I am delighted to begin a new series of interviews of international modern violin makers. First in line is Ludivine Brouillet. I first met Ludivine when we started studying together at The Newark School of Violin Making. She made quite an impression on me, with her cute French accent, her bubbly personality and her zest for life. Her absolute passion and dedication to violin making oozed from every fibre of her being. Wherever she went she carried with her her lively sense of humour, an admirable maturity and a fierce independence. Her thirst for knowledge was insatiable and so I am not surprised to read her answers below....
I asked Ludivine to begin by writing a short three line paragraph introducing herself...
I graduated from the Newark Violin Making School of Newark in England in June 2020. In view of the covid situation it was quite a struggle to find jobs available around Europe, and I was therefore grateful to be offered work in Amsterdam in July working for two different Violin Makers. With them I learnt a huge amount about all types of restoration as well as setting up instruments. This experience really developed my liking for restoration, which is a problem solving activity, requiring you to think through all the processes involved, and helping you to develop a better management of and skills with your tools.
Since January 2021, I am now working in The Hague for a maker and help him making a violoncello Da Spalla as well as baroque violins. I am also hoping to start working in another workshop in Amsterdam one day a week to develop my set up skills to the next level.
What characterises your journey into the world of violin making?
Well I can say that I had to push many doors and talk to many professionals to get where I am now. It takes a lot of time to become accomplished, and I don’t think any violin makers find themselves good enough, so it is a long journey. This is only the beginning! So I would say that patience and consistent perseverance as well as hard work would describe my personal journey.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
I really enjoy the arching process. And it is very interesting to see how different makers approach this step in such completely different ways. I personally like to make a good and symmetric arching using some accurate measurements and templates which would be scraped perfectly to get a very smooth touch.
But some other makers don’t bother with such a strict process and don’t use templates or scrapers and do all this step only by the feeling of it and by eye. And I am very interested in seeing what others do and why. Because at the end of the day, it is only a difference of perspective what is right or wrong for someone else.
What is your least favourite part of the making process?
I would say the bass bar. It is still difficult for me first to fit it perfectly straight, compare it to the arching of the inside of the instrument, and also to choose which method to fit it. Some Violin Makers wouldn’t want any kind of pressure on the bass bar, some would put some in some places. The position of it can also be tricky to choose from one method to another.
What was the last instrument you made?
The last instrument I made is my test instrument for the end of my studies in Newark. It still need to be varnished since I didn’t find the time since arriving in the Netherlands. But the last playable instrument I made is my cello which I am very happy about and it is still available for sale in the Netherlands!
Which modern violin maker do you admire most?
They are many violin makers who I admire and of course who I look up to. Like many I really like to see what Iris Carr does even before she did start posting her work on social media. I really love to see her immaculate restoration and how open she is to sharing her knowledge. Also let’s not forget how difficult is is to be a recognised woman in the trade, so this needs to change!
I really like to follow what Jacob van Der Lippe posts as well. His videos about sharpening are very interesting and he has a lot of tips.
Noémie Viaud, Piotr Pielaszek, Gabor Draskoczy and David Leonard / Léa Trombert workshops' all really inspire me. They are all such good makers and it makes me want to be more rigorous in my making.
Which maker or which specific violin has inspired you the most?
Well we had to study Antonio Stradivari for 4 years, so I can’t say that this maker didn’t inspire me. And so far I didn’t dare make an instrument which isn’t inspired / copied by Stradivarius, because there is still so much to learn from him.
I also very much enjoy looking at French school instrument making because of how neat the work they produced was. I personally like Miremont and Lupot in how they varnished their instruments, and the craftsmanship is quite amazing to look at; boringly perfect as some persons would say.
What do you think are the secrets to success in modern making?
I would say that the only “secret” would be to listen to each other and collaborate as professionals. To listen to an older professional, what he tried on which model, what kind of varnish, thickness, bass bar, f hole carving, arching, set up. It is I think very important to be the one to listen to what the others do and take notes, try it out ourselves and then see how to adjust it to what works the best for each of us.
Where would you like to be in ten years time?
I don’t know yet. With my very good friend Finn Trucco we would like to bring together the knowledge we collected along our adventures apart from each other and make a workshop where we would make and restore instruments.
What is your most often used tool and why?
I use my pencils a lot. Good pencils with the right thickness are essentials to mark precisely where to mark where to work.
Otherwise I use my knives and apron planes a lot for repairs and set up. We used to work a lot with our files in school but I don’t use them really much anymore.
We currently have two of Ludivine's violins for sale at Stamford Strings. Contact us for more details or to arrange a trial.