The Strad | My Space, 2019


Interview by Christian Lloyd, November 2019, The Strad.

My space, The Strad

This workshop has been where I’ve been based since 2005. Before that I was working at the I Violini shop in Buenos Aires as a luthier and restorer, having begun my training aged 14 with Franco Ponzo, one of the best-known teachers of lutherie in Argentina. I’ve also spent time learning the
craft at the ateliers of Hieronymus Köstler in Germany, Ivan Guimarães in Brazil and Horacio Piñeiro in New York among others. I chose this area of Buenos Aires because it has an excellent view, very little noise, and it’s situated only four blocks from the Teatro Colón. It’s also regarded as a musical district, with quite a few other violin and guitar makers working here.
The workshop covers 50 sq m and takes up most of the ninth floor of a large apartment building. When I moved in I had to add partitions to make rooms for instrument testing, an office, kitchen and a place for storing cases.
This photo doesn’t give a good impression of the amount of natural light in the workshop. The workshop faces east, so I have lots of light in the mornings, and when the sun moves around it’s reflected off the neighbouring buildings, providing me with a warmer kind of light. I hardly need to use any artificial lamps, except when the sun goes down.
Most of my work takes place here, although I spend a lot of time teaching lutherie as part of an initiative set up through the international ‘Iberorquestas’ project, aiming to foster musical development among young people. We train young people to be violin makers and restorers, showing them how to repair very inexpensive instruments and then donating them to young players.
As well as Argentina, I’ve given training in El Salvador and Uruguay. Latin American orchestras insist their members have some basic grounding in instrument maintenance, which is all to the good.

All these instruments are awaiting restoration and repair work. Most of them come from European workshops and each one contains something I can learn from.

I’ve found a desk magnifier very useful when doing restoration work, especially in examining the finer details of a maker’s craft – or in identifying original materials used in something like the purfling.

I’m currently restoring this cello, made in 1911 by Camillo Mandelli ‘da Calco’. He was a student of Bisiach but spent the early part of his career in Buenos Aires, where this instrument was made.

I’ve just finished making this violin, and now I have a playing-in device attached to the bridge. I also use a ‘music table’, essentially a speaker fitted to a bench, which vibrates the wood and turns it into a resonator.

The window looks into the waiting room, where customers can watch the work being done if they like. It also contains a piano, a case with violins for sale, and some traditional instruments I’ve picked up here and there.

(Right) My instrument testing room contains a table full of accessories for sale, and a bureau that I’ve converted to hold bows, patterns and templates. There are some copies of The Strad on the music stand.

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