Wednesday, January 25, 2012

one of my violins given a run

In a previous post, I highlighted Gaby Lester's lovely violin, with some links to her work and life. We were fortunate to have her in the workshop to-day after she and her husband had a couple of demanding weeks at Australian Summer Music Camp, interstate. They go back to Italy next week.

This tiny clip is a very casual and informal 'noodle' (but easily recognizable) as she picked up one of two of my fiddles to play. The studio isn't the best acoustic space and she didn't prepare or even see the instrument at all before this, so please watch it in that sort of spirit. Summer day, casual visit, give the thing the 'rounds of the kitchen'...She just picked it up and gave it a whirl.

This was an instrument that I made for a robust player- it can take hard driving- while the other, more highly arched violin she played was made to be sweeter in a 'Venetian' way. Gaby likes 'dark' sounding instruments and managed to make both sound more than adequate on the 'darkness' front.

I guess my frustrations about making violins in such a tight market must have penetrated our conversations, I have been wondering how long I can keep up the energy for this work but I was heartened to receive this message to-night;

Dear Robert,
It was lovely to see you and Julia today in your lovely house.
I wanted to tell you I thought your violins were very beautiful instruments.
I'm touched by your craftsmanship. Don't give up!
I will tell everyone I can here about your   violins.
All best wishes to you


I hope she won't mind my mentioning this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

15th Century Portuguese 'replica'

We took Annie across Corio Bay and found ourselves drawn to a dark and forbidding silhouette  anchored in the distance. This handbuilt boat in the style of Portugese ships of the 15th Century (I'm told) had just sailed from  the south west coast of Victoria into Port Phillip and then Corio Bay. The trip took 57 hours, the boat took one man, Graeme Wylie a decade to build.

The little ship has had its share of media coverage in Victoria. If there is interest, I can research it further. Maybe start here.

Annie was such a pleasure to sail in the messy chop. With two aboard, it just took the crew to sit a bit further forward for the lovely garboard plank to slice rather than pound the waves. We sailed through the rock breakwater, coming in, and under just mizzen and jib we didn't trouble the motor or the tiller, just steering with the jib sheet. Five metres from the pontoon we wound up the jib and just gave the electric motor a blip to achieve a soft and quick landing.
Space/quiet/string/ good

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

a venerable horse

 Let me introduce you to Lombok. He's a retired Polo horse about 25 years of age, and one of those animals that seem so much bigger than their size when you meet them. We were easily drawn to him in the beginning, walking our dog to a neighboring paddock, and to begin with there were polite hellos and the odd pat, but he had an unnerving habit of using negative body language at the oddest times. This took a bit of getting used to, particularly as he seemed to enjoy exploring me with his teeth while his ears were well pinned back. But he never bit, he just relaxed into our company and has blessed us with some great conversations and warm cuddles. These pics make him seem small, but he has a big, graceful authenticity about him...and I say this as a person that has never felt close to a particular horse in the past.

I do admire his dignity.

Monday, January 16, 2012

harangued by the Bass Mob

This is one of a mob of five double basses that have joined the 70 odd violins and cellos in for repairs this Christmas (not to mention the 30 new violins that need to be set up for sale to a school). This one is a venerable old German one with the personality of a retired polo horse, and I quite like having him on the bench. But the others lurk like dark sentinels around the perimeter of my little studio, threatening to lean on me when I'm doing something purposeful, and  when the lights go off for the night, they seem to nudge each other, sniggering at the damage they could do if they conspired to fall over.

Anyway, I include this obscure post really to explore that idea of something being 'venerable'. I think I'm secretly hoping that something of this quality will rub off on me, but don't tell anyone that I entertain such thoughts. The truth is, I think, that in order to be venerable, one would need to have that quality that makes people think that one has remained unchanged almost forever, and  not subject at all to external influences and distractions. I would not ever qualify (on both counts), but it doesn't stop me admiring the bass.
Margaret Olley was venerable, and I tried here to pay tribute to that quality in her.

On a lighter note, if things go to plan, I'll do a post on a venerable retired polo horse one day soon....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

three books for coast lovers and a harp for me to build

These three books all describe events on  East Coast  USA. I read them during our southern Winter, and each made good winter reading, if for different reasons.

The 'Coast of Summer' by Anthony Bailey is well known amongst readers of cruising stories and is a relaxed journal of daily life upon some of America's most famous waters. Written in 1994, the book often draws attention to the difficulties in sharing the coast with a sometimes inconsiderate crowd of boats, looking back wistfully to times when fewer people competed for a pretty passage between un-spoilt destinations. The reading is relaxed and calming, nevertheless.

'Small Craft Advisory' by Louis D Rubin Jr. (lent to me by 'Pablo') is a warm story of a man trying to find the boat that will suit him, in his attempt to spend simple time off Sth Carolina. He chooses one without a mast, but we can forgive him that when we undertake the journey with him.

'Caleb's Crossing' by Geraldine Brooks is a historical novel in which the dangerous sea is the dominant background character, but the story is of early settlement, and complex interaction of cultures and genders. Of the three books, this is the most revealing about human nature and early America. It is a very fine and thought-provoking read.

I have been asked to make a 36 string lever harp. This is the first commission for an unusual instrument that I've had since my blog began and I'm hoping therefore that the blog of the unfolding process will have special significance and meaning for the player concerned.

The commissioning family had the opportunity to buy a commercial harp at a much lower cost, but decided instead to be part of the creation of something specifically made with their needs and their story in mind. I will try to do adequate justice to this wonderful expansiveness and generosity of spirit.

So we've had some talks about size and design. She's found some pictures of examples that appeal to her. I've discussed with her some of the alternatives available to me, in construction method and timber choice. I've been in touch with a harp maker overseas with whom I share some interests and outlooks and his technical input will be very gratefully received. I'm still chewing over the timber choice thing. I'll spend a little while considering these things while I work away at the mountain of instrument repairs that clutter up the workshop at the moment. Most of these will be done (I hope) by the time the summer holidays are finished.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Apollo Bay Victoria

When I was a boy, the sight of this boat would have reduced me to a slobber, but the sound of the water quietly lapping at it would make my lust much worse. I find now that little has changed, except there are fewer things to slobber at.