July 11, 2014: Visiting William Mason Violins, Fredricksburg, VA
Today I visited Bill Mason of William Mason Vi). I had met Bill at the Southern Violin Association’s (SVA) annual meeting on May 25th in Atlanta (http://southernviolinassociation.com or on FaceBoohttps://www.facebook.com/SouthernViolinAssociation). The SVA is an association of violin makers and violin shoppes located in the Southern states. The purpose of the SVA is to promulgate information about violin resources in the South as well as to provide a networking and learning environment to promote additional skills for its members. The May 25th meeting was my first event with the SVA, we had two shoppes represented and several makers. Bill and his wife Elaine delivered a presentation detailing how they got their shop started and the business model they are implementing in Fredricksburg Virginia.
There was also a presentation at the SVA meeting by David Chandler illustrating how he collects downed North Carolina red spruce in the Appalachian National Forest for the tops in his violins. David gave each of the participants a block of red spruce to use in our instruments.
After the presentations, makers showed their instruments to each other and garnered suggestions, accolades, and additional insight on how they can continue to improve their craftsmanship in the art of making violins.
The meeting was a success in many respects; networking, information, and most significantly for me being with a group of people dedicated to making great violins. Bill had asked me to send him one of my violins to consign in his Fredricksburg shoppe. He also extended a warm invitation to visit he and Elaine if I was ever in Northern Virginia.
Well, this week I was in Northern Virginia and took a morning to visit Bill and Elaine at their shoppe in Fredricksburg. They lease space in a historic building in downtown Fredricksburg. The building used to be a creamery, today it houses William Mason Violins. Bill has developed a very interesting business making violins, selling violins, and passing on the craftsmanship to several apprentices. The historic building has space for Bill and Elaine to live over the shop, a machine room, a work room with space for 9 apprentices, a varnishing room, a show room, a practice room, a bow repair room, and plenty of storage for the businesses rental violin cases, instruments, bows etc. The space is perfect for hosting violin and bow making workshops. Bill plans to expand the facility to house a performing arts space for chamber music and small ensemble performances. William Mason Violins is gradually becoming an “Everything Strings” facility in historic downtown Fredricksburg Virginia.
Bill spent 3 hours with me going from room to room and bench to bench comparing notes, sharing tips and tricks and chatting about our shared passion of violin making. It was a wonderful visit, a wonderful trip. If you ever get near Fredricksburg Virginia, I highly recommend you stop in and visit William Mason Violins.