Click here for a three part video of a conversation I had with Yonga Sun about drums, making and the making of drums. We go into some technical aspects and talk extensively about the creative process in my work. It is in Dutch and I yet have to make a translation to English.
My work seems to be developing along three lines. Maybe somewhere in the future these lines will merge into one, but for now it keeps me fresh and focussed to hop between them from time to time.
1. The artful and original one-of's. These drums start with crazy ideas and fascinations. Like: At a familiy meeting I am chopping wood for the fireplace when I start fantasizing about making a stavedrum with an axe. An idea like that won't let me go and I'll search for a way to realize it.
In these drums concept, materiality, visual rhythm, colour, etc. are very important. There are no rules for me except that I want the drum to be well constructed and sounding very good. I step as far away as possible from the modern drum as we know it, with it's shiny skin and fancy plated metal parts. I sort of try to make drums that have something ancient and archetypical about them. It is very imortant for me to make these drums completely by hand, so I can literally get in touch with them.
2. Sound. In my UTUR design experiment I focus on creating a specific sound. The originality of the visual appearance of the drum is less important. Over years of experimenting, reading and talking to fellow drum builders and drummers, my ideas about sound are getting more clear. My ideas led to a little research, read about that in the downloadable PDF below.
3. Reclaiming old drums. Sometimes I come across antique or vintage drums that I cannot resist buying to turn them into a "new" drum. There is something deeply satisfying about giving old stuff a second life. Restoring, however, is of zero interest to me, because then the goal is too fixed (make it like it was). To me an old drum is inspiration and building material at the same time.
Inferior woods. Apart from being very splintery and thus difficult to work with I love Luan. Each time I reclaim a Luan shell (and give it really good edges!) I am amazed at how nice it sounds. There are inferior drums, but there are no inferior woods, in my humble opinion. I built a drum from fir that sounded just like any other.
Imperfection. I like things with a smudge, a dent, a speck of rust. I never polish my shells or chrome-plate or polish my hardware. Drums are a bit like people to me. Whoever met someone perfect? Sometimes I like to think of my drums as artefacts from my personal crusade against perfectionism. On the other hand I take great care that my drums are perfect on the level of construction and functionality. I want my drums to age naturally, but stay in shape.
Wood. In my drumbuilding career thusfar I spent 55 euro's on wood; 50 euro's for a mohagony church bench and 5 euro's for a board of unknown hardwood in a secondhand store. All the rest was found on the street, given to me, or taken from the forest ground. I like working with what I have and what comes to me. Too much wood (and other stuff) is wasted in this world.
Creating. Creating is my most natrual state of being. When I am more or less into balance, my mind is always playing. It plays with words, melodies, rhythms, shapes, structures, materials. This playing is always fresh an joyful. My most important aim in drumbuilding is keeping this freshness coming through.
I am Bart Westera. I studied sculpture at an art school, worked as a fine art painter for several years and then studied psychology. Now I work as a part time drum builder, part time painter (click here for my site) and part time health care psychologist. I have a girlfriend, a beautiful son and a beautiful daughter. We live in Diepenveen, The Netherlands.
I am also Bert Willems. I am an alter ego of Bart (non-clinical!). I appear in comical sketches from time to time. I play to be the owner of BW drums then. See the sketches here. (At some time in the future I give them subtitles)