Hi, I am Orla. I’m seventeen years old and have worked as an apprentice guitar technician at the Fellowship of Acoustics, a guitar shop in Dedemsvaart, The Netherlands since I was 15. I work full-time, 5 days a week ever since I was given special permission to leave school. I started as an intern when I was 15 and went to school to learn carpentry and making furniture. I had hoped that learning a trade where I had to work with my hands would be the right choice, since I am severely dyslexic, but it turned out differently. The school and I agreed that it would be a good idea to stop my studies there and focus on my chosen path; A career as a guitar builder. They even helped me to get the special permission to leave school!
The shop I work at was founded by Rudi, my boss. He started selling guitars from his home in Bergentheim in 2001. His first 6 guitars have turned into more than 800 guitars and his kitchen table was replaced by a fantastic shop, located in the former town hall of Avereest, Villa Dina built in 1877. He trades in high-end and vintage guitars on an international scale but also wants to give back to his own community. The Villa and the added-on office building also house a small theatre, a music school and a diner, Dina’s Fellows. This diner offers a work experience opportunity and jobs for young people with learning and other difficulties that have a hard time finding employment elsewhere. The shop has a wide range of international customers from all walks of life, some famous, some hobbyists but all of them musicians at heart and mostly great people. I work at the shop’s guitar workshop where we, and that includes little me, do everything from set-ups to complete restoration projects. And don’t be surprised if you spot a world famous luthier working on one of his guitars in our workshop. This is how I met Sergei de Jonge, a very famous luthier from Canada, from whom I am going learn the ins and outs of lutherie, starting next year. In short, I work at a place that is unique in The Netherlands and possibly in Europe.
My Mentors at the workshop, who taught me just about everything I know about guitars, are Erwin van de Ven and Harry Fuhler.
Erwin van de Ven
Erwin has worked in the workshop for about 15 year and is widely recognized as one of the finest, if not the finest acoustic guitar repairman in Europe, and who am I to contradict the people at C.F. Martin guitars? There is not a day in which I don’t learn from him, mainly because he feels a responsibility to teach me something new every day. In the 2 years that I have worked with him he has always called me over to his workbench to teach what he calls his “lesson of the day”. He knows I want to learn everything he has to teach and he is the best mentor a girl could wish for. We have become very close friends and he often says he trusts me and shows his trust by putting his own, very expensive, guitar on my workbench to work on. He told me that he knows it will turn out right because he knows I work very precise and I have fun doing it! I consider it the best compliment anyone ever gave me.
Harry is a guitar technician and a luthier, who has been working part time in the workshop for two years and who also has his own clients whom he services from his home. Harry specializes in electric guitars and his fret jobs have earned him the nickname “the human plek-machine”. Harry told me a story once about how when he was a kid he wanted to play music, but he didn’t have the money to buy a guitar. So one day he was walking past a garbage container and saw something sticking out of it. It turned out to be a guitar neck and when he tried to pull it out there was a body attached to that neck… He had found an electric guitar! He took it home only to find out it didn’t work… and that was the start of his career. He was determined to refurbish that electric guitar and make it playable again and found out that he loved the work and started building guitars. Harry is a great teacher as well and teaches me about wiring circuits on electric guitars, gives me homework and tests me the following day. He knows everything there is to know about electric guitars.
''If I had not had my mentors, I would not have come as far as I am today"