Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Coyote" flute and 'stuff'

Admittedly, with the warmer weather (when it hasn't been raining!) I've been letting the sawdust fly. Besides my crop of flutes I have chosen to make at this time, there are a couple of custom orders embedded therein. I just delivered "Coyote" to a customer Saturday and thought you might like to see it and how it came to be...

If someone really wants a particular flute, we talk about all the details insofar as keys, woods, styles, budgets, etc. This person is fairly new to the Native American style of flute and wanted a special flute that had to do her attachment to coyotes. In native lore, Coyote is the quintessential trickster, revered for its cunningness but also it's wild-card factor since Coyote keeps you on your toes! All I had to go by was she loved textures of unusual woods and left the art details to me. I explain that I do not take prepayment or deposits...in order for this to work I have to 'feel' like working on it, and I make no promises in the 'time' category; once the flute is finished I send photos and sound samples. That person has 'dibs' if they want it; if for some crazy reason they don't, I have a very sellable flute on my hands.

And so Coyote (mid-G) was put into motion. I chose to go with this wonderful piece of Black Limba for the body, an African wood revered for its tonal quality in mandolins and other acoustic instruments. I knew I was going to use some inlay somewhere somehow, and before I decided on the design I knew Turquoise would look smashing against that rich cocoa-y Limba. Pawprints came to mind quickly, and I decided to have them come up the flute from the end instead of heading the other direction (don't know why, just did). I next thought about thin inlay bands at either end, but had this crazy left-field idea to put in a curvilinear band just ahead of the block. Never done one before, never seen one before, but the picture popped in my head as clear as a bell and so I put it in.

(click on pics to enlarge)

As is the case with virtually every flute I make, the block is made after the flute is finished. I never really have thought why that is, just how I comfortably operate, and it feels right to do it that way, I was well pleased with the flute and inlay to this point, and the voice was clearly top-drawer. It was ready to go. But the block? Hmmmmm....the pawprints could be dog as easily as wolf as easily as coyote....the block needed to say 'coyote' in particular.

I did ask ahead of time for the client to email any pics they had seen they liked, and I also went snooping on the 'images' tab of Yahoo!search to see if anything struck me. I created a folder of images that I collected and then looked at them until something spoke to me. While I did have a few options in my head, one was a little different that I knew would be coyote-like: layering thin woods for a 'scene'. I liked the idea of a howling coyote silhouette against a skyline, and added in a small sihouette of a cactus which clearly spoke Desert SW. After poring through my thinner pieces, I opted for Ebony for the silhouette, Yellowheart for the sun or moon, and then a mountain ridgeline in Bubinga that had a bi-color thing going on:

Cool block. Hated it on the flute. Just didn't like it at all, like wearing plaids and stripes together. Don't know why I didn't see that train coming, and not sure exactly what it is except the busyness and colors of the block were in direct competition with the Black Limba and Turquoise patterns and textures. It was as if I immediately knew that block belonged on another flute and I had to go back to the drawing board. Matter of fact, I have several bodies it will look great on immediately...just not Coyote. Stuff like that happens once in a while.

Before the Flute 'found me', I had collected some Zuni animal carvings, known as fetishes. They are rather well-known, Zuni carvings which embody animal spiritual energy. Some are simple, and some are more intricate than you can even imagine (as well as the price tag!). Navajo carvings are less popular, but early on I picked up a Coyote by Navajo carver Herbert Davis because I just loved the tongue it was sticking out. I have long held the idea that with the right fetish for the right flute I might use them for that, and this Coyote looked like a perfect fit. In very short order I whipped out a base from some unknown burl piece and put it together:

I did contact the person and explained what I felt and sent the two composite shots above; they agreed that the Coyote carving was awesome on it, and so "Coyote" came to life much as you place in the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle:

And so another one of my 'kids' has come to life. Lots of others about to spill out anytime. I will soon blog (tomorrow?) about a brand new 'kind' of flute that came to fruition yesterday, thanks to an inquiry from a valued friend, Mike, owner of "Jonah" and "Praying Hands" if you've been following this blog for a good while. I have my first flute that has been tuned to Verdi frequencies, and it's a honey. If that doesn't mean a tinker's damn to you, worry not...it needs a lot of explaining and I'm rather excited about making more in like tuning. I still used the pentatonic scaling, but Verdi frequency tuning (A432 instead of the now-used A440) has been quite a long-running 'topic' in the world of classical music as well as sound therapy and healing schools of thought...stay tuned for more, as it's pretty cool stuff!

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