Across all time and in every culture, persons of power have traveled to alternate realities on the vibrations of a journey drum.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Painted drum with animal spirits

First there was a drum with a pipe shape in the newly dried hide.

And for many months as I worked with my Journey Oracle cards and went on hiking holidays, the drum stayed clear and smooth without my effort but for the stabilizing of the bullet hole in the rim,

And the wrapping of the eight pointed interlacement pattern of transformation woven into the back cedar ring of the drum. 

The drum transformed, as all beings do, and this was the first creature to be seen floating above the bowl.

Then the bird appeared, an odd but sturdy perch upon which the little bear could sit.

But the bird was not the last but only the next, as it in turn leans against a cat.

A strange fox made mostly of smoke with eyes that see to the spirit side balanced at the apex,

While a snake looped itself along the stem of the dreampipe.

Who are all these creatures? 

And why are they perched on a dreaming shaman drum

Each of these animals holds a place in the heart of my spiritual growth.  The fox of my personality is held by my bear and bird teachers.  The cat and the snake are the closest to the good work that comes through the stem of intention and out from the bowl into action.  So I guess you could say this is a family portrait.  What creatures are part of your family portrait?

Listen to the voices in this drum by clicking on this youtube link.  This 14" frame drum of Cortes Island blacktail deer hide and BC spruce wood is available in my webstore.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A drum for dreaming

This new drum from the Journey Oracle is called “dreampipe” and how it got its name is a good story.

A friend called to tell me that a beautiful sailboat was in her bay that looked like our Bristol 29.9.  She thought the make was a dream pipe. While I was talking to her, I was also putting the final leather thongs on the reverse of this drum.

I turned it over and was surprised to see a pipe in the patterning of the blacktail deer skin.

I went on line and discovered the sailboat is a Pipe Dream 36’ which does indeed look like a bigger version of our Pearl.  But by now the drum was showing me images in the white streaks of smoke rising from the bowl of dreams.

This 14” frame of British Columbia Spruce wood also has a special task: stabilizing the drum skin around the bullet hole that is positioned on the rim.   When a thin, clear skin has the bullet hole as part of the drum, I consider this a doorway.  For this drum a path to the dreamtime.

This drum for dreaming also has a beautiful teaching in the Octagram tied into the cedar withy ring for the hand-hold of the drum.  This is the sign of regeneration.  The two squares that make the central motif can be seen as a square and a diamond.  That which is hard and clear from the past combined with that which is solid and grounded in the present.  

I will paint this drum, but first I like to offer a drum with its own face, just in case you want to see your own dreams in the patterns of light and shadow.

14" Spruce wood hoop
Cortes Island Blacktail deer hide
Octagram interlacement pattern in cedar withy 

visit my webstore for price and shipping details
or contact Kristen at 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cougar spirit shaman drum

I’ve just finished painting this new native style frame drum with a spruce wood hoop and blacktail deer hide. The hoop is 12" in diameter but the voice is deep and strong.  A perfect drum to play outside because the smaller drum head size will not easily slacken in humidity or warp in heat.

This drum was first called "rain" because spirits always come in the rain, and our drought here in British Columbia was ended (briefly) with two days of rain just before I painted this great cat touching a pool of rainwater.  It has been so dry and the fire danger extreme, and I kept wondering, "What do the animals do?  How do they find water to survive?" 

The painting itself was inspired in the brief moment I drew a faint black line across the light area in the drum head which at first I thought was entirely the cat’s paw.  Suddenly the lower half of the shape became a reflection, and the faint squiggles in the deer skin’s surface resolved themselves into lines in rock and edges formed by water. 

The cedar ring is fitted with an interlacement pattern of the 7-pointed Mystic Star, which is considered effective protection against evil influences and rival magicians.

The star design is repeated twice, with the outer pattern wrapped in a decorative hitching of sailor’s knotwork made of doeskin.   In the Tarot, 14 is the number of Temperance—the quality of being moderate; to restrain from extremes. 

Perhaps the life-saving rain came in that world as well as this world, and the spirit of cougar is showing me that for this moment, the extreme has been moderated and all is well. 

For more information about this drum please visit my web store

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Shamanic frame drum from Journey Oracle

This native style frame drum is hand made with a spruce wood hoop and blacktail deer hide.

The cedar ring is fitted with an interlacement pattern of the 7-pointed Mystic Star, which is considered effective protection against evil influences and rival magicians. 

Numerous mystic sevens include the seven planetary spirits, seven deadly sins, seven churches of Asia, seven sacraments, seven days of creation, seven ages of man, seven pillars of wisdom, seven liberal arts, seven virtues, seven wonders of the world. 

The star design is repeated twice, with the outer pattern wrapped in decorative sailor’s knotwork of doeskin.

This drum is called “Little Brother” because it was taken from a deerskin that provided a second larger drum head.  It is very unusual for such a thin skin from a young deer to contain two drums.  To read more about my shamanic drums go to  To purchase Little Brother go to my web store.   The larger drum that I call “Big Sister” is being finished and will also be available for purchase soon.


12" spruce wood frame
Blacktail deer skin
cedar ring with Mystic Star interlacement pattern
wrapped in decorative knot work of doeskin

$250.00  (Can) unpainted 
shipping additional 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Repair your frame drum

I have been making frame drums for more than 30 years, and I sometimes repair splits in the dried skin where it passes over the drum rim. Here is a photo essay showing the techniques I use.

This drum has had the larger splits stabilized using small headed furniture tacks, and holes burned into the leading edge of smaller tears to stop their progress.

I assemble a needle nose pliers, a small hammer and nickel plated furniture tacks.

And also a wire cutter and small pair of vice grips.  I shorten the shank of each tack by almost 1/2 so I am not trying to pound its full length into the drum rim.  

The tack is then re-sharpened using a small taper file, again by holding it with the vice grips 
against a firm surface.  

The needle nosed pliers make it possible to grip the tack and keep it steadily positioned on the drum rim to one side of the tear.

Both sides of each larger split are anchored with tacks driven straight down into the center of the drum rim.  Takes a bit of courage to begin!

For smaller splits that have a clear leading edge, I use a large bodkin, or yarn needle, to burn a hole just where the tear ends. I am sure to mark the precise location with a pencil before heating the needle with a propane torch, because when the tip is red hot is not the time to go searching for the target. 

While not every split is capable of being stabilized using these two techniques, hopefully the overall effect will give the drum more years of being a voice for spirit. 

It is interesting to notice that most tears cluster on one side of a drum, as shown here by the position of the tacks.  This hoop is very strong, so when the uneven tension in the skin had to find release, it did so cracking itself, rather than by deforming the hoop.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Drum images come alive

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. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Oracle shamanic frame drum

This new drum from the Journey Oracle has a story of unexpected shifts and changes of direction.  When it was first drying I noticed the frame had a slight “lift” on two sides which is a technical disappointment to me because it means that I put too much tension along the backbone when I was making the drum.  This does not affect the sound of the drum, it is rather like a small chip in an otherwise beautiful carving.  But when the drum was fully dried, the lift, which usually gets worse instead of better, was almost entirely gone.

The cedar ring holding the back of the drum started out round, 

but as the drum dried it became more egg shaped, which caused the 9 pointed Star of the Muse interlacement pattern to “move” as if flowing to the right, instead of stay stationary in the center of the circle.

The original name of this drum was Smoke and Hope, because just as I was beginning the painting Master and Commander was on TV in the background, and I heard Russell Crowe tell his First Mate to “run like smoke and hope” to escape the pursuing French ship.  I was looking at the drum and suddenly saw the lighter areas as smoke. 

And then I saw the figure.  

And her hand appeared.

And I knew this was an Oracle.  Her expression is too mysterious for me to decipher.  Just as in the making of this drum, the understanding of who is speaking shifts and flows like the fire.


Blacktail deer hide, Spruce and Cedar wood
smoke-tanned leather hitching, raw earth pigments

shipping additional

For more information contact Kristen at

See more of Kristen's drums, drumsticks, shamanic paintings 
and the Journey Oracle cards and book go to

 Listen to this drum being played with a felt covered drum stick by clicking on this link: