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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May the Fourth Be With You

To celebrate May the Fourth, the Viridian Center in Salt Lake City hosted a Star Wars night full of fun activities. One of those activities was the "Coruscant Saber Training School," made possible by the awesome folks from the Barony of Loch Salann, and House Sith, AKA my own dear husband and his epic collection of lightsabers, and a few of our amazing friends. This was obviously not an SCA-centric event, but some members chose to help out, as the Viridian Center has been good to the Barony.

I didn't make anything for this event, but did go to support it, and to have fun. My dearest darling Sith Husband wore his Cosplay alter ego, Darth Aeo. I'm just sharing pictures, because it was super fun.

We had several people teaching sword-play moves, and then people would duel at will. We seemed to have a good reception.


Jedi Cynric protecting Senator Fancypants

Photo by Backdropz

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Test-Run Coptic Stitch

With my upcoming class at KWHSS, I thought I'd better time how long it takes me to assemble a book using my pre-cut templates, to make sure we'll be able to finish a book in the 55 minute class limit.

Turns out that's a nope. It took about 1 hour from start to finish, with me already knowing the process. This book is 4.5" x 5.5", with five signatures. I'm going to have to trim time off by prepping more materials in advance, such as gluing the covers together (saves 10 minutes!), and possibly pre-folding all the signatures (groan), to allow time for explaining the process and giving students time to make mistakes and fix them. It's important to finish the book in the class because the final stitches are different, for attaching the cover.

I'm disappointed, but glad I did this so my class isn't a big fat fail. I also learned that my screw punch has issues and people are going to have to share hole punches for the covers. This should get interesting... (Anyone have a 1/16 or 1/8" hole punch they want to lend me for a day?)

I also need to remind myself to pick up more wide-mouthed needles and pencils. I am also now the proud owner of a ton of glue sticks that my students will no longer get to play with.

Monday, April 11, 2016


I'm teaching a class on coptic stitch bookbinding at Known World Heraldic and Scribes Symposium this month. Since we only have 55 minutes to completely construct a book, each student will need a full set of the tools needed, as there will be no time for sharing.

An important tool in bookbinding is an awl, for punching stitching holes in the signatures (bundles of folios). There are many kinds of awls, from scratch awls, tailors awls, punch awls, and more. For bookbinding, pretty much any will work so long as it's straight and not a tapered awl (you want your holes to be of a consistent size).

I'm not rich, and awls can get expensive quickly if you're providing a dozen or so of them. So this was my ghetto-fab fix.

I used 3" roofing nails. They're not as sharp nor tapered as smoothly as a proper awl, but they'll work. I then made little handles for them using Sugru. Sugru is an awesome mouldable glue. It acts like clay, and when it cures, it's a hardened rubber plastic. These little handles will help my students push and pull their awls through signatures.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rapier Armor

I've neglected to blog about this because I've never gotten photos that I'm really happy with. But I've decided that sub-par photos will just have to be ok for this one.

My dear Sven decided to take up rapier fighting, and needed armor that meets the safety requirements of the SCA. Rather than come up with a separate persona, he decided to maintain his Templar persona with a bit of appropriate anachronism, using this adorable image of fighting monks.

The robes are plain and simple, based on his regular Templar robes, with shortened length to avoid tripping. It's made of heavy black cotton twill, lined in heavy red cotton twill. He also wears two shirts underneath it, to ensure he has plenty of underarm coverage. The robes actually turned out a little too short, in retrospect. I suspect a second version will be forthcoming soon. The length issue is not one of safety, but one of aesthetics.

He now fights with cotton pants beneath rather than the tights, and his footwear varies depending on the fighting surface. His period boots have a serious lack of traction, which is something we're working on.

Fighting masks are required to have a back drape to protect the back of the head and neck. I decided to do a full hood over Sven's mask instead of a simple drape, to fit his persona. This is also heavy black twill lined in heavy red twill. It was tricky to sew onto the mask so the hood will never slide off his head, but the final product works very well, protects as needed, and looks really neat. I rolled the hood fabric a little when affixing it to the mask, to ensure the red lining would show. This also hides the white bib that is attached to the fencing mask. The Templar Cross is red linen appliqued into place.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Persona Research Challenge - 2nd Prize

The second prize winner of the Artemisian Persona Research Challenge was m'lady Cheung Mei Wan for her article on Chinese hair ornaments.

She requested that her book have blank pages, and be bound in this lovely red brocade, which she provided to me. To bind books in fabric, you must use a process which will allow you to use glue on it without destroying the fabric itself. There are complicated ways of soaking the fabric in starch and paste, but I was afraid the Brocade would become water damaged from the pasting. It was also important to me to get this book done soon, as it's taken me longer to finish than I'd hoped. Life seems to get in the way of fun sometimes. I opted for a simple, quick and very not period method of backing the fabric with tissue paper using Heat 'n' Bond. I want to take the time to do testing on making book fabric "properly" in the future. 

This book is done in coptic stitch binding, which leaves the signatures visible on the spine, and shows a decorative stitch along the signatures. I did this using waxed cotton embroidery floss. It's a lot more wobbly than I'd prefer - clearly I need more practice. This book has 11 signatures.

The benefit to coptic stitch binding is that no glue is needed in attaching the covers to the body of the book, and books lay flat when open, which is great for writing and sketching. Incidentally, I'm supposed to be teaching a class on coptic stitch binding at Known World Heralds and Scribes Symposium next month. If you're there, come to my class or come say hi!

I used a heavy weight pearlescent paper with embossed floral designs for the inside of the covers. This reminded me of the papers used in the recipient's wedding bouquets, so I thought it would be a fun little personalized touch.

I finished the book off by adding metal corners to the outer edges. The inner edges could not be capped due to the binding stitches. I had some fraying problems with the fabric where the corners were turned in, so this helps keep everything tight where it should be. The glue used will keep the book from further fraying, but this looks much cleaner.