Thursday, June 15, 2017

Baronial Rapier Champion

This scroll was created in advance for the Baronial Rapier Champion tournament in the Barony of Gryphon's Lair. The winner ended up being Maestro Azir de Lucero, and his name was added on site. It is based on a page from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, though I made the blossoms orange rather than pink. I wanted to reflect Baronial colors a bit more, and though there is no orange in our colors, it represents "gold" better than pink does.

Pictures taken at different angles so you can see how the gold reflects light.

Click to zoom

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cornerstone Micrography

My darling husband was going to prepare a Cornerstone scroll for Malatesta, but ended up in a medical emergency situation and he was unable to do it, much to his regret. Superhero wife comes to the rescue! My superhero costume closely resembles a bathrobe and slippers, folks. Don't be too impressed. This was done back in January.

This piece had to be done very quickly, given the deadline and the necessity that I be at the hospital with said husband. Therefore, I tried my hand at micrography, also called microcalligraphy. This is a Jewish art form which uses words to create images, dating back to at least the 9th Century. This article at the British Library shows some examples and history.

I sketched Malatesta's seven pointed comet, and wrote the scroll text to create the image in her heraldic colors. I'm afraid this was done so late at night that I didn't keep a copy of the wording in order to tell you what it says, and the image is too fuzzy to read. Basically it talks about Malatesta's amazing dedication to service in her official capacity as Lady in Waiting and in other roles as well. If you don't know this very fine gentle, you should!

I had envisioned their Excellencies signing this along the line down the center of the comet's tail, hence the penciled in line.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Non-Traditional SCA Award

I was asked to prepare a Golden Pillar of Artemisia award scroll for HE Asgierr, a dear friend. I debated for some time whether to make a traditional scroll, something "new to me" style-wise, or something non-traditional.  I opted for non-traditional, and decided to make a hand-bound book, since I did a traditional one for Asgierr just last year.

St. Cuthbert Gospel, British Library
I was inspired by the St. Cuthbert Gospel, an early 8th Century manuscript (British Library Add MS 89000).  The St. Cuthbert Gospel is not only a phenomenal piece of work, but is the earliest intact European example of bookbinding.

The British Library's blog has a fascinating post here about results of X-Rays and CT scans of the book. Previously, attempts at duplicating the bindings included using leather or rope for the raised design. The CT Scans make it clear that the design is made out of a clay-like substance. Mine is not a replication of this book, not by far! But the design concepts are what got my brain ticking.

I started off in traditional fashion by cutting out pages, and folding them into quires of five or so pages each. I then wrote the scroll text, loosely based on/inspired by the intro to Beowulf. I give full credit to THL Colyne Stewart for this blog post at The Scriptorium for the inspiration.

I translated the wording into runes - yes, the English decoder-ring style runes. Please don't hate. I know this is not a period practice, but I knew the recipient would love this. I then wrote out said runes on pages 2 and 3 of the first quire. I left page 1 blank, because every book I've made, without exception, gets glued to the end page at least 1/4 inch up.

For Christmas last month, I was given a hand-made stitching frame from my parents. My father is a brilliant craftsman (he also made my book press). I'm a lucky girl. Click the images to see larger versions.

I used a simple twine for my sewing cords, and waxed linen thread to stitch the quires together. This was my first time using a stitching frame, and it makes some things easier, and some things more difficult. I imagine it would make life much better when making a huge book, but for a tiny thing like this, it's really not that necessary. I did like practicing on it though!

Once the quires were stitched together, I pressed them into the book press, and used a light hammer to round out the spine a bit, and prepare it for gluing. To be honest, I need to do more reading as to the period practice of reinforcing the spine at this step in medieval bookbinding, but for this book I used a small strip of linen for reinforcement, and used PVA glue. When that was dry, I added pre-made headbands (not pictured).

I left that to dry, and set about making a raised design to add to the cover. Due to the timeline, researching and recreating period sculpting clay or gesso was not feasible. Additionally, my bookboard was slated to be pieces of chipboard rather than actual wood, which changes the scope of the project as well. 

My dear husband suggested I use sculpy - it's lightweight, fast to cure, and would never show under the leather binding. Pretty much a perfect idea.

I sculpted pieces that comprise a Valknut, a Norse symbol of importance to the recipient.

I'd never used sculpy before, and found it difficult to maintain sharp smooth edges when trying to move it from my cutting board over onto the silicone baking sheet. I crossed my fingers and hoped that covering the whole thing in leather would hide some of my sins.

I covered the text block with paper to protect it from stray glue, and covered the book in a supple brown goat skin. I used small manicure tools and a bookbinding spatula to push the leather into the nooks and crannies of the Valknut. When that was completely dry, I added red end papers (not pictured) and called it good!

Text Translation:
Lo, praise the labor of Artemisians;
Of strong-armed Danes, in days long sped - we have heard!
And what honor the Northman gives!
Oft Asgierr Rekke I Dane from unseen Quarters 
aids many a tribe, house and nobles-all.
Never he rests, always seeking duty done.
Famed is this Asgierr, far flies the boast of him,
Son of the Dane in the Gryphon Lands.
So comes to this great man, recognition of Jarls
From hands of the good Tsar called Lakhan, 
And Tsarista Vigdis, come honors.
Named as a Pillar, Golden and cherished, this hall-sung hero.
Done this fourteenth day of January in the Fifty-first year of the Society,
Being 2017 in the Common Era.

Lakhan, Tsar
Vigdis, Tsarista

Things I'd do differently next time?
  1. Leave more of a border on the left side of the text. It worked out, but my eyes would like a bit more white space.
  2. Start on page 3 instead of 2. An extra blank page at the beginning would be a good thing, since page 1 actually becomes part of the endpaper.
  3. Use wood or a heavier bookboard, and do that research on period clay stuff!
  4. Dilute the glue more when working on fiddly cover bits. If it gets too sticky too soon, that's no bueno. The extra work time will help in stretching the leather over the spine as well - I felt this was a bit too loose.
  5. Take the time to press the final book for 24 hours.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Elyas Tigar Laurel

When asked to do the Laurel scroll for Elyas Tigar, an absurdly talented potter and illuminator in his own right, I got excited at the opportunity to play with gold leaf and do something a bit different than I've ever done before, because I was on a timeline that allowed me a little wiggle room in case it utterly failed.

As background, I should share that I have used a faux gold leaf in the past - I believe it was aluminum based, and it was very sad and frustrating, and the outcome was bland and uninspiring as well as sloppy. No bueno. I have stuck to gold gouache and Finetec micah pigments in place of gold leaf out of fear. However, real gold, and quality binder? A WORLD of difference. I'm no longer afraid!  (See, even experienced peers and artists have stumbling blocks!)

So I'll start by posting pictures of the final piece, then I'll share my inspiration and process. Click to enlarge!

This is done in the style of late period European patents and grants of arms. I specifically tried to seek out inspiration of English pieces, such as this marriage deed for Jane Seymour to Henry VIII c.1536:

And this stunning Ref: Add. Ms. 2605 Illuminated initial letter with portrait of Henry VIII from Letters Patent to Thomas Bowyer of London concerning the Manor of Runcton in North Mundham, 21 April, 1540. Unfortunately the original source I found for this image is missing, but it is available on Pinterest here.

Then of course there are the multitude of sources and text samples found on this website on Fifteenth Century English Patents of Arms. Go there and visit it! Great stuff! I was particularly inspired by the Grant of arms for Eton College (about halfway down the website referenced above):

Incidentally, Eton College still exists today, and claim to have their original grant available in their archives for viewing, but they don't have a digital copy on their website that I could find - pity.

A few things were clear in my design choices. I wanted a giant ornate cadel, and the first line to be a larger size nib, with additional capital cadels and flourishes. I wanted the rest of the illumination to be all about the display of arms. Mostly because Elyas's arms are gorgeous, and the supporters were chosen (not by me!) to be very personal to him. I modeled the pottery on his crest after the puzzle cup he made and baffled many an Artemisian with.

Finally, the cadel "D" was inspired by a letter from John Scottowe's book Alphabet of Ornamental Capitals c.1592 (I hope). I found this cadel on Pinterest, which I both love and hate because it can be so inspiring, but links and references can end up dead or circular. It took me some time to find a viable source of this image - and even then it's a partial guess because I've yet to find an actual copy of this book to make sure it's in there. Stylistically, it fits, but I could be perpetuating incorrect information. I'll keep digging for the truth, and if you find I'm wrong please let me know!! 

I did this piece on pergamenata with Pilot Iroshizuko Take-Sumi ink, Winsor and Newton gouache, and 23k loose leaf gold. I used minatatum ink as the binder for the gold. I tried to apply it using a dip pen, but it refused to flow at the angle in which I was working. Due to the size of the piece, changing that angle was non-negotiable. I switched to a cheap paintbrush and carried on. I applied the gold almost immediately, but in theory it should have remained tacky for about 24 hours.

Incidentally, the mermaid's jewelry is gold gouache, not leaf, because I'd already applied paint near there, and I didn't want to accidentally get gold sticking where it shouldn't be.

So what is my favorite part of this piece, aside from the wicked long text? It's a tossup between the tiny ermine spots on the mantle, and the red tiger's white beard. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Codex Manesse Inspired Pelican Scroll

I was thrilled to be asked to collaborate with the amazingly gifted Duchess Caryn von Katzenberg to create a Pelican scroll for Baroness Mistress Heloys de Bec, someone who is incredibly admirable in both her art and her service.

Her Grace and I brainstormed options, and decided to go with something inspired by the Codex Manesse, because Heloys has always represented the epitome of the 14th Century, and always looks like she has stepped right out of the pages of this book.

I did the calligraphy, and Duchess Caryn did the layout and illumination. This was given out at the 50th Year Anniversary Celebration of the Society for Creative Anachronism.


Codex Manesse, 251r

I borrowed these images from Heloys and Caryn, as I did not get to see the finished piece in person. Should either of you want me to take these down, let me know!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Belt Favor

Most people who know me know that I'm ridiculously addicted to bright, vivid shades of blue. Cobalt and peacock/teal being my favorites. My dear hubby asked me to give him a favor to wear while fighting, so I turned to my stash for something to embroider on. I have a pretty large length of this gorgeous teal linen left over from a hood project I've yet to complete and is a looming Unfinished Object (UFO) from my past.

I recently submitted my device and badge up the chain through the Heralds of the SCA, and while I'm waiting patiently impatiently, I decided go ahead and use my device as designed.

I drew the badge onto the linen and stitched it using a chain stitch, which I must admit I was new to. I've done a ton of back stitch, stem stitch, and Holbein stitch cross stitch, long-arm cross stitch, and many other kinds of embroidery in my life, but never chain. So it took a bit to get the hang of it. I think you can tell from the finished project, but I like to leave things as proof of learning rather than pick them out and try to be perfect all the time.

Also, I didn't take a picture of the finished piece, so I stole this from hubby's Facebook page. I hope he forgives me.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Largesse - Another tiny book

Our kingdom made a call for largesse to provide for the 50 year celebration of the SCA (kind of a big deal). I had all kinds of plans to make a fancy schmancy book with the device/symbol chosen by Their Majesties of Northshield to commemorate their reign. Sadly, reality had to hit me eventually. The largesse display was at Quest this last weekend, and time had run out. I did manage to finish one of my cute tiny books, so that had to be my little contribution.

My heart is big, but my crafting is slow. I was also working on two scrolls, so that ate into my time a bit.

Special thanks to my hubby who acted as my "hand model" to show off the size and scope of this book.

These little things are the perfect size for taking notes during circles. This one is covered in a lovely blue suede, and is kind of "first cousins" to the books I made for largesse last year. One even has the same leather cover, but this has square corners instead of round!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gryphon and Tablet Scroll

I was most pleased to be asked to do the Gryphon and Tablet scroll for Fiametta da Trastavere, which is our Baronial award for teaching. Having the honor of being the premier member of the order, I have some vested interest in its membership. Baroness Magistra Fiametta has proven her worthiness of entering this order. 

I struggled with what kind of scroll to do, and even toyed with the idea of a non-traditional award. In the end, I went with tradition, when I found an inspiration piece that screamed Fiametta.

 AN II 3, p. 111v – Matriculation Register of the Rectorate of the University of Basel, Volume 1 (1460-1567)

Fiametta's name means "little flame" and her device includes a flaming heart. The decorative cadel immediately reminded me of flames, and while I didn't see it at first, others pointed out to me that the shape read as a heart, making it even more appropriate.

Close-ups, one with flash, one without

This piece is done on pergamenata with Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink and Winsor & Newton gouache. Gold accents are finetec pigments.