At the Festival International José Tomás Villa de Petrer 2015, our dear Amalia Ramírez was interviewed by the journalist Javier Suárez-Pajares.
In this article, we are going to leave you the interview with some of the questions he asked her and the video with the full interview with Amalia for you to enjoy.
Interview to Amalia Ramírez
Within the varied guitar construction universe, Amalia Ramírez is an unexpected presence, a sort of anomaly in a long male tradition; she has made history in the flagship of the Spanish guitar construction and within a profession that has been, along with many others, a male feud. Most probably without expectation nor wanting it, Amalia eventually assumed the responsibilities given to her, she gave up her career as an astrologist and went back to the family guitar firm to channel the difficult transition between her father José Ramírez III and her brother José Ramírez IV; nowadays she is the one in charge of the company and she has become the necessary link between the fourth generation of Ramírez, represented by her, and the budding fifth one composed of her nephews Cristina and José Enrique, the children of Ramírez IV. Without her, the Ramírez tradition would have disappeared with the early death of her brother in the year 2000.
With her, Ramírez goes on and it has its continuity well assured during the 21st Century. This way, her decisions to come back to the firm and, after that, take care of it have been of crucial significance for the history of the Spanish guitar itself. This is the reason why long ago the team of Roseta publishers had the intention to publish an interview with her, and the occasion has come with the publication of this volume devoted to Andrés Segovia, because he was the main responsible for the universal fame of Ramírez Guitars and also because, the same way she has done with her life significantly, we join history with the present day.
We met Amalia a couple of mornings in her workplace in General Margallo Street, in the popular Madrid neighbourhood of Tetuán, and there, between the smell of wood of the workshop and the paperwork of the office, time flies preparing an interview for the International Guitar Festival “José Tomás” of Petrer and talking about the things we have tried to collect in this interview.
Amalia, your father – that considered you among his five or six only direct disciples – defined you as drawer, writer, photographer and astrologist, “restless creature” and “little genie”. What are you, Amalia?
AMALIA RAMÍREZ: I am a guitar maker. I am an astrologist. I have also written. In fact, my first book is going to be now reissued; I published it more than thirty years ago. But I am a guitar maker… And I am also an astrologist: my father used to call me his “private witch”. What really happens is that I have my heart divided into two passions: the guitar and astrology. During the last thirty years, my energy has been consumed by my devotion to the construction of guitars and to the management of Ramirez (as a businesswoman too), and it has distracted me from astrology, but my dream is to resume it. Slowly but surely, I will pick up astrology because it is deep in my heart.
Then are you a guitar maker…or a luthier?
A.R: Guitar maker, no doubt. This is the name I like the most. My father used to say that it was kitsch to be called a luthier if you had never made a lute… so one day he started off and constructed one. Nevertheless, even if from that moment he deserved the title of a luthier, he always preferred to be a guitar maker. Nothing less. The same happens to me.
You are also a businesswoman.
A.R: Yes. I am a businesswoman. Because behind Ramírez and the specific product of guitars with an enormous historical prestige, there is a small business fabric that is not easy to manage and coordinate and you have to devote much time and effort. On the one hand, we have JRG Música SL, at number 10 General Margallo street, this is the location of the workshop, and this is the enterprise on which all the construction of instruments, the exportation and the administrative management depends; on the other hand, there is Guitarras Ramírez SL, the shop – the old shop in the number 8 of La Paz Street – it works as a distributor in Spain and as a showcase.
Because we ourselves make the distribution in Spain, but for the rest of the world we work with more than forty different distributors, which is easy to say, but it is necessary to take good care of them because it is on them that our position in the spaces that each of us controls depends on a great extent.
In this sense, I can tell you that Japan was historically our best platform, afterwards, we also had the USA and Italy, but now we can feel the effects of the crisis in these markets and lately it is China, particularly the one that is responding increasingly better and it stands out precisely because, among other things, our distributor there is passionate for our guitars and a guitar player himself trained in Europe.
So I assume the business part of my job and I have always devoted a large part of my energy to the organization of our firm within an increasingly complex business which presents new challenges every day. Actually, my first responsibilities in Ramírez were in this area and the post I had between my brother and my father was precisely in business management.
Let’s go to the beginning then. How did you start in this world of the guitar to which you belong now?
A.R: As you can imagine, I grew up between guitars and guitarists. Not so much among guitar makers, because my father used to say that he had been let down by people from his guild and he hardly related with them, except for those he worked with in the workshop. So I grew up in an atmosphere fully dominated by the guitar and I lived the passion that my father had for his job, the way my mother supported him, even my grandmother, she didn’t speak of anything else outside the guitar…
I inherited this passion in the most natural way, to the extent that, when I was seven or eight years old, I made a paper guitar… Even with little blocks inside! When my father saw it he was fascinated. He always said «this girl, what a manual skill she has! …». But, of course, that did not fit in what had always been the line of transmission of the job from father to son, and it was already guaranteed by my brother José Enrique, who was two years and a half older than me and he was considered by my father his most complete disciple.
Among the guitarists that surrounded your father, I guess that Andrés Segovia occupied a place of honour.
A.R: Absolutely. I still remember the first time he came home to have dinner. My brother was eight years old and I was six. Obviously, we were not invited, but we took part in all the fuss with the preparations of the house all day long. And after that, we saw the arrival of Segovia, in our pyjamas, hidden behind the living room door, he had his impressive aura.
My mother cooked for the occasion one speciality of hers called burned pork, she had invented it – in the years she lived in Filipinas – during the war, she could get a piglet to feed the family and it got burnt, so she started to add sugar, sauces and species, and this way she fried everything, and it seemed that she succeeded and it became a personal recipe. It appears that Segovia, who was a great gourmet, liked it a lot.
Was your mum from Filipinas?
A.R: Yes, she was born in Filipinas; her family was Spanish, although it was mixed with Filipinos and Chinese. So we have a peculiar mixing on this side of the family. And also, among our ancestors, there were many friars… One of them reached up to nineteen children…
Do you keep the distance your father set with the guitar makers?
A.R: No, I don’t. I don’t think this is positive at all, so I promoted the foundation of an association and I proposed Felipe Conde as president. I worked really hard for the association, and they finally chose me as a president, but that coincided with the diagnosis of my disease (later, if you want, we can talk about it) and I had to leave it aside. But now I have a good relationship with the people of my guild.
I get along with Paulino Bernabé: we are happy to find each other out in the world and we chat, in general, I try to be sociable and collaborative with everyone and I am sorry that the association we once had failed.
Coming back to your training as a guitar maker, we could say, then, that you learned by immersion and, on the other, alone, didn’t you?
A.R: Yes, I did. I was always there and I didn’t miss a hint of the conversations between my brother and my father when he was teaching him. And from this privileged place I learned everything about guitars, and at a given moment, I wanted to make one myself, although that was not supposed to happen because my father took it for granted that the tradition should continue, as had been the case so far, from José Ramírez to José Ramírez. But, as I had the opportunity, I wanted to learn, although without the pressure of taking it up as a career.
And I did it. When I was twenty more or less I told my father that I wanted to enter the workshop and learn to make guitars, and it was the case: I entered, I learned alone, I made a few guitars and I went on with my life. The rest is already said: I was a photographer, I wrote a lot and I devoted myself to astrology professionally for over ten years.
What memories do you have from your apprenticeship?
A.R: I have very good memories indeed. I warmly remember that period, but I also remember that they didn’t make it easy for me and I didn’t escape a few hazing.
Tell us some, please.
A.R: The first and maybe the most memorable one for sure, was when my father gave me a top and said: “here you are, and it… until you can smell garlic”. And there I was sanding and smelling nonstop, but that didn’t smell like garlic and I was desperate to think when this nightmare was going to stop, until I knew at last that, in brief…, that was not the idea.
Did the top disappear, did it turn into dust?
A.R: No, it didn’t. It did not disappear, but almost, but it did shine as if it had its own light.
And what was the teaching behind this?
A.R: You have to sand very much to make a perfect top and you have to learn how to sand properly.
Also, the ‘enemy’ was within, wasn’t it?
A.R: Indeed, yes: I always tell that my brother usually tried to give me the worst materials. For example, pieces of ebony make tuning forks that nobody in the workshop could work with. They had a fuzzy surface and green stains: they were the ugliest things I have ever seen in this wood. I would get stuck on them with my brush trying to get something and the officials, that came to help me, didn’t understand how my brother could give me something which was almost waste material. But he had his own reasons because he was afraid that my lack of experience would damage the good woods and an experienced official would make better use of them…
So my apprenticeship, not having the pressure of the usual system, was hard and unceremonious. Apart from these anecdotes, I think that the most important part of my training was taking part in it. When you are in, you learn a lot, observing and helping the officials in their jobs.
With me there was an official called Enrique Borreguero, he was the son of the guitar maker Modesto Borreguero (who was also trained here). Enrique was a shy man, quiet, and very serious, every time he saw me standing in front of the guitar not knowing what to do, he came with his tools and made some operation that guided me. For me, more than an explanation, what was important was the implementation: practice before theory. This is a way of learning different and complementary: to make the guitar directly which was what I wanted. So my apprenticeship was not as formal as, for example, the one my brother followed nor the one that Cristina and Enrique are doing right now under my supervision.
My idea was to learn how to make guitars and after that follow my own personal and professional path, in principle, out of the workshop and Ramírez.
But your destiny was in Ramírez.
A.R: Yes. When I was already devoted to astrology my brother called me to help him. It was still a prosperous period in his firm. I refused to do it at the beginning because I was very happy with what I was doing until in 1988 I finally took the decision to go “back home” and I entered to help out my brother with the administrative part. It was a critical moment in Ramírez.
It was then that all the organizational structural change was made and we moved to this workshop in General Margallo that my father had set up in the late 60s. The demand for his guitars was then so high that it was not unusual to see guitarists almost crying when they left the shop not taking one of his guitars.
We had to work with us very young apprentices, among them there was Paulino Bernabé – that ended up as the manager of the workshop – and other officials who after having developed their whole working life with us, have recently retired, people such as Carmelo Llerena, Fernando Morcuende, Cayetano Álvarez and also Miguel Martínez, although he was not a guitar maker, he knew more about guitars than many of our officials because he grew up in the workshop and the shop and he ended up being the head of the organization and right-hand man of my father.
The thing is that the workshop was too small for my father, and he decided to move forward with an extraordinary increase in production: he bought a building near Ventas and set there a big workshop where the guitars were even coated. This step towards a production that highly exceeded what other guitar makers had done so far caused apprehension and murmurings.
In what way?
A.R: It was said that more than an artisan guitar workshop, that had turned into a factory, when the reality was that it was a workshop the same as this … but increased tenfold. In the end, for some reason or other – the end of the official support for exportation and the new tax structure of the State that taxed our production (mainly through the VAT), these are two particularly relevant ones – the sales fell, the firm got into difficulties and we had to fall back some positions.
It was then that I had no alternative but to come back and help in the reconstruction of the firm to turn it back to the size that in my opinion, it should have never left and, most importantly to serve as a bridge of transition between my father and my brother.
It was a complex transition, wasn’t it?
A.R: Really complex, because what my brother commanded in the workshop was withdrawn by my father with a phone call, and this way it was impossible to go ahead. So I was a bit in the middle and “intercepted” the communications of my father with the firm and that enabled my brother to manage effectively and take important decisions in the production area.
Then I asked my brother what was what he really wanted and he told me that he wanted to go back to a smaller workshop. I absolutely supported this decision and this way, during the 1992 Christmas, we closed the Ventas workshop and we came back to this one in General Margallo, it was closed and we resumed the work with fewer people, just the way my brother wanted.
Could you give us some numbers, to give us an idea of the extent of the change of Ramírez at this crossroads?
A.R: To get some idea, I can tell you that my father – in the Ventas workshop – reached sales of one thousand guitars, while my brother – back in General Margallo – didn’t produce more than one hundred and thirty, which is a high number for a workshop such as this one and it reached a moment of high demand with a structure of production that had four officials – Carmelo Llerena, Fernando Morcuende, Cayetano Álvarez and Ricardo Sáenz, apart from my brother and me -, with Marisa Sanzano in the administration and Miguel Martínez managing the shop.
We even hired some apprentices because, among other things, it seemed they could be necessary to be ready for a renovation. And that coincided, in a full apogee of the demand, with the death of my brother in 2000 by fulminating lung cancer.
I assume that, apart from the personal implications it had, that make a significant change in the professional area. And furthermore, it would be a key moment in the history of Ramírez.
A.R: But immediately the general idea was that this was the end and that the firm would close. It seems that nobody thought I was there. Since 1988 I had been working in the management of Ramírez, side by side with my brother and I had learned the trade. So I decided to take over the business completely as a manager and master of the workshop. And nothing happened, because it was the natural thing: everyone supported me.
Was there any rejection?
A.R: None. I can only remember, with more indifference than bitterness, and as something really exceptional – but for some reason, it was stuck in my mind – that, soon after having taken over the workshop, a customer entered the shop and said that if the guitar was signed by a woman, he didn’t want to buy it. So I was called, and this man, which was a foreigner, left as he had come because this is what it was and this is what has been the case ever since, without major incidents.
This is a case I can clearly remember, but I don’t think it is representative: I was received perfectly well by my professional colleagues, the same as all the people working in the workshop and in the office, and the huge majority of the customers too.
I mainly received support from the people that encouraged me in this adventure.
How have you lived this accidental existence within a male world, in a familiar tradition, that before you, was also a male tradition and in the construction of such a “feminine” instrument due to the imaginary literature that it was developed from its curves?
A.R: Great, I can’t say any more. Doing it a perfectly normal way.
In what way does your femininity contribute to the male world of the guitar?
A.R: I also respond to you in a few words: a particular vision of the aesthetic beside technique and what I call the “global vision”.
What do you mean by “global vision”?
A.R: I have the intuition that there is an underlying line that joins everything: here, we can find not only study, investigation, the construction of guitars – technique and aesthetic – and the economic management of the business, but also we find promotion, administration…
I feel the personal necessity to follow this line and establish balances between all the forces that work around one business such as this one, which is an old familiar tradition but also distributes products all around the world.
Within this whole of art, trade and benefit, that would be the three pillars of a business devoted to the construction of instruments, I wonder, where are the borderlines between the elements of art and the ones of the trade or the technique in the construction of a guitar? Would it be possible to discriminate between the points that should be done following (replicating) the unchangeable principles of tradition (of the trade) and others open to fantasy and art, but not only decorative art but also the art of getting an exceptional, extraordinary instrument?
A.R: From my point of view, it is all part of the same whole, the same in the art of guitar makers as in one of the players themselves: the way they confront and solve the technical challenges has direct aesthetic implications and the other way round. Anyway, something happens that I would like to mention because it calls my attention particularly: Ramírez has also been a training seminar for guitar makers.
Many of them have been trained in the workshop and have become independent. Some have still used the stencils used in Ramírez, and however, the result in the sound is different – I am not saying it is better or worse, only different -: I think there is a subjacent soul. A series of elements that are so complex that it can be called soul… or maybe tradition: something, in any case, that is very difficult to explain and that surely is a consequence of the number of elements and processes implied in the construction.
By the way, have you ever counted how many pieces the guitar got?
A.R: Fourteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six.
Excuse me? Can you repeat?
A.R: Fourteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six…
This is terrific!
A.R: … the thing is that, from this quantity, four hundred and thirty-eight are essential pieces for the construction of the instrument and the rest are the myriad of little pieces that shape the mosaic of the rosette joined in several blocks: between twenty and sixty.
Well, now that we know the number of pieces, if we want to continue investigating where the “soul” of the guitar lies, the next thing we should account for is the steps that the elaboration of each of these pieces implies, on the one hand, and their assembling, on the other.
A.R: And, as not everything is about numbers, I am convinced that we should also take into account what I call the memory of the instrument. This is what the guitar gathers, what is fixed on it, depending on the guitarist or guitarists that play it.
… and what about the guitar maker or guitar makers that make it?
A.R: During their evolution Instruments get impregnated by the things their owners print on them consciously or unconsciously. For me, there is no doubt: that’s why we are so zealous to allow some instruments of our collection are played.
Well, let’s leave the soul of the guitar and its mysteries alone, and tell me, how does a modern woman like you feel when you sign “José Ramírez” guitars instead of Amalia Ramírez?
A.R: I am not an individualist at all on this so I don’t pay attention to it. In no way. I assume my responsibilities, without no more details, and I sign the guitars that come out of the workshop and whose I have the whole responsibility, but I keep the blend, in the label, the distinctive name of “José Ramírez”, as it always was and as I think it has to continue regardless of the person in front of the firm at the time because I strongly believe that this symbol is a value above any individual.
I think that precisely reinforces the artisan character of this job in which the most important thing is the acquired knowledge transmitted generation after generation. This is the added value that Iberdrola publicists could see when they used your image beside the best-known characters of Spanish gastronomy or football…
A.R: Iberdrola and other firms such as Rolex watches or Alhambra beers have used our brand as a reference in some of their publicity campaigns, leaving this aside, within the wheel of tradition that can be found at a higher level, each of us has made our own contribution.
We all have contributed as far as possible and the next generations should also contribute.
Which one of your father’s or brother’s innovations would you highlight?
A.R: My father created the basis of the guitar we nowadays call “Tradicional”, and it was chosen by Andrés Segovia as the only guitar he played, for at least, the last ten years of his life. Let’s say that he became a worldwide symbol in the environment of the guitar.
It is also true that my father’s guitar had the fame of being uncomfortable, “guitars for giants”, it was said. My brother changed that, he built very comfortable guitars that, among other things, were the result of a process of construction that used moulds instead of using the sills that they used to use so far and that we still use nowadays only in the construction of flamenco guitars.
As a general rule, the construction with moulds allows for adjusting a lower action than the ones obtained in a system of construction with a sill. My brother, on his part, was a great technician of the guitar and he could, for example, construct a guitar with a shorter scale length (650 mm) with almost as much power as the one with a long scale length (664 mm) that was the scale length of the guitar my father did for Andrés Segovia. The guitar with the shortest scale length that my father had designed had a smaller body, but what my brother did, nevertheless, was use the same body for both scale lengths and this way he obtained a more comfortable guitar with almost the same power.
In its history, Ramírez has never been afraid of innovations or actualizations as it happened with the distinctive use of cedar or, on a rather different track, the defence your father did on the use of synthetic varnishes. On the ground of innovation, you have lived a really interesting period with the implementation of new materials in the construction of guitars. What do you think about this?
A.R: I have mainly worked with Nomex. For the time being, this is the new material I’ve been more interested in and the one I have worked on the most. In fact, when I knew about its existence and that a German guitar maker had applied it to the construction of guitars, I made contact with him and I asked for guidance. He came to the workshop and he made us a vacuum chuck which is essential to work with Nomex.
What I did later has been to develop the technique to use Nomex with the objective of trying to adapt it to our sound, because for me above all, we worry about the quality of sound. I am never going to sacrifice quality for quantity. I think that the guitar is quite intimate instrument, and to appreciate its colours and shades, I don’t think an excess of power will make things better.
But, as far as I know, Nomex is mainly used to give volume to sound…
A.R: More resonance, more openness, more sustain… let’s say that it enhances the sonorous qualities of the guitar itself.
And are you convinced by that?
A.R: Yes, yes, I am, I like it. Here, we have developed one model – we call it “Auditorio” – with the top, sides and back made of Nomex.
They are instruments, and when you hear them closely you can’t notice the difference a lot, but you perceive the improvement in the projection, in the way the sound reaches the last rows of the auditorium (hence its name).
Excuse my ignorance, but can we say this “evolution” in the instruments with a Nomex top is a “decadence” in the sense that they last less than traditional instruments?
A.R: Well, Nomex guitars that I have made still sound perfectly well nowadays. It is true that when the tops are made very thin, they sound a lot but die soon. The objective of Nomex is to create an air chamber between two very thin wooden tops, but it is not only a chamber: the fixing given by the bee cell that shapes the structure of this material gives much consistency to the top, so it should last.
Now we have still been trying new things, for instance, using Nomex in the back of the instrument also and, with these two guitars – which we have called model “Dúo” – we have observed that the guitarist becomes fully involved in the sound. This is something that respects our sound and offers the player a more comprehensive experience.
Comprehensive: quite your style.
A.R: And the next step has been to use Nomex also in the sides of a guitar with a double back and the bottom sides with cypress. I am sure that it is going to have a really interesting sound and I would like the guitarist to perceive the sound projecting in the auditorium.
Now it is getting coated and I am looking forward to trying it. If it ends up as I am expecting it to end up, it is going to exceed the initial “Auditorio” and the “Dúo” and it will be the model we will construct in the future.
I suppose it is not easy to devote to investigation when you have to maintain a constant production and the demand for our guitars is over our capacity to produce instruments. How many guitars per year are you doing now, and how is the waiting list going?
A.R: Yes, it is. It is difficult to find time to devote to the investigation. Now we are making between sixty and seventy guitars of the “Tradicional” top range model: the one guitarists call “1A” – that means that they are first (1ª) class guitars – which, in turn, are the base for other models such as “Centenario”, “Aniversario” and “Élite”. And nowadays the waiting list is two years, and there you can find individuals as well as distributors.
Would you like to make more guitars?
A.R: No, I wouldn’t. I would be delighted if the waiting list increased from two to five years – I would stay calm with that-, but I don’t want to make more than the sixty or seventy instruments we make every year, I don’t want to change the structure of the workshop either, which is the one with which we manage to make that number of guitars and it is the typical structure of a family business with me as a master, my two nephews and with second generations of employees in the administration as well as in the workshop.
So if the demand goes up, I prefer raising the prices than increasing the production. The experience we had with the Ventas workshop of my father, although good at the beginning, with time got complicated and we learned that this was not sustainable.
Now we are in balance, with a production which is not small and, on the other hand, keeps up with the demand we have.
What do you think has a higher impact on the demand, the economic crisis or the ever-increasing competition?
A.R: There is more competition now than before, and there are really good guitar makers, but we don’t really notice it. The demand for our guitars depends mainly on the economic situation of the different markets and also on the effectiveness and implication of the distributors, which is fundamental.
In addition, you sell a lot of Studio guitars.
A.R: They are guitars of our own design, made in Spanish factories that devote a specific space and qualified workers to the construction of these instruments with the Ramírez templates and under the supervision and quality control of our workshop. In fact, we carry out the final adjustment and labelling here.
Let me ask you about the number of Studio guitars you sell per year because I think it is a good indicator of the current situation in classical guitar teaching.
A.R: Nowadays, we sell approximately one thousand Studio guitars per year, in this area, in principle we don’t have a goal. There is a limit to the number of these guitars that we can adjust in the workshop to control their quality, but in this case, we still have a margin.
One of the innovations we have introduced in this field is the launch of a shop online to sell Studio guitars in Spain (tiendaguitarrasramirez.com). This will be a good platform to enter into countries where we don’t have distribution or places where we are not satisfied with the distributors.
We have observed that intermediaries often inflate prices in a way that we think is excessive and a Studio guitar that we can sell in the shop for more or less one thousand Euros may reach significantly higher prices that cannot be explained only by the profit margins of the shops where they are sold.
Really, and coming back again to my overall vision of Ramírez, one of my dreams and current projects is to bring together the shop, the workshop and the offices in one single space.
That would be fantastic. And it would be also great if you had a small museum or permanent exhibition of both new guitars and historical instruments from your collection.
A.R: Well, the museum is now in the shop, but yes: I agree that it would be desirable to give it more space and visibility. Take into account that a big part of the collection is stored in dusty cases, in the lofts of the workshop, because we don’t have a place to exhibit it. And you already know that there are really interesting pieces.
It seems that you are tying up the loose ends to leave things arranged and in motion for your replacement. Aren’t you?
A.R: Right. I am going to delegate little by little and in no way do I want to turn into the typical person who when retiring finds a terrible emptiness that holds on to what they did, their successes and failures, and do not allow them to work properly to those that come behind. It goes without saying that it will not be the case.
And now the Ramirez tradition is assured.
A.R: For me, that was really important, so in a given moment I seriously discussed with my nephews whether they wanted to continue with the business or not. I told them that I needed two of them, not more because the end of this family business comes when all the family gets in. If they wanted to join in, I would run the company in one way; otherwise, I would have to do it in a different way as the objective would be different.
I left them to think and decide it calmly and with no pressure on my part. Finally, Cristina and Enrique decided to join in: she did in the year 2007; Enrique has been here since he was 18 (since 2006), and simultaneously he studied Law, and five years ago he entered the workshop full-time. Cristina has been frequenting the shop since the year 2000 combining it with her Journalism Career.
And now I actually put pressure on them… and a lot: to learn and also to start thinking about having children…
Originally the masters of the guild had the faculty to name masters to their children directly, with no need that they had to go through all the training and hierarchy of the business. However, it seems that Cristina and Enrique have sanded a lot and planned a lot of wood…
A.R: and they have joined tops and backs endlessly… There are no concessions here, and they have to deserve their post. The workshop manager and I are supervising their work and they contribute, in the place, they occupy within the business and the workshop, to the construction of our guitars.
What I want is that from this very moment they start having responsibilities and making things. Enrique already takes part in the production in the workshop and Cristina, which is also learning at her own pace, will make the guitars that she wants to do, but she will be, as she already is, highly engaged in the communication and management of the business.
In less than ten years I will be retired, but I already want to delegate. To start with, I intend that this is my last year taking care of the Ramírez representational travels; this will be their responsibility from now on, with only a few exceptions when my presence is necessary. And, at the moment, I am the one who makes the designs of all the guitars, but what I want is that little by little, take over these things too.
A couple of years ago, at home, we were developing a template based on the area section and, surprisingly, we had the same template my father had created for the guitar “Tradicional 1A”. Then, what we did – to make it different – was to narrow the waist a little. When this design comes into practice, when we start making guitars with it, it will be up to him: in principle, this will be his guitar.
I have known Cristina for several years due to her obvious and intense work in the communications of Ramírez, and also, due to her commitment to the Spanish Society of the Guitar. I believe it is a good thing to be able to count on her as the spokesperson since I have the honour of chairing the SSG.
I have always seen Enrique at the front line in the workshop, like a fish in the water. By the things I have heard about the genius and disposition of Ramírez III, I have the impression that Cristina and Enrique have these genes of serious humour and person of few words such as their grandfather running very high in them.
Amalia, in this sense, seems to be different. The aforementioned: an anomaly in the Ramírez tradition. But I think I am not wrong to think that the next generation of Ramírez will be the best organized in the history of the label and this is due to the stamina and courage of Amalia to take charge of the business at the most delicate moments of its recent history.
I think Amalia is a brave woman. Six years ago she has diagnosed with cancer and the radiotherapy ended up in pneumonitis that had her on medical leave for almost a year, and she was relieved from the construction of guitars by medical prescription. But her desk is not further than five meters from the workshop and now she has her replacement perfectly prepared.
In the meanwhile, she still dreams of going back to astrology. In the Renaissance, astrologists used to have in the lute the closest example of how concord and balance of the forces of the universe produce anomaly … or the other way round; Amalia – guitar maker, not luthier, and astrologist – shows evidence of that in her guitars.
Text: Javier Suárez-Pajares