Nicholas has been making frame drums for over 30 years. He first started out making Native American style drums, but over the years his interest in shamanism has moved from the North American 'medicine teachings,' to the shamanism of Central Asia and Siberia. With this gradual change of interest, his knowledge of ritual objects and drums has also therefore grown and shifted.




In Siberian shamanism, the drum is perhaps the most important object a shaman can own. Siberia and Mongolia are considered to be the original home of shamanism, and recent DNA tests have proved that Native Americans come from the Altai mountains in Northern Mongolia - which the shamans of the area have always said is the mountain home of all shamanism on earth. Siberia is where the word shaman itself comes from. It is from the shamans of this area that the shamanic journey, now popular in the West, originates.

Siberian drums are generally made especially for the shaman, and are often decorated with bells, cloth ribbons and other objects.

The drums are made by stitching the skin to the wooden frame. This is a slow process - taking upto six times longer than making a simple Native American style drum - which are generally made with a rawhide lace which forms the cross-shaped handle on the back of the drum.

This stitched construction makes Siberian style drums much more stable in different atmospheric conditions, and they tend to get less 'flat' in damp and cold weather.

Once the drum is skinned, some form of handle is added so it can be held and played. In Siberia these handles vary from simple rawhide straps to beautifully carved wooden handles or even complicated blacksmith made iron handles depending on the local tribal traditions and the vision of the shaman.



To make a drum for someone, Nick generally undertakes a shamanic journey to find out the nature of the drum he has been asked to make, as well as how it should be decorated and 'dressed' in ritual objects. He also encourages the person commissioning the drum to do the same. Between them, an idea of the style, size and decoration of the drum is worked out and then the drum making begins.

These drums may have a painted design on them, or just a wash of a single colour. This painting process can take a long time as the paints Nick uses are high quality ones with a slow drying time. Sometimes the inside of the skin at the back of the drum is also painted.

The handles on these drums maybe be simple or may be very complex involving Nick making beaten copper spirit faces and other items, as well as sourcing bells, metal jingle cones and other metal items from Mongolia or Central Asia. The drums are then hung with cloth - often old cloth from Mongolia - and often blue Mongolian shamanic offering scarfs called khadag.

Nick always suggests to people that they add further things to their drum as a way of working and bonding with them.

Prices for these drums vary from between £450 to £895, as they take far longer to make and have higher material costs. Nick discusses your budget with you at the start. There is normally a fairly long waiting list for these drums and once started they can take several months to complete if complex painting is required.

Each drum comes with a traditional Siberian style 'drum paddle' beater.



Shamans' 'drum paddles' - often known as orba (their name in the Tuvan language of Sothern Siberia) - are wooden sticks with one end covered in fur (generally reindeer or deer).

They often have a series of metal rings attached to them too, which rattle as the drum is beatern. Siberian shamans do not use rattles, but the orba does the same task. They are important shamanic objects in thier own right, used for blessings, as shamans whips and for divination (they are tossed in the air and the way they fall is read).

They are used by themselves as well as with drums. In some Siberian shamanic traditions orba are given to a new shaman a longtime before they are allowed to have a drum.

Nick makes orba with a fur covering for playing drums with and with metal rings, and with bells, khadags and other cloth streamers as decoration. The soft fur of an orba drum paddle makes them ideal to get a deep tone from a reindeer skin drum.



Below are designs painted onto the fronts of Native American style drums made by Nick over the years.