Students and Inspiration

I’m always happy to teach people how to make their own drums, and this morning I had a student who made a lovely 18-inch reindeer drum on a birch hoop.


Setting up for a student, or a group of students, starts well in advance. I have to order in materials, which takes about two weeks, and then the night before, the hide(s) go into the bath to soak. Here’s half a reindeer hide soaking last night.

After that, there’s organising the workspace.


While the hide’s in the bath, the table is moved into position by the window for a good light and I lay out sandpaper, beeswax, furniture polish (some people prefer one, some the other) with a clean jay cloth to rub it in well, scissors for cutting hide, the hoop and (in this case) the metal tension ring, glue gun and pencil.

Here’s another view, without the glue gun – I’d just plugged that in ready to turn on.


Today’s drum was a lovely piece of work by Ron, who finished in record time – but he’s made drums before, which helps enormously.

After today’s tuition session, I was feeling inspired so I got out an 18 inch oval oak hoop I’ve had sitting waiting for a while. I drew out the designs to decorate the hoop in pencil last autumn but then Life got in the way and while pyrography happened within a few days of the sketches, it’s taken until today to feel ready to paint the hoop.

Most of the decoration will remain just pyrography but some parts wanted a touch of colour. I’ve used acrylic paints, which dry fast, come in a wide range of colours, blend easily, clean up off the brush very well and will hold their colour for a long time to come! The inside of the hoop has a circle of the year, with each season being represented by a few scenes. Either side of the join in the hoop are snowflakes for midwinter, followed by a group of stylised dancers, sunrise over a stone circle, a horse-drawn plough, a pair of hares boxing, another group of dancers, an oak leaf, a maypole, a bee, some honeycomb, a pair of foals playing, another set of dancers, a sheaf of corn, a squirrel, a stalk of wheat, an acorn, another set of dancers (this time with a lit torch upraised), a fly agaric fungus, a winter-bare tree, a Mari Llywd and so back to the snowflakes.

In the next few days I’ll put a boar hide on this frame and leave it aside to dry in its own time. Whether the hide will want some decoration or not I don’t know – nor have I decided yet whether to do this one as a ring-tensioned hide or a Native American style drum. When the hide’s ready I’ll make up my mind!

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