Custom inlays, if tastefully done, can take an attractive instrument and turn it into an absolute show-stopper. This kind of project is not suited for those in a hurry or short on funds as this kind of work can easily add thousands of dollars to the price of the instrument and six months to a year to the completion time.
Inlays are available for all instrument types. Below are descriptions and pics of a few of our favorites.
The best inlay concepts are well though out designs rather than little things tossed together.
Craig Lavin's inlays were made using several kinds of iridescent shells, wood, stone. Some of the most impressive work to me were the small tentacles of the jellyfish made by inlaying tiny irregular pieces of silver in delicate grooves. The sand nest that the hatchling turtle climbed out of at the top of the inlay on its dash towards the sea was made by inlaying sand a few grains at a time. Even the sand was special, its real sand from the turtle grass flats from the Dominican Republic.
While I've routinely handled the inlays on my own instruments throughout my career, there are times when it's best to leave these things to a world class specialist for the optimal result. In those instances where I do decide to outsource some aspect of a Jordan instrument, I only choose the very best. When this violin made its debut at the winter NAMM trade show, it was as the centerpiece of my exhibit and many of the best inlay artists in the business stopped to admire Craig's work and mine.
Custom inlays are quoted individually and I reserve the right to refuse to allow inlays that I perceive as being in poor taste or design. Given that initial sketches are required even to quote a project for complicated inlay work, a non-refundable deposit towards the inlay work may be required even if the customer's final decision is to not go forward with inlay work.
Living Jewels of the Sea
Several years ago someone pointed out that if you held one of my electric violins upside-down, it looked like a jellyfish. I love to watch jellyfish. I see them fairly often when I go sea kayaking (my favorite outdoor activity) and we live less than two hours away from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world class aquarium with several species of jellyfish on permanent display that I can sit and watch for hours. Craig Lavin contacted me about doing inlays and I told him about this idea I had of inlaying a jellyfish into a violin fingerboard. He was intrigued.
Among his many interests and professional qualifications, Craig is a marine biologist, and he had never inlaid a jellyfish before. We spent a while communicating back and forth about what would compliment the lovely jellyfish that Craig had designed. We came up with the concept of inlaying a sea turtle on the opposite side of the instrument. Sea turtles are immune to the stinging cells of jellyfish. Baby sea turtles can feed on jellyfish even while wrapped in their tentacles, and adult sea turtles sometimes eat jellyfish.
I planned a blue sunburst violin over flamed maple to give the water effect and a concept piece was born.
Here's another concept piece that Craig designed and inlaid for me featuring orchids and moths inlaid in a five string violin made of Chatke Kok with a Crabwood chinrest and a Pink Ivory wood fingerboard. There are a few woods as hard as ebony that are also suitable for violin fingerboards but are rarely seen used as fingerboards. I thought the choice of woods for the body, fingerboard, and chinrest created a nice warm color like the sky at sunrise or sunset. Craig and I selected a Sunset Moth for the front inlay and a Luna Moth for the back so we had a Sun and Moon theme going as well as the lovely orchids.
Craig titled this violin "Sunrise, Sunset".
I love dolphins! There's a beach a couple of hours from here where I've watched them really close to shore pretty reliably around sunset. I've seen them many times from boats I've been on and always marvel at their combination of playfulness, beauty and grace. Craig and I agreed on inlaying one pod of dolphins in the finger board and a second pod on the body traveling the opposite direction.
The shell that was selected for this inlay has wonderful iridescent green and pink/purple shades - the photo captures some of this but the iridescence in person is spectacular as are the fine details Craig added such as inlaid tiny air bubbles of silver trailing form the dolphins in the body. Craig titled this violin "Passing Through".