A special seminar presented by the Foundry User Program Office
Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Time: 11:00 am
Talk Title: How I Came to Make My Own Cello – Logbook of a Luthier’s Apprentice
Camille is a post-doctoral researcher investigating the photophysics of perovskite materials for novel solar cell and LEDs. Originally a theoretical physicist with a BSc in Fundamental Physics from the University Paris VI which included an exchange year at the National University Singapore, followed by a Masters in Condensed Matter from Paris VI and the University of Uppsala, Sweden.
We live in a fast moving world, with the permanent anticipation of what is round the next corner and the excitement of the new. But this is also stressful, and during my PhD in particular it became fundamental to me to find out how to embrace slow living in this fast moving world. There exists communities of people who have been perpetuating knowledge and know-how for generations and generations, some even for centuries. The Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France, a French organisation of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages, is a good example. They were, are and ever will be the cathedral builders. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour around the country, the Tour de France, and doing apprenticeships with masters. We also know that music has been part of Humanity for thousands of years, with findings from Paleolithic archaeology sites suggesting that prehistoric people used carving and piercing tools to create instruments. More recently, the violin in its present form emerged in early 16th-century northern Italy, in the hands of Andrea Amati in Cremona, later followed by illustrious luthier families including his own, the Guarneri family, the Stradivari family and the Rugeri family, to cite only a few. Violin-making then spread across Europe, and particularly in Mittenwald (Germany), Mirecourt (France) and Newark (England), where violin-making schools still exist and train year after year new generations of violin makers.
My story begins with Juliet Barker, then a Cambridge-born young adult, travelling all the way to Mittenwald soon after World War II in 1954 to learn this art. After a few years spent working in luthiers’ shops around London, she returned to Cambridge to open her own workshop. In 1960 Cambridgeshire Technical College asked her to start a violin making class – she has taught there ever since and published more than a dozen works on the craft over the years, and many have worked to her original designs and templates. Since 2005, she has been a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In the 1980s, she decided to open that workshop not only to apprentices but to amateurs eager to learn and make their own instruments. The Cambridge Violin Makers workshop on 70A Hartington Grove (Cambridge), now run by Juliet’s son Christopher Beament, is a very unique place that still welcomes amateurs and violin-makers from all around the world. I had been contemplating the idea of learning violin-making since my early teenage years, and doing a PhD in Cambridge gave me that very special opportunity. I was lucky to spend three fantastic years with the Cambridge Violin Makers and make my first instrument with them, a 7/8 cello following Juliet’s original template. And I would like to share some of this journey with you.