Sandrine Raffin’s passion has come from her father. “Twenty years ago, if you were not born into a family of stringed instrument or bow makers, this type of job was completely off-limits to you“. At the age of 15, Sandrine Raffin enrolled at École Nationale de Lutherie of Mirecourt (France). At 20, she joined the family’s bow workshop at rue de Rome in Paris.
She gained an excellent reputation among 2,000 clients in France and abroad. Among these clients there are the violinists Renaud Capuçon and Patrice Fontanarosa, and the quartet Ébène and Zaïde. An important Japanese client recently ordered an original bow.
She explains about her know-how: “It is important to fully understand a musician and his or her sensations“. This point of view comes with her long experience with harpsichord, and as a violinist.
Her creations involve strict methodology. “We work the same way than 200 years ago. Our tools are the plane, the pin knife, the chisel, the gouge and the lime, traditional materials (Mongolian stallion hair(!), Pernambuco wood from Brazil, as well as ebony, mother-of-pearl, gold, etc.). The bow must measure 73 centimeters long and weigh 60 grams, with height and width restrictions to respect. Each rod makes a different sound“.
This line of work aids the maintenance, repair and restoration of ancient artifacts, with a value of 100,000 euros or more. “I created several pieces while holding my breath to listen to the wood. To do this type of work, you must be meticulous, patient, humble and respectful“.
People come from Canada and Brazil to get trained by Sandrine Raffin, who equally loves talking about her work in Tokyo than in her children’s school. She took over paternal bow making in 2007, receiving the title of Master Artisan in her profession in 2012. However, she wouldn’t dare quit doing her own accounting, emails with clients, or managing the Facebook page of the workshop. “We cannot advance blindly, spreading our skills, without knowing if the clientele is following. It is important to share our research and to call everything into question.”
Enriched by her experiences, Sandrine Raffin restores beautiful bows and innovates with the creation of new models. As an accredited trainer, she also transfers her savoir-faire and knowledge to young promising bow makers, such as her two apprentices.
In financing her new machine, Fondation Rémy Cointreau has helped Sandrine Raffin increase her production, while minimizing the waste of Pernambuco wood, resulting in one day of work gained per week.