Olivia Pelling

A Luthier

Olivia Pelling of Fine Strings on CTV’s Regional Contact

Fine Strings has been serving Ottawa since 2009.

Olivia’s stepfather, Seigfried Wagner, was a well known Belgian luthier who came to Canada in 1952 and worked for many years in Toronto. Olivia’s mother, Ruth Wagner, was an apprentice under Seigfried, and continues Wagner Violins in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada. Fascinated by the workshop and the instruments created and restored there, Olivia took the ‘Stringed Musical Instrument Making’ classes at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD) under Phillip Davis (1999-2001), while finishing her Bachelor degrees (B.A.Hons. and B.Ed) at University of Toronto (1995-2001). Olivia’s fascination with making musical instruments only increased and in 2006, while living in London, England, she was able to realise her dream of becoming a professional luthier.

From 2006-2008 Olivia studied at Merton College in London, UK under Keith Graves. There she excelled at her three-year violin making program, completing it in two years. In 2007, Olivia’s work and potential was recognised by the Rowan Armour-Brown Trust Fund, and she had the opportunity to train in the workshop of luthier Juliet Barker in Cambridge, England. Olivia moved to Ottawa in 2008 and worked with luthier Guy Harrison. Under the high professional standards of Guy’s workshop, Olivia worked on the repair and restoration of all violin family instruments and routinely rehaired bows. In 2009 Olivia established her own independent workshop. Since then she has repaired many instruments and also spends time making new violins, violas and violas d’amore. Olivia finds these Baroque instruments fascinating and making them allows her more opportunity for creative expression and collaboration.

Olivia values research, interaction and feedback with other makers and repairers and has spent numerous hours at museums around the world studying instruments. In addition, she has attended the Violin Society of America conferences, a varnish retouch workshop, a special instrument viewing available to select makers at the National Music Museum in North Dakota, collaborated in a violin workshop in Perth, Australia and participated in the Oberlin Professional Violin Making and Restoration workshops.

Olivia Pelling, Luthier

Courtesy of Sebastian Leduc

A Musician

Olivia is a serious amateur viola player and enjoys playing in groups wherever she lives. She plays with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra with whom she’s played since 2009. She has played in the past with University of Toronto’s Hart House Symphony Orchestra, the Peppermill Players Trio, Los Angeles Doctor’s Symphony Orchestra, and Finchley Chamber Orchestra in the UK.

Olivia’s interests are not limited to classical music, in 1999 a scholarship from the University of Toronto allowed her to study traditional fiddling and step dancing in Scotland at Sabhal Mor Ostaig College on the Isle of Skye. Traditions which she carries on today playing with the Ottawa based folk band The Wayward Sound.