I was born in 1962 in Malta of English parents. My family returned to England in 1965 and settled in Somerset in the south-west, where we lived until I finished school/college.
I was interested in music from quite an early age, partly due to natural inclination, and partly due to my environment. My three elder sisters all learned piano and practised after school, and my Father, who played well by ear, often played in the evening - mostly songs from Broadway hit shows and songs from the 1920s and thirties when he was growing up. When I was a small boy he managed the local provincial theatre in Street, Somerset and I had many opportunities to take part in amateur musical productions, as well as going to see professional ones.
photo: Mother Goose pantomime. (I'm the one to the right of the goose - my sister Alison is inside it!)
Occasionally, quite famous names would turn up to perform at the theatre such as Paco Peña and his flamenco troupe, Barbara Thompson's jazz group Paraphernalia, and many others. Between the ages of 5 and 12 I attended many music concerts: orchestral and jazz; soloists; operas; ballets; plays and films, often seen from the vantage point of one of the ushers' seats up in the balcony when there was a full house. Fueled by these exciting early experiences at the theatre I developed a love of music, and music-making. I took up the trumpet at age ten ( actually I started at age 6, but then my front teeth came out) and played a variety of three-valved brass instruments before changing to trombone at thirteen, taking music examinations up to grade VIII as a 16 year old. I spent a lot of time while I was growing up playing in wind bands and small brass ensembles, which was great fun. My interest in the classical guitar began as a young teenager listening to recordings by Julian Bream and John Williams that we had at home. At that age, being a keen brass player, I had no thought to take up the guitar, let alone make them. However, the sounds of Bream's and Williams' extraordinary playing stuck in my head, and later, aged 19, I picked up a guitar lying around in the house I was living in, and started teaching myself to play - 30 plus years later, I'm still at it.
I was in my early twenties when I discovered that I had strong leanings towards visual arts and crafts ( late developer!) - up until then, I had really no idea what I wanted to do - well, I would have liked to have been a musician I suppose, but had neither sufficient technical proficiency, nor a performer's temperament.
From 1983-1985 I was a student at Reigate School of Art (1983 to 1985) where I received a First for an art and design diploma specialising in the manuscript crafts of calligraphy, heraldry and illumination. I spent a further year at City and Guilds of London Art School, Kennington, London, practising letter-carving, stone-carving and sculpture. After finishing art school I began fine art painting, while working as a painter and decorator to earn a living. After a couple of years I got into more specialist work for a decorative artist in London producing faux paint finishes, trompe-l'oeil and mural work, which was much in vogue in the 1980s. I was also painting and exhibiting my own fine art work during this period. Follow this link if you'd like to see some examples of past art works
In 1993 I decided to build a guitar after seeing the work of my friend Simon Ambridge. Simon was making in the Torres/Hauser tradition and he lent me an old mould of a 1943 Hauser to start me off. With some telephone advice from Simon and after reading all the books I could find on the subject in Westminster Music Library, I began work on my first guitar. Once I'd finished it I wanted to make a couple more, to improve on what I'd done. In 1995, after making several guitars in my spare time, I moved with my family to Lewes in East Sussex, and began guitar making professionally. Ever since I have been making and restoring guitars. Making musical instruments has provided me with the ideal space where my natural abilities in art and craft and musical interests have come together and found expression. Music was my first love, whilst studying and practising various art and craft disciplines trained my eye and developed control in my hands, the feel for tools and materials that I have being a natural gift.
After over 20 years of guitar making, my latest departure is into the world of bowed instruments, something I had wanted to do for a long time. I have worked on the occasional cello and violin over the years, including a complete rebuild of a 19th century Maggini violin copy, so I already had some idea how they are put together. In 2015 I began researching violin making methods and in 2016 finished my first violin, modeled on Stradivarius' 'Titian' made in 1715. The results were encouraging, so once I'd garnered enough feedback from players and makers/restorers I began my second violin project, a copy of Nicolo Amati's 'Alard' violin made in 1649, which resides in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. This second violin is finished too, and having shown it to a highly accomplished player who plays an Amati violin by Nicolo's son Hieronymous II, I'm very happy with the result. Currently I'm thinking about the next violin project....