I took a working vacation at Mark Moreland’s Violin Shop in Battle Ground, Washington, spending two weeks working on a fiddle while Mark worked on a new cello for a Singapore client and took care of his normal day to day business.
Apart from the social call I had three main reasons to want to visit Mark:
- I’m interested in the many ways in which people survive in this business, Mark, like me, is a lone operator.
- Mark has gone heavily into machinery to help with his work load. As my orders increase and my hands and joints get tired I can’t help considering the same thing.
- Mark is an expert in alcohol varnish techniques and I wanted to learn more.
Mark has a very lightweight operation, just himself and his wife Sharon, but he is diverse in his means of making a living from violins. He produces a range of instruments from his own hand crafted violins, violas and cellos, to a line of workshop instruments which he both retails himself and supplies to the trade. They also run a rental program and a general violin repair and maintenance service.
Business over the kitchen table: The Morelands live violins, you’ll find instruments and wood stashed all over the house, in the closets and under the beds. There’s also a violin studio upstairs.
The workshop in the garage
Mark uses a lot of machinery but also does a lot of careful hand work, he usually works wearing a pair of magnifying goggles.
Sharon getting ready to glue to a cello finger board. It’s tempting with this picture to make a comment about the kinds of tools women get to use in the violin shop but that wouldn’t be fair. Sharon does set ups and is a very skilled varnisher.
Apart from fiddle making and a lot of good barbecue, I also helped haul the dirt into the new vegetable garden
A fun couple of weeks doing what I like; making fiddles, trading tips, schemes and fiddle trade gossip. Thanks guys, I’m looking forward to the return visit.
Mark has been in the business for many years, in 1975 he apprenticed with Paul Schuback, Portland, OR becoming the shop foreman and general business manager for over twenty years. He went on to work at Eastman Strings, in Maryland, Potter Violin Shop, Bethesda, MD and Robertson and Sons, Albuquerque, NM before returning to the Northwest and opening his own shop. More at Mark’s site