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18th Birthday Blog Post

The Bow Business has come of age! It is eighteen years since I became self employed. On 31st January 2006, I left the well-known violin dealer’s J P Guivier and went home on the bus with tool boxes around my feet. I sent text messages to my friends asking if they thought I’d done the right thing to walk out of a perfectly good job. I got no replies, but it was too late, anyway - the next day The Bow Surgery was launched full time.

For a month, I worked and slept in the same room. It was cheap, but hardly professional and I could sense my clients backing out towards the door at the sight of my bed opposite the workbench. ‘Well, it keeps the overheads low’, I quipped. But something needed to be done. Within a month a workshop had been secured at Cockpit Arts in Deptford and I moved in on 1st March, where I have remained ever since.

Needless to say, taking up a professional studio meant that the overheads shot up, bringing me closer in line with typical London repair rates. My aims changed from ‘doing the same job, for less’ than my competitors to ‘doing the same job, but better’ than them. This has remained key to my work and I am always pleased to receive feedback from my clients.

Having a dedicated workshop allowed me to branch out into bow making. Although I didn’t receive formal training, several bow makers invited me in to their workshops and let me watch them work and ask them questions. Gradually, this paid off, and bow making formed a significant part of my work.

To reflect this, in 2016 The Bow Surgery changed to The Bow Business. This name was chosen partly for its simple alliteration, but also for its deliberately broad meaning. It allowed for making new bows, dealing in old bows and repairing/ restoring customer bows - in fact, just about anything to do with bows!

With the new name, came the need for new business cards, a new logo, plus a new website and social media. And since I’m hopeless at the IT side of business, it was time to find an intern. It has been inspiring and exciting to work with interns over the years, and they have brought a fresh outlook to what can be a solitary occupation.

. . .

The Bow Business offers rehairs and repairs in the first half of the week, and devotes itself to bow making and archival research in the second half. This allows a balance of work that is important to me as a creative person.

The research is for a book I am writing on two of the most important English bow-making families: the Dodds and the Tubbses. It’s remarkable how much information can be found through online resources. Equally, so much historical material still remains to be digitised, and can only be found by visiting archives and searching through contemporary documents.

As many people are aware, the wood used to make bows is currently facing an uncertain future as an available resource. I’m hoping that, when I celebrate The Bow Business’s 21st birthday, I’ll still be making bows. If not, I will just have to write more books!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey: my clients, many of whom have returned year after year for rehairs, or bought bows from me, or recommended me to their colleagues. I am very grateful to you all, and look forward to seeing you again in due course.

My first wood was bought from ex-Hill bow maker Garner Wilson

Business cards: oldest (top left) to youngest (bottom right)

and portraits - old and young!


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