Marcus Bretto is a violin luthier, blacksmith, and artist. In his Generator studio, he crafts beautiful violins by drawing inspiration all over the makerspace – from the work of his knifemaker studiomate to the filament assemblies on the 3D printers.
Path to Generator
Marcus grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts and started making things from a very young age. Inspired by his musician father, Marcus remembers making cardboard guitars with rubber band strings as a child. He enjoyed playing instruments too – he learned to play the violin in sixth grade and soon picked up the drums and the keyboard.
In high school, Marcus realized he could pursue making instruments as a career. He went on to attend North Bennet Street School in Boston, where he trained one-on-one with a professional violin luthier for three years.
Marcus moved to Burlington in 2018. Looking for a studio space to continue his violin-making practice, he found Generator. “I had always been looking for a space where I could share ideas with other people and artists and have access to all these neat tools,” he says. “I was on the lookout when I moved here, and that’s when I just popped in. I was like ‘What!? I didn’t know this kind of space actually existed. This is amazing!’ I got a membership as soon as possible after that.”
Inspiration and Experimentation in the Makerspace
The collaboration and inspiration at Generator has been especially exciting for Marcus. He shares a studio with one of his best friends, professional knife maker Mats Thureson. The two started blacksmithing together, partially for fun, and partially to help Marcus gain a better understanding of metalworking. Marcus believes this collaboration has helped elevate his craft. He also credits inspiration to his studio neighbor, Leslie McCurdy, a fellow luthier who makes electric bass guitars. “Leslie is in the studio right next to me, and I get to peer over the wall and see what he does over there all the time, he says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool. He’s got the cool stuff.’”
Marcus also appreciates the creative exploration that Generator allows. “Almost every single time I make an instrument for myself, there is some experimentation going on, even if they’re just small adjustments in the process of making templates or, you know, how would I make this little section easier?” Watching other makers create in other shops helps Marcus think outside the box. “There’s almost always some sort of example that’s coming from around here completely unrelated. I’m like, ‘Oh, I saw some way that somebody assembled something in the 3D printing area or like how people are doing laminations with the vinyl. I think ‘Okay, I can take ideas from this and make little adjustments to my process in that way.” The experimental and collaborative atmosphere at Generator help make Marcus’ violins unique.
Advice to New Makers
To new makers, Marcus says, “Don’t judge where you are in the process too early. I see so many people get discouraged about these grand ideas where they think they’re supposed to be. There’s so much that’s in front of you already, so much that you’ve made progress on and improved upon, and it might speak to people in ways that you don’t expect. Somebody will find something to like about your work. And what you do is just keep doing it.”