Claudia contacted me last fall asking to come and spend some time at my shop in the spring. We had been Facebook friends for several years, I think that I was drawn to her photography which shows that she has a great eye for things besides violins. She stayed for the month of May and it was great to have the time to exchange ideas and try them out.
Talking about the violin trade in Mexico I was interested to learn that no big violin dealers or workshops in Mexico City, rather there are many small, one person shops, like Claudia’s. There is not a huge trade in expensive antiques and those that want such instruments go to The US or Europe for them. The fact that the economy doesn’t support a big trade in antique instruments might partly explain the preference for clean, “straight” work, most makers in Mexico do Stradivarius model violins and don’t go so much for the antiqued look. Claudia does good clean and precise work on her violins but she was looking to expand her repertoire beyond Strad and into antiqued instruments (this was lucky for me as I am not the most precise maker in woodwork or finishing and could stand to learn a lot more about Strad quality work myself). She opted to a Del Gesu model and we spent our time speeding up her making process and parsing out the differences between difference between bad, sloppy work and loose work that gives an instrument vibrancy.
An interesting thing that I learned is that in the Mexican violin making school they teach scroll carving using round ended chisels rather than gouges to cut the volutes, I’ve been doing this for years and it was reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one.
The month went by quickly, Claudia left with a fiddle that she finished back in Mexico city, and I was left with the some good memories and varnish recipes to try, and the desire to do a little more violin-making tourism of my own.