I love this time of year when the weather begins to cool and the rains return. For most, the grey days we have here in the PNW can be hard to take. But it’s those grey days that spawn so much creativity through the fall and winter months. It’s also what makes the forests here. Those quiet temples whose stillness inspires deep reflection. The Japanese have the perfect term for it - shinrin yoku - forest bathing. These photos were taken on random recent walks. Enjoy your own personal shinrin yoku as you view them
As summer winds down and green begins to give way to brown, I can feel the change of seasons in the air. All of the activity, growth and fullness of the summer is starting to give way to the introspective nature of fall. We’ve had a pretty dry and hot summer this year here in Oregon and I’ve been seeing it in the trees, the plants and the soil. Even though things seem dry, it’s still lush. I don’t think the Pacific Northwest knows how to be any other way BUT lush. I took some photos today of my walk through Tualatin Hills Nature Park and share them here. As I walked through the park, it was easy to feel the dryness but even so, I still saw flowers blooming. It reminded me of Jeff Goldbume’s line from Jurassic Park - “Life always finds a way.”
It’s hot tonight. Getting late. I’ve got the sliding door wide open. The candle burns. The tea is warm and delicious. Crickets are louder than normal. I’m enjoying their song.
I love this time of year in Oregon - cricket season. I just made a 5-minute recording of them to use in some sort music or soundscape later.
There was a small rain shower that passed a few minutes ago. Nature is slow, intentional - always there to remind us to slow down and take the present as it is.
I’m glad the reminder is there.
So I’m sharing the video above in its rawness, because to share the process of crafting a song and the practice that goes behind it is not something that is often seen. I remember once someone remarked how inspiring it was to see my growth as a musician on stage. In looking back along some of the public performances I’ve had, I see she’s right. I’ve grown a lot. There’s room for more growth and I’m sure it will happen.
I think about other artists who inspire me through sharing their art and lives. Two ladies in particular come to mind at the moment. Swedish artist Jonna Jinton and musician Amanda Palmer. Even though these two ladies are dichotomous in character, they share their art, triumphs, messiness, playfulness, ideas, life and passion in an honest, sincere and most human way. I’ve been enjoying this aspect and am inspired to share the same ways.
I love this video because it’s about (re)crafting the artist inside as much as it is about crafting a song. I’ve known what it’s like to work occupations that see you as nothing more than a cog in their wheel so to be able to sit down and live in creative moments like this one and then share them is precious to me. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting to my inner artist and getting to know her again. It feels so GOOD! It feels like I can breathe again. So enjoy this moment with me. There are more coming.
Thank you for watching!
Holy cow. Where do I start? There are times when spirit comes roaring out of the gate and all you can do it just hold on for the ride of your life. This is where I’m at right now.
The recent firestorm about the abortion bans over the last couple of weeks has me speaking out not about abortion itself or any other specific issue but more as a human who feels the heat of a system that is increasingly going insane. Last week, I experienced speaking out in a way I never expected when the anti abortion law in Alabama passed. It was like everything that had been bottled up for so long came out of my mouth. But it wasn’t raging or ranting but more like trying to bring some sense of humanity to counter what’s going on in our country and communities and indeed, our world.
So, I’m allowing myself to ride this wave of intent into this week and asking questions and finding answers and damn…..!
As an artist, I’m finally finding the words I’ve been so longing for to describe why it is that I make music. The one word I keep coming back to is connection. The way I choose to do that is through the making of music. I’ve always done this. Music and the arts have always been a way that people and societies can begin to relate and resonate with each other on levels that we can’t describe. To feel with each other, cry with each other, laugh until we split a gut with each other. Finding the richness in each other and ourselves and creating that frickin world that Gandhi talked about all those years ago. I feel we are on the precipice of that moment of finding that world. Or maybe it’s just me but I feel it. And feels friggin’ GREAT! It feels….it feels…. It feels like I’m losing my mind and perhaps I am. Losing that mind that has been so repressed and restrictive and replacing it with a mind that’s free. Maybe you’re feeling the same. Tell me if you are. I’m listening!
The word practice is something many of us kind of cringe at and perhaps it’s because we’ve been so conditioned to immediate gratification. We don’t want to take the steps to our goals. We just want to take the shortest cuts we can to get to where we’re going or we just simply want to be there without having to sweat. I’ve seen this in so many people over the years and I get it. But I also get it that practice doesn’t have to mean the slogging, sweating, bleeding, and agony that we often make it out to be. And when we do this, our practice can often bog down and sometimes we simply quit. So here are three things you can do to make your practice easier and to keep it from going south.
1. Break things down to bit sized chunks.
When you start a new project, how many times have you ever looked the whole thing and got overwhelmed? We all do this whether it’s a piece of music or building a house. Thing is when you can break a project down into smaller tasks, it makes the process of learning and doing so much easier. Put another way, this is the practice of taking steps.
2. Stay patient and keep showing up.
It’s easy to be distracted by the end result of anything and think about how so grand and glorious it will be to get there. Before you know it impatience sets in because it seems things are just taking too long to get there. Here’s something that can help. Just focus on the work directly in front of you and celebrate that when you complete it. Don’t worry about anything else. Yes, you can keep your eye on the prize but let it inspire you and not become something to flog yourself with. There is no race, no competition. Just the enjoyment of showing up.
3. Start a practice group.
When you play an unusual instrument like the didgeridoo, it’s really easy to feel isolated in your practice. You feel like no one else on the planet does what you do. If you’re starting to feel this, try to find others to play with. It may take some doing to find them but they’re out there. When you can find others who are on the same journey as you, it can do two things - encourage you to play more and you pick up handy playing tips you may not have thought of. So get out and make some friends. Start a practice group and have fun!
Obviously, these aren’t the only practice tips but it’s a start. Don’t be afraid to explore and see what you can come up with on your own. If you do, feel free to share it ‘cause as they say, we’re all in this together.
Many thanks, happy practicing and take it easy!
This is a journey of a didgeridoo in the making in photos and comments. I’ve been wanting to do this project for awhile now, telling the story of how a didgeridoo is made so now here it is. As I work on it I will continue to add photos and commentaries until the didgeridoo is done. At the end, I plan on making a sample video of what the didge will sound like. The didge is one I’m making for a couple in Kansas. The wood I’m using is a yucca stalk, which is the flowering part of the yucca plant. The main reason I wanted to do this project is because many people ask me “how is a didgeridoo made?” This journal, I hope, can be an answer to that question.
Many thanks for coming along on this journey. Let’s begin…..
The stalk started off as a eight footer but since I need to make a D didgeridoo, I had to cut it down to around six feet to start with. This photo was taken just before I split it with the box cutter and the one butter knife you see in the photo. I usually use two butter knives but they were in storage somewhere. It didn’t take long to split it since the shell is fairly thin, which makes the making process a bit of a challenge - to hollow it out without breaking or compromising the shell.
Splitting is done now. The one butter knife worked! It’s pretty bug eaten at the top end but has a fairly solid bell end. I think this is gonna be a good one with lots of resonance!
And I’m done for the day. Got most of the material from one side out using my trusty 20mm gouge. The material in yucca is super soft - like a stringy, spongy material which makes it fairly easy to get out. Occasionally, I come across actual hard wood spots on the inside. This didge has a couple of these. Next step is to start the finish work with a smaller (about a quarter inch) gouge.
As you see, I do pretty much everything by hand. I like doing it this way mostly because it’s my meditation while creating. I get to really know the didge inside and out so by the time it’s shipped, it’s not just another instrument but rather a creation going out into the world to make more happy people.
The bug eaten bit of the second side. A lot of the top end of this didge was chewed up by a beetle. I know this for a fact because I found the body inside (sorry for “ew” factor). There are a lot of tracks and plugs left behind which makes my job a bit easier……At least until I get to the bell end.
I have three main tools I use to hollow out a didge. The two you see here are the 20mm gouge and the quarter inch gouge. The third tool isn’t pictured but it’s a linoleum cutter which looks like a nasty claw from some prehistoric critter mounted in a handle. I use it to get the bulk of material out. It does a great job as you may imagine. The 20mm gouge is used to get the remaining material out while the smaller quarter inch gouge is used to do the detail work on the inside.
And day 2 is done. I finished after dark but the didge is well on it’s way. I hadn’t planned on it but I got the second side mostly hollowed out. The red bit in the photo on the right is one of the hardwood spots I mentioned earlier. It’s not super hard but it is wood - about the hardness of bass wood so it’s easy to carve.
The next step is to do the detail work on the second half. See ya’ll tomorrow.
So I had a fatality today. I was doing some of the detail carving on the inside when I heard a snap. My quarter inch gouge is now in two pieces. I ended up finishing the detail work on the inside with a smaller gouge. It took a bit longer but the inside is done. You can’t really tell the work I’ve done from the photos but at least you know what the inside of a yucca didge looks like now.
Time to glue up. This part of didge making is a race to see if you can get the didge back together before the glue dries. The steps are
Spread the glue evenly along the joint of one half
Put the two halves together and try to keep them together (more of a challenge than it seems)
Get the hose clamps on and tightened before the glue decides to dry.
Working with yucca and agave can be a special challenge because sometimes the shells are super soft and thin as is the case with this didge. But in tightening the clamps, I didn’t hear an cracking noises so it’s all good.
And it’s tea time while I wait for the glue to dry
Took the hose clamps off today and started the making the mouthpiece. The wood I’m using is poplar. It’s not the prettiest wood nor the hardest but it is a nice wood with a good consistency. Below are photos of the steps I take in cutting out the “doughnut” and gluing it on to the didge. It’s definitely not the quickest or most efficient way to do things but it still works in getting a nice comfy mouthpiece.
After cutting out the mouthpiece, I sand the inside diameter to the size I want which is usually around an inch and an eighth give or take a 16th of an inch. After the sanding, I’ll glue the mouthpiece doughnut onto the didge and secure it with electrical tape to hold it on tight. Seems like an odd thing to do but it works every time. Next up, sanding……lots of it.
And taping the bug holes with painter’s tape so when I pour the epoxy through the inside, it stays inside. I call this step blue measles.
Today is the first coating of epoxy on the inside. After mixing the epoxy, I poured it down the mouthpiece end so I can get a nice even coating and better coverage around the mouthpiece joint where it’s most critical. After the pour, I capped the ends with plastic bags to keep the epoxy in. At about four hours, I take the bags off and let the didge bask next to a warm heater to expedite the curing.
Tuning day. So when this didge started out, the original stock was about seven and a half feet long. I had already cut about 18” off the bottom which sacrificed a beautiful large bell and took the stalk down to about six feet. The piece I cut off with the big bell will be used later for another didge. Since the stalk is so skinny, I knew I was going to have a fairly low note. It turned out to be a low Bb and I needed to make a D didge. So, I used a Japanese pull saw to tune it by cutting off the length bit by bit until i got a D. What was a six foot didge is now just under five feet tall.
The next step is pouring a second coating of epoxy through the inside from the bell end to get a nice even coating throughout the didgeridoo and to fill in any spots that were missed in the first coating.
So, I poured the second coating of epoxy through the inside of the didge and I made a boo boo for the first time in eight years. As it was curing, the didgeridoo was laying next to a heater and the epoxy hardened faster than I had planned. I ended up with a buildup that I had to sand out. It wasn’t too bad to work with since it wasn’t completely cured but cured enough to sand nicely. All in all, it took about half an hour to sand it out. Sometimes even the pros don’t get it right but that’s how you learn.
After sanding out the boo boo, I put on the first coating of epoxy on the outside. I’ve removed the tape from the holes so it no longer has blue measles and did some final sanding to get a nice surface. Nature’s paintbrush has blessed this didge with some really sweet spots. It’s going to be a beauty I think….. We’ll know soon!
Second coating of epoxy is on. Epoxy not only gave this didge a durable finish but it also helped to strengthen the stalk. When I started this didge, the stalk was super soft to the point that I could squeeze it and more than likely break it just with my hand. I am so happy that I could get a nice resonant didge that is also fairly durable. Next step is to degloss.
Wet sanding my way through the afternoon to take the high glossiness off the epoxy so I can give the didge a more satin finish to it. I find this type of finish is much nicer and lets the colors and grain of the wood pop better than the gloss does. So I grabbed some 320 grit wet sanding paper and went to work. Like many things in the world of didge making, it took at least twice as long to do this bit because of all the little bumps and dips and nooks and crannies that yucca has. So I had to really get down into the last little crevice to make sure I left very few shiny spots behind. After deglossing, I put a coating of wax over the epoxy, let it dry and did a vigorous wipe down to take the extra wax off. I also left the mouthpiece natural and gave it a couple of coatings of food grade butcher block finish, which is a mix of bees wax, carnuba wax and mineral oil. As you can see below, the extra effort is well worth the work.
So that’s a wrap: eleven days over six weeks of making this didgeridoo plus the carry bag. It’s now happily on it’s way to its new home in Kansas. I’m sure some of you will read this journal as a step-by-step course of how to make a didgeridoo. This wasn’t my intention. This journal is more meant to be a journey showing the major points of the time, effort and energy it takes to make a didgeridoo. Most of the days I spent with this didge ranged from six to eight hours and many of those hours were spent problem solving, preparing and cleaning up. The rest of the time was what you see in these photos and descriptions. Even though the hours can be long, it’s time well spent creating an instrument that will bring joy to it’s new owners.
I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I get when I get feedback from a customer about how much they love their new didgeridoo. I become a part of their journey of creation and exploration even though we may never meet. The bond I have with the didge itself is strong. When you work with the wood or stalks, you really get to know every inch of the instrument you’re creating and by the time you’re ready to ship the didgeridoo off, it’s much like sending your child into the world to do its work. That’s when crafting an instrument really becomes something special.
I do plan on posting a short video soon with a sound sample of this didge but for now…….it’s tea time.
Thank you so much for reading this! I really appreciate the time you spend here and that really means a lot to me. While you’re here, feel free to leave a comment, observation or question. I love it when people engage. Until then, take care.
27 Dec 2018 - The didge made it to Kansas and is now in the hands of its happy owner.
Many thanks Karolyn for the opportunity to make a didgeridoo for you and for your support! May your new instrument bring you as much joy in playing it as I had making it!
Summer is slowly changing to Fall here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a good time for going inward and just observing quietly. I was sitting and observing leaves in the breeze the other day and this following poem came out. I don’t consider myself a poet but once in awhile a gem will come to me. It goes……
Thank you so much for reading this. I really appreciate it! Share it, love it, read it as much as you like. If you really liked it please consider supporting more art and beauty and becoming a patron by following this link to my Patreon page. This really helps me to keep the music, art, poetry and anything else coming through.
In Gratitude and Love,
Shameless pre article ad. If you get something out of this article and want to show the love and help keep more work like this coming, hop on over to my Patreon page and become a supporter for just five bucks a month. You have my eternal gratitude for just even looking! xoxoxo
This is a shorty so here goes.....
In the world of music and being a musician, performer, composer and teacher, I often see people who are trying to play like someone else. I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into this trap as well especially as a performer. I remember times in the not so distant past, trying to play didgeridoo like this person or that person and falling flat on my face. It’s a special brand of self-torture I think we all engage in from time to time. Especially when we find someone who excites us so much we want to do what they’re doing. The truth is, we can’t do what they do, in the way they do it. And we shouldn’t. It leaves little room to find our own voice. I think there are a couple of reasons why we engage in trying to play like someone else. One is healthy and the other is not. It seems the healthy way is to play like your hero so you can use these skills as a springboard to explore your own voice and gifts. The unhealthy way is to keep playing like your hero in hopes of sounding like them. Enter the special brand of self-torture of feeling so unsatisfied with your own playing that often times you feel like quitting. So what can one do to get out of this trap if we find ourselves in it? I offer this tip.....
Just sit for a moment, let yourself breathe and your mind relax and then, when you really feel ready, just let yourself simply play your instrument and truly love what you hear.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
We live in a complicated world where we feel that to make things more complicated than they are is the way to success. The harder we work at something, the more we feel we’re accomplishing something. Actually, the opposite it true. If we can get ourselves to relax into what we’re doing and just love what we are hearing and allow ourselves to be where we’re at (i.e. engaging in non self-judgment or in “beginners mind”) then we stand a chance to finding that voice from within that is trying to express itself through you. This works as much in life as it does in making music. So if you find yourself trying to sound like so and so because the are sooooo cool, you can do that but let it be place where you can use it as a jumping off point to find your own expression.
Nuff said. Now go make some beautiful noise and love THAT!
So eventually this was bound to happen - I started carving the little DidgeTree charms out of wood for the past few days and the results are turning out beautiful. I love the idea of working with natural materials that are available all around me. Up until now, I had been working with a material called Apoxie Sculpt which is a two-part epoxy clay that I paint up to look like wood but I have to say, the real deal is so much more satisfying to work with. So, over the next few weeks, I'll be phasing out the Apoxie Sculpt and phasing in the wood. It just seems to make more sense. If you want to check out the available DidgeTree necklaces you can find them in my Etsy shop.
Many thanks and Peace All!