Lukas Wronski, an artisanal violin maker. Credit: Lukas Wronski

The name of Lukas Wronski is well known to classical musicians and art collectors in New York. His unique skills as a violin maker shine through in his creations, such as Lady Liberty and Spirit of Oklahoma — a violin he designed to honor the state’s 100 birthday. The instrument was inspired by Native American culture and recognized as Oklahoma’s Centennial Violin. 

Wronski is an artisanal violin maker — someone who creates one-of-a-kind designs for an instrument whose shape hasn’t changed in a few hundred years. He is striving for the best sound possible, both with his modern creations and the vintage pieces he takes care of. 

The classical tradition requires in-depth knowledge of materials and sound, as well as boundless creativity and imagination. Although Wronski makes exquisitely shaped classical instruments, as he has been trained to do, he always looks beyond the limits of his profession. 

For Spirit of Oklahoma, he used symbolic elements such as turquoise stone or an eagle’s eye representing “spiritual protection, wisdom, healing and magic.” His other creation, the Lady Liberty violin, retains the proportions of a proper classical violin, yet incorporates Art Deco elements and a unique combination of wood with gold. 

Here are Wronski’s tips on how to be creative within the limitations of classical tradition:

Dare to be different. “We all tend to do the same thing over and over again,” says Wronski. “Classical music has a 500-year tradition. Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart will never go out of fashion. And this tradition is unique and important, but it’s very hard to be creative in an industry where traditions are too strong. But classical musicians are nowadays open to new designs, unique sounds and shapes. 

“Sometimes, when I try something new, I’m scared people might say: ‘What is this instrument? It’s not a violin anymore.’ In fact, if the product is very good — and if you put your heart and soul into it — then you’ll be successful. If not now, then in the future. It’s the same with music, art, or in any other industry.”

Develop new skills. “I was also fortunate to study painting, sculpture, and design,” says Wronski. “That’s why I’m able to push my boundaries, challenge myself and use skills that many violin makers don’t. Most violin makers don’t want to study art or music, so then they can’t go beyond their existing level of creativity, which is a little sad. 

“Why do we always have to remain in the same old small box? There are no barriers in your imagination or your capacity as a creator. These days traditional and popular products can also be outside the box. Why not transform the violin?”

Get inspired by something. “You can’t simply stick to your craft and expect that one day inspiration will just knock on your door. For instance, when I created the Spirit of Oklahoma violin, I was inspired by indigenous culture. It’s fascinating how many tribes still call America their home. And with Lady Liberty I was touched by the experiences of immigrants coming to America by sea. That’s why the sound of this violin is dark and powerful, like many violins inspired by history and Greek mythology – like my Venus de Milo violin, for example.

“I’m currently working on new instruments for a quartet — two violins, viola, and violoncello. They will represent the four seasons. With all the recent storms and other catastrophic events, the power of Nature is something everybody can relate to. I’ll be experimenting, making ‘winter’ sound colder and spring more hopeful.”

Know your craft. “You can’t revolutionize the industry without knowing the traditional ways. In violin making, the most important thing is the quality wood and materials. You have to love the fundamentals of your profession, and first and foremost be a great craftsman. 

“Also, you should work with people who use your products. For example, I collaborate with so many musicians and composers looking for new sounds. A violin is one of the most perfectly shaped instruments invented by humans. It’s an icon for musicians, and it will always be unique and special.” 

Don’t focus on sales. “People buy certain products because they get used to them. If you’re creating something new and looking to make a profit, then you might be very disappointed. You have to simply focus on the joy of creating, have passion, be playful, lift your energy and send good intentions, and don’t think about the reward. 

“Financial success will come eventually. In the future, people will know your name and more clients will come. When you are revolutionizing traditional approaches, there’s a danger someone can put you in the ‘crazy’ category. But you might just go down in history. I think it’s worth trying.”