It’s 1977, first thing on Tuesday morning right after Queen’s Birthday Weekend. I climb two long flights of steep wooden stairs to the top floor of the old Browns Mill Building in Durham Lane. The stairs are familiar – there’s a violin workshop up there, and I’ve only recently graduated as a violin performance student.
But today I’m nervous; today’s the day I’m starting my violin making apprenticeship.
(Photo David Nalden)
I would be working for Peter Madill and my apprenticeship was the only one on offer in New Zealand , and would be for a long time to come.
(Photo Bill Nichol)
Here I am, not long after I started, earnestly adjusting something or other (a purfling cutter perhaps), and with my coffee mug perilously close to the edge of the bench!
That’s something I HAVE learnt not to do, in the intervening 40 years! Coffee mugs go to the back of the bench, where they’re less likely to get swept onto the floor by a passing scroll or errant elbow.
So what drew me into a life of wood chips and thumb planes and varnish and horse hair?
My Uni violin teacher, David Nalden, lent me the perfect chinrest – and then he wanted it back. What to do? I carved a fairly decent copy out of a hunk of rimu, ending up with something beautiful and useful that I’d made all by myself. Magic! After years of creating notes that would fade into the air and disappear, I had something I could hold in my hand, to show for all my hours of work.
I was hooked!
(Photo Cath Newhook)
And forty years later, I’m still hooked!