Work by West Dean MFA alumni Cherie Lubbock

FdA Musical Instruments 2007 - 2010

Hubert de Launay

Violin maker

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt my research project into the early Dutch violinmakers from 1650 to 1850. It’s a project that I started not long after leaving West Dean. During my final year at college we went on a study trip to the Netherlands which I organised as I had heard of a massive collection of musical instruments hidden in a basement of the Kunstmuseum, The Hague. We managed to get full access and were blown away by the amount of high quality stringed musical instruments that were down there. This was also my first introduction to the Dutch heritage of my craft. I have, honestly, not been the same maker since that day. How was it possible that I, a violinmaker and Dutchmen myself, hadn’t heard of these 17th century Dutch violinmakers? It turned out very few people had. Only three old books had been published (in very small numbers) about this subject and as it turns out contain many mistakes and misinterpretations about these makers.

Two years ago I setup the Hendrik Jacobs Foundation ( to give this important piece of Dutch Cultural Heritage the stage it deserves. We’re currently working on a book but have plans for an exhibition, concerts and documentary as well.

Talk us through your career path since graduating.

Perhaps a bit strange at 35 years old but I look back at a career that has led to many opportunities and working with many great workshops, violinmakers, collections and museums. After West Dean College I had the opportunity to train to become a restorer in some of the best workshops in Europe. I have been fortunate to work on some of the most beautiful instruments out there made by: Guadagnini, Guarneri, Grancino, Jacobs, Maggini, Montagnana, Panormo, Stradivari, Van der Sijde, Verbeek and Vuillaume. I feel that it is essential to learn this at the highest level possible as it will inform you as a maker as well; you see so many historic makers, construction types, models and beautiful varnishes past by your bench. In 2019, after nearly 10 year of employment I decided to setup my own workshop in Utrecht (Hubert de Launay | Violinmaker / restorer)  as I wanted to concentrate more on new making and expand my research project.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on several fantastic projects. Firstly a few new instruments: two violins, a viola and started to prepare the work for a new cello. Simultaneously I’m working on two big restoration projects: a C.F. Landolfi violin from 1750 and a Willem van der Sijde violin from c.1695. The hours outside my workshop are spend on my research, running the Hendrik Jacobs Foundation and locating original instruments in museum and private collections all over the world.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?

West Dean had provided me with many opportunities to make a network with professional workshops and makers outside college. Something that is often lacking at other musical instrument making programs. Use those study trips, museum visits, work placements to prepare, as your career really starts quite early at college, not after graduation. One of the best but very simple advice I’ve ever gotten: when you visit a professional workshop, never stay longer than 30 minutes, unless they ask you to, because staying longer will disrupts the workflow in a workshop. 

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?

Firstly of course the skills and knowledge. You simply get to spend more hours  with your tutor in the workshop than at some other colleges. After that I’d say learning to keep an open mind but question everything, this also enabled me to develop my own style and interests. But other important ingredients as well such as a professional attitude towards your craft, colleagues and customers too. Finally, looking back: being able to cross paths on a daily basis with other likeminded students who study other crafts is simply amazing, there are very few places like it. This ‘cross-pollination’ between other crafts has widened not just my view of my own craft but also helps me during my daily work, to look for solutions in areas outside the world of violinmaking.

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?

So many to pick from... but really the workshop atmosphere and being able to spend long hours in the workshop. The interaction with the other international students during the lunch and tea breaks by the fire in the Oak Hall. But time outside college as well: hunting car boot sales and antique market for woodworking tools, making a treehouse in the arboretum, making my own violinplanes in the Metal and Clockmaking workshop, the legendary Christmas and graduation parties and the amazing international study trips.

Did you receive any form of funding to study at West Dean?

Yes, I was fortunate enough to have my entire study funded. Some from West Dean college itself but the majority from four foundations based in the Netherlands.

Did you have a different career before coming to West Dean? If so why did you change career paths?

My career in musical instrument making started before studying at West Dean College. Knowing I wanted to become a musical instrument maker at an early age I started at the Furniture making college of Amsterdam. During this study I got the chance to go for a year long work placement with two West Dean Alumni: Harry Jansen and Melle Wondergem. That is where I was taught many of the fundamentals of our craft, started to learn about restoration and made my first guitar. During this work placement they introduced me to Roger Rose and took me to West Dean college on a road trip. These years before WD were the perfect basis so that I was able to hit the ground running once I started in 2007.

Find out more about studying on the FdA Musical Instruments programme here.

West Dean School of Arts Credit-Thom Atkinson

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