From fine artist to fine craftsman; luthier Ed Klose tells his story.
Over the last couple of months we’ve been behind the scenes at Bridgewood and Neitzert to meet the people behind the highly skilled restorations in the workshop. This month we meet luthier Ed Klose and discover his story. His interest, as with his colleagues, started with two parallel interests in music and woodworking ‘I played guitar since I was fourteen and have always been into woodwork. I remember in school in the design and technology class working on a wired plywood box. I wasn’t interested in the electrics but fascinated by the woodworking’.
Despite his interests in music and woodworking, Ed’s skills as an artist were those that shone through his young adulthood and he ended up doing a foundation course and BA in painting at Camberwell School of Art. Even though his focus was on his painting, he remembers the first time he combined his two interests of music and making things. ‘ I remember having an electric guitar in pieces and wanting to get it into a playing condition . My uncle builds guitars so I knew it could be done. He helped me make a Telecaster and it prompted me to think about making acoustic guitars….. I remember regretting the fact that I wasn’t learning a vocational skill at college’. Ed finished art school and moved back in with his parents to work on a painting that he had been asked to show at a prestigious gallery.
Although Ed admits this moment was one of a great opportunity for an upcoming artist, there was something preventing him from focusing on the painting and he didn’t deliver in time. Ed describes this as a ‘turning point’ in his career. ‘I took that as a hint – I’d had a good opportunity and didn’t take it and it was obvious I was on the wrong path’. Ed’s Dad and Grandad had both done short courses at West Dean in wood working and stone masonry and his Grandad suggested he looked at courses there. Ed was taken by a course on Viol making using hand tools. At £12,000 per year, having already completed a degree Ed was initially nervous but the tutors were helpful in funding through the Edward James Foundation and the Fenton Arts Trust.
The course at West Dean was a three-year course focusing on every element of Viol making, from structure through to the decoration and ornate head carvings. In the first-year students learned to make a basic tenor viol – a chance to learn to bend ribs and carve a scroll for the first time but without elaborate decorations. In the second year Ed describes a particular highlight being a study trip to Duino on the north Adriatic coast of Italy. There, out of visitor hours, the students were able to study up close the fine musical instrument collection held at the Castello Di Duino. Here Ed was captivated by a William Turner treble viol from 1647, that had at some stage been adapted to be played under the chin as a viola, ‘I took exact measurements and an instrument that would have been close to what it originally might have been like.’ Ed was awarded a special prize by his college for these exacting ‘blueprints’.
In his third year, Ed made a copy of Barak Norman bass viol from 1691 which had an ornate head carving highly decorated carving on peg box and detailed marquetry. Like his colleagues in previous blogs, Ed speaks highly of the support that he received from tutors Simon Patterson and Shem Mackey as he battled to apply the detailed marquetry to a curved surface.
When Ed finished West Dean he moved back in with parents where he continued under his own steam making violins. He was keen to take up a job in an established London workshop in order to apply his newly learned skills in a working environment and kept his ears to the ground. In a lucky convergence of timing he was friends with Bridgewood and Neitzert’s early instrument luthier who was moving away from London. He let Ed know of the upcoming vacancy and after a trial period, he got the job.
‘I am so lucky that this is my first job…..the fact that owners Gary and Tom are also makers is unique and I am learning so much from them’ Ed enthuses. ‘I am exposed to so many amazing instruments and working with Gary on sound adjustments helps inform my knowledge as a maker. I’ve learned to listen critically – what to really listen for in the sound quality of a note’. Ed also appreciates the ‘deep dive’ into instrument set up and bridge cutting. Gary and Tom are also supportive of his wider ambitions as a luthier and he does four days a month teaching at his old college West Dean and is given time to measure and understand special instruments as they come into the shop.
And what has been Ed’s highlight so far? ‘Without doubt the Nathaniel Cross cello that I recently restored, – It’s a 1731 cello in really good condition. It’s had lots of high-quality repair work done and has been really well looked after’. The instrument belongs to Guildhall School of Music and Drama and came in for restoration under the care of student Francisco Javier Gonzalez Navarro who is currently studying the Masters in Advanced Instrumental Studies at the college. Francisco selected the instrument last September but despite its pedigree, it had not been played for a long time and had a number of open cracks. He recognised immediately that it had tremendous potential so brought it into Bridgewood and Neitzert for restoration.
Francisco describes the transformation of the cello as ‘amazing’. ‘From the first second that I picked up the cello I knew it had recovered its own warm sound – nice and round with more ‘brilliance’’. He describes the attention to detail in the repair work including the fine layers of material to strengthen and reinforce the cracks. With an important recording pending, Francisco was ready to borrow another good instrument but having played the Cross, he knew immediately that it was sounding perfect for his recording and is excited to take it to Austria and Switzerland in the coming months for baroque courses.
As with the 1647 William Turner treble viol, this Cross cello has caught Ed’s imagination and Guildhall have kindly given permission for him to make a copy. As Ed talks about taking measurements and waxes lyrical about the quality of the varnish, the full arch and wide f holes it is clear, that like his colleagues that he has huge job satisfaction and an enormous reverence for the instruments in his care. This respect for the instruments, and the guidance and mentorship of Gary and Tom runs through all the team in the workshop and is no doubt one of the magic ingredients behind Bridgewood and Neitzert’s international reputation.
Francisco will be performing on the Nathaniel Cross cello at a lunchtime recital including Bach, Vivaldi and Boccherini on 15th September at the All Saints Church in Marlow.
For more information about Ed’s work on the William Turner viol visit https://www.westdean.org.uk/about/media/degrees-and-diplomas/student-takes-up-challenge-to-copy-a-17th-century-musical-instrument