Van Solinge Guitars by Laura Van Solinge Interview
NAME: Van Solinge Laura
NICK NAME : Van Solinge Guitars
LIVING IN : Totnes, United Kingdom
TRAINING & BACKGROUND: I trained at the Totnes School of guitar making in Devon ( UK ), it’s a very special place surrounded by very special people. I’ve done three courses in total and never left! I’ve been working since in the same building but downstairs, apart from the school, where I set up my own workspace.
PLAYING: I play most of the time on my very first acoustic guitar! It’s an OM shape with a cutaway. It has an european spruce front and rosewood back and side. It feels comfortable and it has a very sweet and bright tone. And it has a sound port, with a sliding door! I also put on the headstock a personal item which has been given to me during my travels. I’m very attached to it and love the idea that customers will feel the same about the instrument I make for them.
LUTHIER YOU ADMIRE THE MOST: Well, there are a few… but if I had to say one it would be my mentor, Phil Messer, the teacher of Totnes school of guitar making, he is certainly the most impressive. He is the most knowledgeable, modest and kind person I’ve ever met. The approach that he has on his work will remain an inspiration to me.
LAST ALBUM YOU BOUGHT: Ben Howard. I discovered him when I arrived in the UK, and found out only after that he is from the charming little village where I work!
LAST MUSIC SONG YOU PUT IN YOUR CAR: Wild Life – Wings
LAST SHOW YOU WENT TO : Gipsy Kings, Olé ! It was unexpected but a very nice and dancing evening!
The creation of a new guitar starts with a mixture of thoughts until I can picture the instrument in my mind.
Then I define some key dimensions – body size, scale length, join fret etc – and finalise the shape with a drawing. That process can take a while, especially if it’s a new model.
The choice of wood is also very important and will help to define the final sound.
I’d like to come back to a more traditional way to build instruments, going away from the need to always build more and faster. There are things that can’t be rushed. At least, that’s what works for me.
The guitars are entirely handcrafted, I use no power tools. F
or some it would be a waste of time and money but for me it’s all about understanding the wood and how to turn that into a beautiful instrument.
It gives me much more freedom in my work, and widens the room for creativity and adjustments.
The most impactful things in the instrument sound are going to be the body shape, the soundboard and the braces. There are many other things but those three are, I think, the ones who give the main caracteristique of the instrument, their soul as I’d like to call it.
Having good communication with the buyer is the key, the more I get to know about their expectations and playing style the better the guitar will correspond to them.
The main talk is before the building process starts of course, but also all along the project, the buyer can get as involved as he/she wants to. I find it fascinating how much of someone we can put into an instrument.
The first step is of course to get in touch,sending me a request via the website or come into the workshop. We’ll discuss first of all about the main shape and the wood, considering its aesthetic and sound qualities. A first template and a quote will be made after a few exchanges. It’s only at the approval of the players that the journey begins 🙂
The complete building process will take a minimum of six months.
I think it is different, not better or worse, maybe just in general a different way to approach things. It could be different kinds of wood in what is the most traditional or more accessible, or way to do the finishing, design and aesthetic.
It is so interesting how the different cultures can be reflected through lutherie.
I grew up in the south west of France, quite close to Spain, but I’ve been living in the UK for almost three years now. Mixing knowledge from luthiers all over the globe is very enriching.
It’s always a pleasure to meet a customer in person, they are very welcome to come into the workshop in Totnes to try the models still available and share a moment with us.
A few videos, photos and recording will be added to the website, you can find one with Jesse Mollins playing the Archtop on the homepage at the moment.
You can buy them via the website but also via the platform Reverb since recently!
We also invite you to follow her on her various social networks:
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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