Jaap Bolink, born in Enschede on 7 February 1946, is the son of artist-violin maker Jan Hendrik Bolink. He made his first violin when he was thirteen. From 1963 until 1967 he followed a violin making course in Mittenwald in Germany. He then worked as an independent violin maker in Amsterdam and as chef d'atelier at Arnold Dolmetsch in England. In 1970 he took  his diploma in Mittenwald and his work was awarded a gold medal. Since 1973 Bolink has lived and worked in Hilversum, together with his wife Annelies Steinhauer, who is also a violin maker. He is primarily concerned with making new instruments. From 1987 to 1997 Bolink was secretary of the NGV, and since 1997 has been chairman

"When I was five I already knew I wanted to be a violin maker." And an artist" I usually would add, very cautiously. I saw that combination the whole day because my father was trained as a painter and later qualified as a violin maker. He had an atelier in Enschede. When I was thirteen I made my first violin under  his supervision. In 1963 I went to the violin making school in Mittenwald, a reputable and very sound training course. You really do need such a good technical basis in order to be able to work out your musical and acoustic ideas. Less attention is paid  to the artistic side at school, though you have to have that in you.

I used to play violin and now I play cello. As a violin maker you certainly don't have to be a great musician, but you must be able to bow all the instruments and judge them. And you have to be crazy about music, have your own ideal sound. How else can you make good instruments ? Otherwise it's always pure coincidence if you produce something good. That ideal sound changes through your life. When Annelies and I began in Amsterdam, there was hardly anybody who made a living making new violins. We were very idealistic. we wanted to make instruments which were just as good as the old masters and moreover, affordable. We really had to struggle hard for that. You can hear that struggle, that idea of "I'll give them something to hear", very clearly in my early instruments. They have an enormous power. I still think that an instrument must be very powerful, but it must have more than just power. You must be able to play everything on it, from Baroque to modern music, and you must be able to whisper on it, too.

Clients can select the wood for their instrument themselves. They can also choose from a number of my own models and several colours of varnish. But the have no involvement with the design, I do what I want to do as far as that's concerned. I look for my own form within the margins dictated by tradition. I want to vary the scrolls, the f-holes, that sort of thing. Therefore I detest copying. Of course, our profession is a very traditional one, but that tradition has always implies that people developed their own forms within it.

I have always been a great advocate of new instruments. Without wanting to underestimate the old masters; indeed they are our example and our source of inspiration. But I still get incensed when I'm confronted with the myth that by definition old is better then new, expensive is better then affordable. That can sometimes take on absurd forms.
For example, a musician might say he is looking for something "for about 50.000 euros", rather than discussing the sound he wants! That myth is kept alive in all sorts of ways. For example, because a Stradivari is mentioned on Cd's, but a modern instrument isn't. I can understand it to some extent, an old instrument appeals enormously to the imagination, there's a certain romanticism about it. But often it's a question of status and you can easily see through it.

Time and time again new instruments come along which are just as good, if not better, than the old. And as far as romanticism is concerned, what is more romantic than having something specially made for you? An instrument for which you yourself have selected the wood, which you have discussed, which from the first moment becomes part of you and, moreover, lasts for centuries after you are gone ?

 

text - Ellen Hooijen -