Olivier Fanton d’Andon – A visit in the Summer of 2018
Hi All, this is Rich, owner and sole operator of Savage Classical Guitar. A small story, full of beautiful pictures and wonderful time with the hopelessly entertaining and wonderful luthier, Olivier Fanton d’Andon.
About 3 years ago to date, Olivier and I were discussing many things, all artistic and philosophical. It is a rare man that can engage me in these things, but he waxes poetic, is so deep in his convictions, and is such a sweetheart of a man, that he is unavoidable.
We engaged to bring one of his masterpieces to the USA as the only official dealer of his guitars in North America. Mind you, I don’t ask for an exclusive with anyone. I want them to work with me because that is what they wish to do, nothing less, certainly nothing more.
Aside from all the business aspects, he was insistent on one thing. Come to visit with him in his workshop in Chateau Dun, France. Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it. He kept insisting. I’m reflecting, “how can I afford 8 days away from the gallery”? Really, this place exists because of me and my knowledge, nothing else. You don’t want to speak to my assistants, you want to talk with me…I get it.
OK, so a year goes by, his guitar comes and goes, (he builds very slowly but wow, was that guitar something else). My anniversary is coming up with my wife in July of 2018. Hey! Great idea. Take the wife to France and visit with the ever persistent Olivier! My wife loves it, where, dang, just about instantaneously, she is planning every freakin’ minute of this trip. I was laughing. In hindsight, I’m lucky to be involved at all? LOL
I write to Olivier. He loves it. He became so excited. Next thing I know, July 2018 is upon us, I’ve made all the arrangements, my wife busted her hump getting everything planned and we were off to Paris.
July 18, 2019 – Uncomfortable flight. Jeez Louise, but there is no way to be comfortable on a plane, even in 1st Class. Fine, it’s done, we get a little ripped off on the cab ride to Paris from Charles de Gaulle, no biggie, we’re in the quaint Hotel da Vinci, greeted by the sweetest lady you will every meet, gorgeous too, btw, and we are in our suite in the hotel. Nice. We walk, we get some coffee (awesome by the way), some food and we are off to see some of the sites in the area. The hotel was just south of the Seine River, where the Louvre was across us on the north side of the River. We waited later to see that, but damn, it was right there.
The point of this is Olivier, but I’ll tell you a few things about Paris in general. It’s been decades since I’ve been there, but man oh man, is it gorgeous. The French knew how to build stuff, that’s certain. Overdone, gaudy, magnificent, and huge! Among many places, such as Notre Dame, the Louvre, other assorted castles and cathedral (all gorgeous, some Gothic, some older) and then Versailles! You have to see it for yourself to understand. Also, very important, don’t go there broke. You have to enjoy it, and that means food, drink and walking. Bring comfortable shoes and I’ll say it again, don’t go there broke. That’s all I’ll say. Photos are attached of the various sites.
On to Olivier. July 19, 2018. Well, first, my phone was working like crap. Fortunately, my wife’s phone worked fairly well. 2 hour train ride to Chateau Dun, the train schedule differed a bit, where communicating with Olivier was difficult, but somehow we all managed to meet with only a 15 minute delay. He pulls up in his car, whose years have gone by, much like my own, but I have to say I looked way better than the car. It ran, it worked, it got us where we needed to be, cool!
Olivier was thrilled to see us, certainly Valerie, as she is quite a looker. A ladies man, a romantic and as I soon learned, very silly in a playful joie de vivre manner, relishing life and its joys. He is a very cool man, energetic, deep in the eyes, an old soul, with a playful heart. First place he takes us to is the Cathedral at Chateau Dun. Beautiful, old with many memories within its walls and windows. Photos are around here somewhere.
Then he proceeds to go back towards his home to pick up a friend, Roger Eon, a player and owner of at least 1 or 2 of Olivier’s guitars. A sweet man and a great player, we now proceed to go to Olivier’s workshop. This is a place to work!
An old servants quarters area of the manor proper, this place was huge. A small serviceable kitchen, bathroom that was funny as all get out, and then wood and tool area with some benches, narrowish room, long and very well lit. Then the main area, all the big tools, boards, storage, etc. Must have been 60′ long by 25′ maybe larger with the biggest damn windows that opened up to let the air from the lake and the sun from the gods into this room. It was bloody awesome. I took a quick video.
Roger played 2 of Olivier’s guitars for us, which was again, awesome. What a sound. Roger had to leave for a family vacation up North, leaving Olivier, Valerie and myself to have a quick picnic on the banks of the river. Another video, short and sweet is here some where.
Then it was off to Saint Chapelle, where Olivier was so excited, you could see the energy coming off of him. Gods, he is such a sweetheart. Looking through all of these photos, I want to go back, smiling the whole time I’m recounting this. It was a truly magical place and visit all around. I should have stayed there another day, but Val had all these plans, and well, I couldn’t disappoint her. It was our anniversary week, after all LOL
So very magical in all aspects, Olivier made it a joy. He is briliant, a consummate professional, and in his mid-sixties, I would have guessed he was 15 years old. I think of this visit fondly. I look forward to returning.
We spent another 5 days in and around Paris, visiting with another luthier Benoit Pierron up by the River Lyon, which was another thoroughly enjoyable visit (nice man and very talented) and seeing the sights of Paris, including Versailles, which is a must see.
Returning home was anti-climactic but it was good to be home. Writing this almost 6 months later was fun, I smiled the whole time. Anyone fortunate enough to own one of Olivier’s guitars is very blessed indeed. He is a wonderful man and wonderful luthier, among the very best in the world.
Richard F. Sayage – January 31, 2019