Bespoke violins made in Bulgaria

Jeff Stratton is an American living in Bulgaria for the last 10 years. He is the man behind the Stratton violin brand. His electric violins have a unique design that is grabbing the attention of musicians and fans. His work of love is on display in a little rustic workshop in the village of Zdravets near the city of Varna.

A lot of hard work and quality materials go into the making of a violin. A good friend of Jeff and a fellow craftsman from Plovdiv would create the scroll and the neck of the violin. Next, the violin fingerboards are made of ebony, an extremely hard black wood, brought from India. The body itself is made by a famous woodcarver from Varna. He is only using locally sourced timber from a sycamore tree.

Back at his country home, we meet Jeff and his lovely wife Svetla. She also has an interesting story to tell. The couple met in India 11 years ago. They had the most unusual encounter when Jeff saved his future wife-to-be from a charging elephant. What a way to meet the love of your life.

Jeff’s violin design was first inspired by the shape of the human face. He then decided to go one step further and made his later models resemble a human skull. This popular design is equally appreciated by both rock musicians, as well as classical violinists. Another one of Jeff’s models is the Gypsy or in his own words – a classical violin body with an edge, handcrafted and distressed for the old wood look. The first step in achieving this look is marking down the cracks with a pencil. These lines would later be carved out with a chisel to add to the embossed relief of the body.

Jeff’s passion for music also brought him to the local village choir where he joins friends and neighbors and together, they play Bulgarian folk music. Guess who the lead violin player in the local orchestra is?