Alkemy Guitares Interview 1 Background
At first, I’ve always been a “handyman”.
Around 7 or 8 years old I was building tree houses, cardboard fairings for my bike, bows, arrows and wooden swords. I loved model making and I was passionate about LEGOs …
In short, I have always had a taste for manual work.
I started playing the guitar when I was about 14, to impress the girls, of course… 😉
I borrowed the old classical guitar from my father, who didn’t play it, but I was soon limited by this instrument. Then, I bought my first electric guitar when I was about 15 years old. A “Vantage” brand guitar which was not very expensive and, I still remember, it was not very well tuned…
So I started to put my “hands in the engine” almost immediately, trying to understand how the settings worked, why a certain part moves, why in some cases it sounds wrong, why the strings curl, etc….
The fact of having this approach, very quickly made me want to build a guitar myself!
Of course, I didn’t have any specific tools at the time, so I had to make do with my father’s tools.
Over the years, the neck of this “Vantage” guitar must have seen a dozen different bodies, each one uglier than the other, but at the time I thought they were cool!
In short, at the age of 16 I had caught the lutherie virus! I just couldn’t see myself doing another job.
But, life is not a long quiet river… When I talked to my parents about it, it wasn’t as simple as that: “pass your BAC first” (BAC is a French High School Diploma). After meeting local luthiers, it was decided that the safest thing to do was to start with a woodworking course to keep a way out.
While continuing to tinker with guitars, I therefore took a CAP (Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle in French), then a Brevet des Métiers d’Art (a French national high school and vocational diploma that aims to promote innovation and preserve and pass on traditional techniques) in woodworking to get a BAC pro level, should it be necessary.
It was during this period that I also became interested in other instruments: bass, double bass, violin and especially the traditional Breton instruments such as the biniou, the bombarde.
After a year working for a kitchen designer, for whom I spent my days cutting MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard), I realized that we were very far from “craftsmanship”.
The design and layout being already well approached in Brevet des Métiers d’Art, I decided to turn to the design office. Thanks to my already accumulated training and the financial support of my parents, I was able to join a design school in Nantes.
With the advent of the Internet, I was able to deepen my knowledge in lutherie and I seized every opportunity to bring lutherie into my design projects.
In fact, I presented a folding guitar for my exam.
So I finished my studies with a “BAC + 5 professionnel” (The professional baccalaureate is one of the three branches of the French baccalaureate) in woodworking and industrial design.
I worked for a while as a freelancer, mainly on space layout and also on graphic design assignments. But, I must say that I didn’t find much fulfillment there. During these two years, being already very busy, I unfortunately did not have the time to continue lutherie.
Then I met my partner whom I decided to follow in Picardy (located in the northern part of France) when she was transferred.
I needed to take a step back from my life.
During these 5 years, I got back to model making. This led me to work with carbon fiber and aluminum machining.
At the same time, I had the opportunity to tune guitars and basses for musician friends. So I put one foot back in lutherie!
When we came back to Brittany, we bought a house lost in the countryside, with a lot of land and a huge garage…
The conditions were there to allow me to take the plunge and embark on the adventure I had been waiting for so many years.
Alkemy Guitars was born in October 2018. The name is a mix of “Alchemy” in English and “Alkimi” in Breton. It symbolizes the meeting between the intrinsic alchemy of the instrument and the alchemy of all my creative influences.
Of course, it’s not all restful! And my order book does not yet allow me to make a living out of it.
But I get up every morning with enthusiasm and that’s the most important thing for me: passion!
Concerning music, I stayed almost 10 years without “working” any instrument. I just played for fun for a few minutes every now and then.
I started practicing music again by chance very recently to play trumpet and violin in a “rock” band only a few months ago.
You can contact Frédéric Donval Alkemy Guitars through the contact form on his personal page of Luthiers.com here: https://luthiers.com/listing/alkemy-guitares/
We also invite you to follow him on his various social networks:
Frédéric Donval is a self-taught luthier since 1996. A woodworker and graduate designer, he likes to call himself “sorcerer’s apprentice”.
He designs and builds extraordinary electric guitars and basses, paying particular attention to the visual identity of the instrument.
In addition to a permanent search for excellence in sound, ergonomics and attention to detail are for him the values he likes to follow throughout his research and manufacturing process.
His style, far from the usual clichés, finds its sources in science fiction, drawing inspiration from the worlds of manga, cyber-punk and Marvel comics.
His passions and inspirations don’t stop there! A fan of motorsports, architecture and furniture, all fields related to design allow him a growing creativity.
Trained as a designer, he knows how to adapt to all styles and loves above all to take on new challenges in order to give life to his clients’ wildest projects.
Frédéric prefers above all to work with craftsmen and manual labor.
He shapes wood as well as metals or carbon fiber to create unique hardware or decorative elements.
He also surrounds himself well when the task requires it and calls upon talented French craftsmen who can assist him.
In the coming weeks, as for others luthiers for plucked string instruments, luthiers for bowed string instruments, amps & effects makers, wood & supplies dealers, lutherie events, jobs, schools & teachers subscribers on our site, you will be able to follow our series of mini-interviews dedicated to the fascinating world of luthiers.
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