by Carlyn Kessler
Deemed a “master guitar maker,” Canadian luthier Joshia de Jonge has gained international acclaim for her acoustically and aesthetically stunning instruments. On Saturday, May 30 from 11:30 to 12:45 pm at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Studio 113, de Jonge will lead a workshop entitled The Art of French Polishing, in which “participants will be taught through demonstrations and hands-on exercises how to apply shellac finish to wood surfaces using traditional French polish technique.” This event is open to the public and free of charge. De Jonge graciously agreed to an interview via e-mail, and her responses were enlightening.
Carlyn Kessler: When and why did you begin building guitars?
Joshia de Jonge: I grew up surrounded by guitar building, as my father, Sergei de Jonge, is a guitar maker. I spent much of my childhood playing in his shop with sawdust and scraps of exotic woods. In 1992, at the age of thirteen, I began my first guitar. My younger brother, Sagen, was starting to build one, and, not wanting him to do anything that I hadn’t, I decided to build one as well.
CK: How long does it take to build a guitar?
JJ: Five to eight weeks, depending on how complicated the guitar is.
CK: What inspires you when you are about to embark on your next design?
JJ: When starting a new guitar, it’s often the person I am building it for that I draw my inspiration from. When building a “show guitar” (one I will travel to various festivals with), I like to experiment a little and try something I haven’t done before. A lot of my inspiration has come from my travels and from meeting so many luthiers. Of course, my father has been the root of my inspiration, but my siblings and husband have also been a part of it. It’s hard to give a specific answer to this question because it comes from so many places.
CK: You have traveled extensively! What have you noticed about different cultural responses to your instruments?
JJ: I don’t know that I have really noticed different responses in a cultural way. Many of the festivals I attend have many people from different backgrounds and cultures, so it’s hard to attach the difference so much to the location I’m in as it is to the individual.
CK: How many guitars do you build in a year?
JJ: Around six or seven.
CK: Are your sons interested in building guitars like you were as a child?
JJ: They’ve shown some interest; my eldest has started a small ukulele-sized instrument. It’s too soon to tell if they will actually get into it.
CK: Are there any guitars you have built that you felt particularly attached to?
JJ: I suppose I am attached to every one of my guitars in a sense — but I’m also always happy to see them go as it frees up space both mentally and physically.
CK: How many guitars have you built?
JJ: I am currently working on my 80th.
CK: How does it feel to hear your instruments being performed?
JJ: It makes me a little nervous, almost as if I’m the one onstage, but it’s also very fulfilling and exciting.
CK: Do you play guitar or any other instrument?
JJ: No, or very little, just enough to try and test my guitars. I see my role as producing the instrument, and I enjoy hearing others do the playing.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com May 26, 2015.
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