Violins have always been an important part of my work. I use several different models which I choose both for their acoustic quality and the inspiration I gain from the beauty of their design and workmanship; my favourite makers include Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, Antonio Stradivari, GB Guadagnini and Carlo Bergonzi. Recently I have been commissioned to make violins based on an early Guarneri del Gesù model which is slightly less than full size – perfect for players who have small hands but who were keen to maintain power and richness of sound.

Whatever model I use, I aim to make violins which are responsive, and that have character and personality from new, developing further as the instrument is played. I choose the materials carefully for optimal sound quality and appearance.

My violins are owned by orchestral and chamber music players, students and teachers, and by the collections of the Royal College of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, York University and the Benslow Loan Scheme.

“I am getting to know the violin better and better and have enjoyed playing [on trial] with WNO. I also performed Bruch’s 3rd violin concerto with a local orchestra and had a great reaction from the audience, orchestra and conductor.” Lucia D’Avanzo-Lewis, freelance violinist, London


Violas have absorbed a lot of my time in recent years. I’ve been lucky to have had commissions for a wide range of sizes, which has helped me to think deeply about how to make violas which are both comfortable for the player and which sound outstanding. This work has included the development of my own model of small violas for children and petite adults, in sizes from 13 1/4 inch to 15 inches.

Most of my violas are made to order, as I find that this is the best way of producing a viola which is optimal for the player both in sound and in feel. It can be particularly helpful to customise neck shape and size and string spacing to suit the individual.

I use models based on the very early makers from Brescia in Northern Italy; Gasparo da Salo and Paolo Maggini. These models have considerable benefits for the player, both in terms of their design and proportions, and their tone. This reconciles two things which can sometimes be opposites; a rich, dark sound and projection with power.

Viola players usually think of size in terms of body length, but string length is also an important consideration. Unlike violins, where the string length is fairly standard, for violas, for any given length of back, the string length can vary. The shorter the string length, the less the left hand has to stretch.

The violas I make for professional players range from 15 inches (38cm) to 16 5/8 inches (42.3cm). Even the smallest of these is powerful and resonant, with a focussed and projecting C string. Over the years, owners of my violas have included principal players of the English National Ballet and National Youth orchestras as well as three members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, players in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, City of London Sinfonia, Oslo Philharmonic, European Union Youth, Gustav Mahler Youth and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras.

As a recognised authority on violas, I was invited to give a talk about making violas at the Lutherie 2006 conference held at the Newark School of Violinmaking, and subsequently at the 2008 British Violin Making Association conference. I’ve also written a number of articles about aspects of making violas for the Strad. You can download these from the Talks and Articles section of this website.

“I have been playing on my Michetschläger viola for seven years now, using it for chamber, orchestral, and recording work. It has a beautifully round, even sound, and I genuinely look forward to playing on it every time I open the case. I would thoroughly recommend Helen – both for her work, and the professionalism with which she helped me when I was seeking an instrument.”

Laura Sinnerton, BBC National Orchestra of Wales


I am a member of the RSNO in Glasgow and yesterday was asked by my colleague to play your viola to her and give her any comments I may have.  I was amazed at how much I enjoyed playing it, even after just a few seconds!  Having spent about ten minutes trying out all sorts of notes for her to hear my final comment was that I would like one the same.

Ian Budd. associate principal viola, Royal Scottish National Orchestra


I really enjoy making cellos; to date I have made 50. I’ve played the instrument since childhood, so it’s a special pleasure when the instrument is finished that I can try it and feel its response and character under my own fingers.
My aim is to make cellos which have a warm, rich expressive sound which projects well. I use a number of models including Francesco Ruggieri, G B Ruggieri and Stradivari.

I also have an interest in developing models for players with small hands, who find the left-hand stretch of a full-size cello difficult. For these players I offer small full-size models, usually based on Andrea Guarneri or G B Guadagnini.

My cellos are played internationally; by the co-principal of the Royal Philharmonic, members of the Hallé and Norwegian Radio orchestras, and by cellists in the UK, Sweden and Belgium. Two concerto finalists of the BBC Young Musician Competition performed on my cellos.

“I have been playing my Michetschläger cello for 15 years now and am happier than ever with it. I have played concertos, recitals, chamber music and many orchestral solos on it and always receive positive comments about the rich sound and beautiful tone quality. It is a strong and reliable instrument which travels well and deals with the demands of touring excellently.”

Jonathan Ayling, co-principal cello RPO