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Strings and Conservation - The International Alliance of Violin and Bow Makers For Endangered Species

We're living in a time when conservation of endangered species is of paramount importance, but it has presented some interesting challenges for luthiers. The traditional art of violin and bow making has not changed much for centuries, but some of the materials used by luthiers are now on the endangered species list, with more soon to be added. These are materials such as ivory, mother of pearl, tortoise shell and pernambuco. Violin making has evolved to avoid the use of some of these species but the main types of wood used in violin making (ebony, maple and spruce) may soon be added to this list. It has been clear to luthiers for some time now that in order for the art of violin making to remain sustainable, they must be involved in efforts to conserve and regrow these species.

For the past 11 years, LIVS Director Charles Rufino has been the Secretary of the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers, also known as the Entente Internationale des Luthiers et Archetiers (EILA). Last October we published a story about the EILA's efforts to establish a coalition of luthiers that would work toward conservation of endangered species. In addition to conservation efforts, the coalition would also advocate for luthiers to continue to be allowed appropriate access to certain materials.

That coalition is now referred to as The International Alliance of Violin and Bow Makers for Endangered Species, or L'Alliance Internationale des Luthiers et Archetiers pour les Espèces Menacées. Mr. Rufino was in attendance at their second annual meeting in Cremona just two weeks ago.


Artwork credit: Jef Bossard

Some of the goals of the Alliance are to share the burden and expense of representation before the committees that regulate endangered species, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES,) but also to fund projects that conserve and regrow these species. One of these projects that the EILA has supported for years is the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative (IPCI), pernambuco being the type of wood traditionally used in bow making.

The EILA and the Alliance have already shared some success with proposals put forward through CITES regarding the use of rosewood, mammoth ivory and for streamlining of the musical instrument certificate (MIC) process. The MIC refers to the permit required for the transport across borders of species regulated by CITES. CITES has now approved a proposal to simplify the permit requirements allowing for the non-commercial transport of CITES materials when the trade will have an insignificant impact on conservation of the material.

Another interesting development that has taken place since last year's inaugural meeting is the establishment of a new brand of violin bridges, by Despaiu Bridges, called Despaiu Planet. At lest year's inaugural meeting of the Alliance, Nicholas Despaiu spoke of the increasing difficulties of obtaining good quality maple for bridgemaking. Since then, they have launched Despaiu Planet an "echo-friendly" brand of bridge, and they will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the Alliance.

For more information about the Alliance and to download a copy of the Alliance brochure (available in 4 languages) please click here.

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