I don’t mean to imply I know all I want to know to varnish a violin. That remains a lifelong process, and I learn something new and useful at the workshop every time. But if I never returned I could certainly proceed on my own and feel capable of varnishing instruments in a way I can be proud of. The very first workshop I attended succeeded in doing that.
No, what I get now that I’ve done this four times is that rare and cherished sense of being among “my people.” The participants at the varnish workshop run the gamut from absolute beginners to luthiers at the top of their field, but everyone there has something to learn, something to teach, something to share that is valuable. The atmosphere is industrious but relaxed, and it changes a bit each year with the different personalities in attendance, but they are all people who get what it is that interests me about this field and I don’t have to explain it. We share a language and an aesthetic and there is a pleasure in that that I don’t experience in group settings very often.
The other thing that’s nice about the varnish workshop is simply being able to block out an entire week of time to do what I want to do all day every day. Other people may want a vacation at a spa, but that’s not for me. Much more satisfying to be productive and feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing rather than using all my energy on the chore treadmill that is often day-to-day life. The varnish workshop has become a favorite playground.