Have you ever seen a Native American rattle made from the shell of a turtle? It’s used by a variety of tribes and it’s quiet sound is perfect for accompanying singing or special ceremonies.
These turtle rattles were made by craftsman, Ron Poole who actually started making drum beaters before he created these unique instruments. His story and comments below will tell you more about his background as a craftsperson as well as what it takes to make a traditional rattle such as the ones pictured here.
“As a young boy, I remember watching my grandfather and father create pieces of art out of materials found in nature. I was amazed at their creations and hoped I too someday would follow in their footsteps. It was not until a trip out west that the spark was lit and I began to infuse native imagery into my own work.
My carving is an effort to further the family tradition and explore the connection between cultures, myth and music. I started out making Native inspired drum sticks also referred to as beaters which led to learning how to make Turtle Rattles. I began making the beaters after being gifted from my girlfriend a hand drum and beater making kit from Noc Bay Trading Company. They included a small black and white instruction on how to create a beater from a wooden dowel, piece of deer hide, artificial sinew, yarn and glue.
When I began making my first beater, I looked at the dowel and decided that I wanted to find wood from the forest behind my home. I enjoy trying to keep the beaters as close to their natural state as possible often leaving the bark on the beater.
When making the turtle rattles I use a power hand drill to drill out the holes and attach the leather using a thick needle and artificial sinew. I fill the turtle rattle with sea shells that creates the percussion. I handburn the rattles with a Nisburner hand burner. Hand burning; called pyrography, is one of my favorite parts of creating art. Burning yourself can be a bit painful but kind of comes with the territory.
Here is some of the information I include with my turtle rattles:
Legend says when Native Americans first moved into North America they called it Turtle Island. The turtle provided food and bowls. When the belly of the shell was split it gave them sharp tools and weapons. They later realized that the turtle lived a very long time. They believed it had a special spirit of longevity, strength, and wisdom. The turtles became revered and honored, and were made into rattles and hangers and decoration for use in ceremonies. Ceremonial drums were also made from larger species. This is the meaning of the Turtle Rattle.”
You can view Ron’s artwork and hand-crafted items for sale at:
You can find a kid’s craft version of a turtle rattle made from recycled take-out containers here: http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/TurtleRattleInstructions.pdf
You can enter to win one of Ron’s beautiful turtle rattles until November 25, 2012 here: http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php