It is hard not to notice the piles of wood, the shelves stocked full of books, tools, CDs and, of course, the skeletons of the violins themselves. Their simple elegant designs, all curves and decorative flourishes, are not yet finished, but still resemble a work of art even at this early stage.
Amongst the clutter, Andreas Hudelmayer has the look of a man who feels completely at ease with his surroundings, and so he should be, as the workshop is the realisation of a childhood daydream he had during history class.
“I loved playing the cello and I also enjoyed putting pieces of wood together in the basement, so I knew I could happily spend afternoons by myself in solitude doing that,” says Mr Hudelmayer. “In that school history lesson I had the idea of putting those two things together and to become a violin maker. The idea never left me and I followed that path.”
Indeed he did, coming over to the UK from his native Germany to study at the Newark School of Violin Making, and, some 20 years later, he is still passionate about making the best violin possible: “Certainly in terms of the effort I put into my work I’ve put most time and effort into understanding the acoustics and the sound setup.
“One other important aspect is the look – often the violins are traded just by looking at them – so I concentrate a lot to improve the looks and varnish, to make sure they look like a Stradivari from 300 years ago.”
This painstaking approach means that he will only make six violins a year, but the resulting quality of the end product is leagues ahead of his more mass-produced competitors.
“It’s all the thought I put into it and all my experience. From the choice of the wood to the arching, the thickness and the combination of the back and front and how I do the set up. I put all my thought into how to combine them – it’s the decisions that I make that makes a good instrument in the end,” he says. “If you want to make instruments you need to put care and attention into every detail – and I think the individual maker spending time to make them as good as they can possibly be – they will always have the edge.”
Now, 13 years into his stay at the workshop, Andreas Hudelmayer has developed a reputation among amateurs and professionals alike for the high quality and sheer craftsmanship that goes into each one of his violins. Yet, the life of a violin maker can be a lonely one, so what makes it all worthwhile?
“It’s always lovely to hear them played in concert, especially when they are played solo. Sometimes when you sit for days in the workshop by yourself and you’re shaping wood and you’ve been doing the same thing for years, you start wondering why you are doing this solitary business! Then along come those moments when you hear your violins played in public, really well, and suddenly you know exactly why you are doing this profession.”