home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects archive


Becoming the hollow bone

Kate Walters (and Professor Penny Florence) on shamanic process in making art 




The table is prepared with fine paper, an inked-up monotype plate, a pencil and oil.

I use sage smoke and prayer to clean the space, myself, and my drum. I will not have consumed alcohol. I usually use my deerskin drum, made in Copenhagen, which I chose myself. It is quite small, and is known as a healing drum.

I gather my focus until it becomes intense, urgent; I feel a force in my chest. My heart is on fire. My shoulders spread wide, flatten somewhat. I ask that my vibrational frequency be increased.

I call in my help by drumming and singing in the room, I ask the four directions, the earth, the sky, myself, to help and protect me. I ask for vision from the great feathered one, for acuity in seeing; a high perspective. I ask for my mind to be quiet, I ask that I am receptive and safe. I ask that everything I do shall be for the highest good and in the light of the highest power.

I am most aware of the East, place of beginnings and illumination.

The person I work with will have been sitting quietly, observing the ceremony. I explain what I will do. I sit beside them, or opposite them. I stretch out my leg so that my ankle will just touch theirs (a small amount of physical contact helps with the connection but it isn’t essential). We talk about why they are called to work with me. It may be a problem, a dream, or a personal situation they wish for guidance on. Or they may say nothing at all.

I begin to drum, softly at first, a fast rhythm becoming more rapid and strong. The drum will usually begin to sing, a soft and high pitched harmonic. I will ask for protection again, and for sight. The phrase ‘becoming the hollow bone’ refers to an emptying of the self of day-to-day concerns, in order that vision and knowing will come (the phrase shaman means ‘one who sees, one who knows’). I learned to work this way many years ago as part of my shamanic training and healing work. It is also used in soul retrieval.

I move into a different kind of awareness. The fast drumming alters the brain waves to ‘theta’ waves, which are those instrumental in visionary work, clairvoyance and in dreaming. I ask my helpers to show me what I need to see, and I will be given information for the person I am working with. This is confidential and I cannot describe specifics relating to others here, but I may be given details of significant music, events, a colour, an important animal or bird; or a sense of what the person needs to do in order to fully inhabit themselves and their lives.

When I enter the ‘theta’ state I may travel to either the Upper world or the Lower world. The Upper world is luminous, inhabited by mountain tops, birds, endless space, planets, stars and openness. The lower world is rich in Nature, green and luscious with plant life, flowers, animals and also birds. Reptiles and insects are avoided.

Threads of awareness will float and gather. My antennae will travel and quest. Animals may show their four sides, or the insides of their mouths; my hands might open and flow with pomegranate seeds; I may find myself in the breast of a large white bird, surrounded by the peculiar smell of her feathers; I might hear music, or see people from another time or culture.

When I feel I have enough information, I stop my drumming and begin to draw what I have seen, and often make notes too. Then I show my co-creator their drawing, and describe what has occurred. It is usually an emotional experience for the co-creator.

I have worked with this technique at Glasgow School of Art, at Jam on the Marsh music festival in Kent; in London, at Espacio Gallery, and with Marc Almond to create all the original drawings for his album The Velvet Trail. Last May I made a shamanic intervention at the Venice Biennale, and all the fish came to see me; but to the people I appeared invisible.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes very well what I feel during the process:

“Flower muscle, slowly pulling open

the anemone’s vast meadow morning,

until the lord sky’s polyphonic light

comes pouring down into its womb”

April 2016




On 'Clearseeing drawing' or ‘Becoming the hollow bone’.

Professor Penny Florence


Kate Walters' fascinating new departure, which she brilliantly calls 'becoming the hollow bone', takes audience participation to a new level. Showcased in the summer in Hoxton, and most recently at the Espacio in London, participants are brought into the making of the work. The artist sits with her subject in the gallery (or indeed, anywhere) and 'channels' them to create a unique monotype, which the person can take away with them. This is much deeper than setting work up to which people can respond in various ways. Yet - and this is the real master stroke - though the 'audience' is brought right into the making of the work, the artist remains in the key rôle. This is no dilution of the artist, but rather a true sharing of her talent. Gallery, visitor, artist, artwork: they are all changed. I felt privileged and moved to witness it. 

March 2015