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Olwell Flutes

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There are four of us here in the workshop: two master "fluthiers" and two Apprentices training under them. Our approach to making instruments is informed by a love of wood, great respect for the designers, musicians, and engineers who have blazed the trails we follow, and a strong commitment to making the very best and most beautiful instruments we can so that they can be enjoyed by musicians and listeners for years to come. Here's a bit about who we are...

Meet the Makers

Patrick Olwell

Through many years of painstaking research, careful experimentation with flute design, and precise standards of craftsmanship, Patrick has made the name of Olwell synonymous with wooden flutes of the highest quality, crafting instruments that are prized by some of the most skilled players in Irish traditional music.


Since 1975, through measuring hundreds of 19th-century simple-system flutes and tinkering with the dimensions of the bore, embouchure, and tone holes, Patrick has created his own designs that play more easily and are more responsive and in-tune than many of the extant 19th c. instruments available today. Patrick’s attention to detail, love of music, and unique aesthetic sensibilities have made Olwell flutes a favorite with musicians worldwide.  

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Aaron Olwell

Following years of intensive study with Patrick and having completed his apprenticeship, Aaron has gone on to become a master craftsman in his own right and joined Patrick as a partner in Olwell Flutes beginning in 2006.


Aaron grew up in the workshop and started learning music at a young age, studying pennywhistle, flute, fiddle, and concertina. Eventually branching out to immerse himself in multiple forms of music including Irish, American old time, and early trad jazz, he is a voracious learner, a skilled artisan, and an all-around musician’s musician, and has played on such cult-classic recordings as the 2007 Light and Hitch. Aaron now makes his own instruments “from log to flute,” and designs unique custom modifications of keys and other elements of flute design. Together, Aaron and Patrick share in the business and making our flutes, as well as in the training our two Apprentices, Matthew and Seth.

Our Flute Apprentices


Seth Swingle

Seth is an award-winning musician and scholar and has been an apprentice at Olwell Flutes since 2018. A curious and dedicated practitioner of traditional music, he received a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Folklife Apprenticeship to study banjo with noted folklorist Mike Seeger, studied kora in Mali as a Fulbright Scholar, and is a Virginia State Banjo Champion. His craftsmanship is influenced by his long experience as a musician, his lifelong love of wood as a carpenter's son, and by his desire to make instruments that are as beautiful as they are enjoyable to play. 


Matthew Olwell

Like Aaron, Matthew grew up working in the fluteshop, learning handcraft techniques, woodturning, and the meticulous attention to detail that is one of the hallmarks of Olwell Flutes’ philosophy. He spent many years performing with Footwoorks Percussive Dance Ensemble, touring the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and later completed an undergraduate program in multimedia performance at Davis and Elkins College and an MFA in dance at Temple University. Matthew has performed with the likes of Lunasa, John Skelton, Anam, and the acclaimed group Maivish. Of his 2016 album, CyberTrad (which combines traditional and original music on wooden flute with the beatboxing talents of vocal percussionist Shodekeh), the Irish Echo’s Dan Neely wrote, “outstanding… Olwell is an artist with a keen vision.” In 2017, Matthew began apprenticing at Olwell Flutes, where his love of the flute and Irish music motivate him to continue the family tradition of flutemaking.

Orders and other questions? Please email us through the Contact page.

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