By Takaaki Iwabu, Staff Photographer
John Montgomery builds violins from maple and spruce, shaping the belly, the back, the ribs and the neck into an Audrey Hepburn of an instrument -- graceful, elegant and full of mystique.
Antonio Stradivari perfected the design in the 1600s. Luthiers who have followed continue to explore the infinite possibilities it presents.
Craftsmanship is key. Montgomery reads the wood's fine print to see what it will yield. He handles his saws, knives and scrapers with surgical precision, and varnish is artfully layered.
To this point Montgomery has drawn from a bank of knowledge of many subjects -- history, chemistry, material science and architecture among them. Yet he remains uncertain as to just what he has built. Only when the bow is drawn and the strings are plucked does the violin reveal its character and the life within.
Montgomery has made about 60 violins and violas, each requiring a month's devotion (his cellos take twice as long). Each is unique in the way of all things made by hand from materials found in nature.