The paintings on my drums come from gazing into the newly dried hide and seeing forms appear in the mottled surface. When I make a shamanic rattle, it is as if the drum images come alive in the three dimensional forms of dried skin.
The basic form is made by sewing wet rawhide into a shape, and then packing the interior with wet, clean, coarse-grained sand. The rawhide shape is allowed to dry for several days until the sand can be knocked out, leaving a hard hollow form.
This Fancy Dancer is made of such complex twists and turns that its not really possible to understand its overall form, which seems to match my experience of watching the fancy dancers at tribal pow wows. In the rattle all the color and detail is on the inside, made of the seeds, stones and other sacred objects filling the rawhide shells.
Sometimes the shaman rattle takes a shape that was not planned or intended. It just happens in the curls of leftover hide scraps from making a drum, and suddenly, an Octopus spirit is born.
This rattle of Eagle spirit had a powerful beginning story. We live on a northern island, known for its wild places and eagles. Many years ago, when I first moved to Cortes, I asked at the beginning of a canoe trip, "May I please be honored to find an eagle feather." Someone had given me the breast bone of a large bird and I understood that if I received an eagle feather this would confirm that the bone was from an eagle. The 28 feathers that I found on that weekend became this shamanic rattle, used for eating from the body energy that is out of phase.
Sometimes a drum fails--the wood warps or the hide develops cracks. When this happens the image comes alive as neither a drum nor a rattle. This drum face was cut away from a twisted frame and became a dimensional painting of birth: the beaded blood lines becoming black headed sperm seeds swimming through turkey feathers to contact the egg that will be the mother and child.
I understand that everything is alive, and yearning to find its true form. As an artist, one of my best skills is to let the form itself say how it wants to come alive.
Now that I am returned from holiday, and the 2nd edition of the Journey Oracle divination deck is ready to pick up from the printer--I will be focusing on creating an online oracle reading.