew is an American violinmaker, working on Rhode Island. In his four talks he discusses the role of art, craft and science in his working methods:
1. What can Goldilocks teach us about violin making? Understanding materials, information management and decision making
2. What if Stradivari had an iPhone? Using science, innovation, and modal analysis
3. What’s so great about George Craske? Developing a body of knowledge, tools, and forms
4. Can I get a hand here? Constructing arching, graduation, bridges, bass bars, soundposts.
I have gained an immense amount of knowledge and insight into the working methods of Iris Carr during the online lectures that were generously arranged by the RAB Trust. Students from the violin making schools of the United Kingdom joined in the conferences and were lectured on various topics relating to restoration. Iris Carr’s experience truly gives one an insight into the future of fine restoration. Kyle, third year student, Newark
Iris is a UK based violin restorer who works in Suffolk. With an international reputation for restoration work, she has taught the subject as far afield as Japan. She has presented three lectures for us:
1. Crack repair including explanation of the decision on whether a crack needs to be opened up or can be improved cosmetically, cleaning methods and materials, levelling and gluing a crack, filling, sealing, scraping filler varnish and creating texture
2. Retouching over cracks after texture has been created, and stain and retouch after fitting a new piece of wood to the instrument, for example edges, button graft etc
3. Bass bars and set-up on an old instrument
Jordan Hess is a very enjoyable person to listen to, full of knowledge and experience. I found all his talks very interesting and I especially liked his approach to sustainable sources, and the way he experiments with wood and with varnish. Sebastiano, 2nd year student, Newark
Jordan is a young maker based in east central Indiana, USA:
What I want to talk about is how concept, method and intent merge together in violin making. I’ll show some analytical techniques for studying working methods and talk about why that’s important if we have any interest in copying Cremonese instruments (although really it applies to any instrument, contemporary ones included). I’ll be focusing primarily on scrolls, as well as some arching and edgework, trying to show why they work the way they do, and why work across different makers of the same school has underlying similarities despite the differences.”