With Fiona Dove

And again, things have moved forward since I last wrote and I’m now back home in Hereford. Reminder … Fiona is in process of getting 3-day workshop together for this autumn, the dates are the evening of Fri 20th October to the morning of Tue 24th. She’ll have the details up on the Bean-Sidhe website soon, I’ll give the details here and Facebook/Twitter, but if you’d like to come on it contact Fiona now as there are only 4 places and I think one of them is gone already ????. Contact Fiona at at beansidhedrumcraft@gmail.com.


So now, back to what happened up in Scotland, I’d just finished about us working with earth and fire …

Fiona began lacing the drum. She was using an inner ring to lace to rather than cross-lacing, the drum-spirit had asked for that. We both like it too, it seems to form a more stable anchor and handle for the drum. We’d considered and spoken with the drum-spirit about using, making, a wooden inner ring out of twisted birch or willow but this drum didn’t want that, it asked for metal so that was what we gave.

Lacing, again, isn’t rocket science but it does require focus and concentration, it would be too easy to suddenly find yourself going the wrong way about. Whether or not to twist the lacing was another consideration, some drums like it and others don’t so we’d talked about it the night before. Both of us are also spinners and weavers so the concept of “twist” has more meaning for us and we got into a “how many twists” thing as you do when spinning … LOL. This drum wasn’t really into twists but it’s something Fiona intends to talk about on the workshop as some will be.

Lacing the drum is such a sound thing … air thing. It’s all about tension, and the sound. As you start the process you feel you’re working with something like a hundred miles of lacing as you pull the whole jolly boiling through each hole. About two thirds of the way round your feelings go 180 degrees and you begin to panic that you may run out and not make it all the way around! It’s somehow weird, you begin thinking you have far too much and then you worry you don’t have enough – where has it all gone? Then you realise you need to be centring that ring, and adding some tension as you go to hold the ring in position … and, in doing so, you give yourself more lacing. For me, it’s rather like a breathing process, in and too full, out and too little, but like breathing you begin to get a rhythm to the whole thing. And, in Fiona’s case, a little humming song. You sing to the drum as you bring it into a state where it can sing back to you.

There was a quiet “phew!” as she got all the way round with the lacing for the first time. Then she picked up the drum and tapped the hide. “thwuck” it said, flatly, no singing voice there yet, so round she went for the second time, tensioning each thread … and acquiring yet more lacing back as she did. Hide stretches, skin stretches, especially well when it’s wet, that’s what enables you to put the tension in. at the end of the second round she tapped the hide again – this time the “thwuck” was a little brighter, his voice was coming but it wasn’t with us yet. Third time around, more lacing and … this time … it was a “thwunk”, there was tone in there, a sound more than like the slap of a wet fish.

Now’s the dangerous and difficult time, the time when you could easily over-tension and ruin the drum! Fiona sat with the drum and asked, “Are you ready?”. It asked for the tiniest, teeniest bit more tension, a very delicate job that requires you to keep tapping and listening as you go, and not always in a simple circle round, it may also need more tension in different places. And then … “THWUNK” said the drum, ringing softly. He was done.

We put him in a cool dim room to begin his long drying process, then took him back to Fiona’s home at the end of the week to another cool, dim room.

He sings now, a lovely deep and ringing voice ….


Next job is to begin to make his beater and we’ll be writing about that sooooon  …

 © Elen Sentier & Fiona Dove 2017. All rights reserved.