How a violin maker’s dreams came true in Cremona, Italy | Trending Viral hub

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art of craft is a series about artisans whose work rises to the level of art.


When Ayoung An was 8 years old, her parents bought her a violin. He slept with the instrument on the pillow next to him every night.

Two years later, a store selling musical instruments opened in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, his hometown, and An became a regular there, firing questions at the owner. “I think I upset him a lot,” said An, now 32 years old.

As a teenager, he decided to become a violin maker. Finally, a journey with twists and turns took her to Cremona, in northern Italy. a famous center for violin makersincluding teachers like Antonio Stradivari, from the 16th century. There, An, a rising star in the world of violin making with international awards to his name, runs his own workshop.

Located on a quiet cobblestone street, An’s studio is bathed in natural light and filled with books and piles of pieces of wood that must be dried outdoors for five to ten years before being turned into instruments or risk warping. She shares the two-room studio with her husband, Wangsoo Han, who is also a violin maker.

On a recent Monday, An was hunched over a thick, 20-inch piece of wood held in place by two metal clamps. Pressing his body down for leverage, he scraped the wood with a gouge, removing layers, his hands steady and steady. He was forming a curved neck called a “scroll,” one of the last steps in making a violin or cello. That day, the violin maker was immersed in a commission for a cello, which shares a similar manufacturing process.

Violins like An’s, made in the tradition of Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri, require about two months of work and sell for 16,000 to 17,000 euros, or $17,500 to $18,500. “I can make a violin in three weeks, but I don’t want to,” An said. “This object is very valuable to the person who buys it.”

An was 17 when he devised his plan to learn the craft: he would move with an American family in a Chicago suburb so he could attend a local high school, master English, and eventually study at the Chicago Violin Making School. At that time there were no schools of this type in Korea. Her parents, distraught that she was moving so far away to pursue an uncertain career path, tried to stop her.

“I didn’t eat for days,” An said. Finally, they relented. “When I said goodbye to my parents at the airport, they were crying,” she said. “It was not. He was too excited.”

Two years after moving to Illinois, he discovered that one of the best-known schools for violin makers, the International Violin Making SchoolI was actually in Cremona. Then, in 2011, at age 20, she moved again to a new country.

Cremona was home to some of the most famous luthiers and string instrument makers in history: Stradivari; Andrea Amati, considered “the father of the violin”; and the Guarneri family. For Cremona’s 160 to 200 violin makers, the quality of the masters’ sound remains the ultimate goal. “The traditional method is not about experimenting,” An said.

Around the studio, small pots of varnishing pigments sat on shelves and tables alongside jars of polishing powders (ground glass and minerals). On one wall there were dozens of knives, chisels and saws. Also present: dentist’s tools to scratch the instrument and give it an older look.

An is the youngest member of a consortium in Cremona dedicated to defending the traditions of violin making. She is so immersed in the Cremonese method of violin making that she, at the suggestion of a mentor, created the name of an artist, Anna Arietti, to better fit into Italian culture.

An important moment is when the luthiers place their label inside the instrument, which is called “baptism.” To make his label, An stamps his signature in ink on a small piece of paper: a gold page from a secondhand book, giving the impression of age. Then, using a traditional homemade mixture of melted cowhide and rabbit skin as a durable adhesive, stick the label inside the middle of the instrument. He also engraves his signature on the instrument with a small hot mark.

The two halves are then sealed together, completing the main body of the instrument. The name of its Italian artist remains inside, intact as long as the violin is there.

“That’s why I wanted to be a violin maker,” An said. “At least one person who plays my violin will remember me 100 or 200 years later.”

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