Andrixos’ Herald Extraordinary

When Brigida, Gold Falcon Principal Herald, asked me if I wanted a crack at a scroll, I asked who it was for and I jumped at the the chance. You see, Andrixos (or Drx, more familiarly) wrote both my Calon Cross and my Court Barony scrolls, and it’s always fun to get people back in the nicest way possible.

So, I reached out to my Byzanbestie Anna to write the scroll text, with Brigida’s assent.  I mean, if you’re gonna do a Byzanblowout, let’s go full Byzantine.

Meanwhile, I started searching for Byzantine miniatures from Drx’s time period.  I’m fairly early, Anna is middling, and Drx, well, is right in the middle of us.  Knowing this, I waffled between a couple of manuscripts, and landed on the Madrid Skylitzes.  It’s a bit later than Drx’s persona, but it covers much of the time period his persona lived in.  (Also, it’s one of the most complete pieces of Byzantine illumination from the middle era of Byzantine life, so. . .)  Anna and I had the discussion that Drx was probably going to kill us, his Imperial Ladies, for this, but it would totally be worth the death for it, so, yeah.

Anyway, so I started work on the scroll.  The extant piece is written in Greek, so I did some transliterating.  (It’s not the best option, but as I don’t speak Medieval Greek, nor did I have time to get it translated, it was my best option.)  So, if it had a “F” sound, I used the Greek letter Φ, and so on and so forth.  Again, not the best option, but the aesthetics of the Greek was an important thing to me.

So, once I had the text laid out, I went in with the darkest brown ink I had, which was Noodler’s Kiowa Pecan.  If you look at the scans of the Madrid Skylitzes, the ink is more of a dark brown, not black, so, I went with what I had at home.  (Also, the Kiowa Pecan is a nice strong brown that is close to the ink and I didn’t have to buy more art supplies, so, go me.)

One thing to note about writing in a text you’re unfamiliar with.  Go.  Slow.  Seriously.  I screwed up a couple of times in ways that I was not able to scrape and fix.  It happens.  It could have happened less if I had slowed down considerably.

Anyway, so I found the perfect marginalia for the scroll.  I am digging the trumpets, and all of the Byzantine side-eye.  So, I used it for the basis of the marginalia on Drx’s scroll.  Instead of a red platform, I did a purple one with a cross of Calatrava (post period, but it’s one of our kingdom’s symbols) in FineTec (Coliro) gold, with the name of the kingdom in Greek, resembling the patterning on the extant.

As I worked on a smaller piece of perg than the extant (the extant is about 11″ x 14″, give or take – I used a 5″x7″ because it’s what I had at home), the details aren’t as crisp they are in the extant.  My 20/0s still got a workout (I love those brushes).  I think in the future, working on a piece of perg that’s the same size as the extant is the way to go.  On the other hand, I’m a lefty, so there is always a chance things get smeared past all recognition (and those are harder to fix for me sometimes).

I love working in details in scrolls of people and things that would be important to the recipient.  Drx, of course, is no exception.  So, I made sure that his wife, Countess Fionna (in the yellow and hearts) was in the scroll.  I also made sure that Brigida was represented, as well as Anna and I, as a sort of signature on our end.  (Look for the teal and the orange.  Can’t miss us.)  I’m not happy with the fewer figures in Drx’s scroll, but again, I think if I had added more, it would have been too difficult to make out all of the people.  (another point added for using the same size perg.)

Drx, welcome to the Herald Extraordinary club.  I’m so glad to have you be a part of it, and I’m so glad I got to do this for you.

Here’s video of it being presented in court.

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Posted in Byzantine, calligraphy, calontir, ceremonies, ceremony, court, herald, heraldry, illumination, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experimental Archaeology and Social Media

So, it’s been another week of a post being shared on That Social Media Site of purported 14th century Byzantine garments as they make the rounds. . . again. They’re beautiful, well-crafted, and the photos look like they’ve been taken from a museum of sorts. The fabric looks right, and there’s plenty of bling. So, that means they’re Byzantine, right?

Well, not quite.

One of the pitfalls of being a hobbyist researcher is that there’s a lot of photos out there that look right.

Sourcing our research materials, especially for cultures that may have a lot of lacuna (or gaps), like Byzantium, mean that we have to look at everything with a grain of salt, but also making sure that we’re filling in the gaps in our knowledge in the most logical way.

So, back to the post that was shared. So, let’s look a bit more closely. Note that there’s nothing backing up the information that it’s Byzantine, or even that it’s a contemporary piece from Western Europe. In fact, there’s no provenance. Provenance is a caption which tells you what a piece is, when and where it’s from, and hopefully what museum it resides in. (Which, if it’s in a museum, you might be able to see it somewhat up close!)

The post has a simple assertion that it’s Byzantine from the post authour, who also doesn’t have any form of research authority (like they’re another researcher) or any other form of academic rigour behind the assertion.

Unfortunately, we can’t take this simple assertion that these garments are Byzantine at face value. Research means being able to go down the rabbit trails as far as we can go until we have an answer and being able to look at that answer with a critical eye. So, let’s keep looking at this critically.

Thankfully, there are a few quick sources to look at. One place to start is looking at other art pieces from the specific time period and general location. (this means no Victorian redrawings!) Examples of this include iconography, psalters and other books, mosaics, and statuary. This can be difficult, especially when dealing with cultures that had periods of decline within their art forms. (Still looking at you, Iconoclasm.) Another thing to be aware of is that much of the media that’s in the list here is in two dimensions, so how a garment may have draped may have been up to the artist to figure out. We might also have descriptions of garments. If we’re really lucky, we may have an extant garment or two to look at.

Unfortunately for a lot of Byzantine clothing researchers, there’s not much in the way of extant garments. What we do have are a handful of Egyptian garments from the 6th and 7th centuries, and then threads and other fragments from later pieces, so many of us have to rely on the method involving art or contemporary writing, which adds a lot of difficulty.

So, let’s break this down. The assertion is that the clothing from the post is from 14th century Byzantium. Let’s do a quick dive into Wikipedia to see a few famous names. (because within period, that’s who was largely being documented.) We can also use this method to look up art pieces from the time period.

Of note: Wikipedia is a great launching pad. Do not go to Wikipedia as your first and only source, though! Because Wikipedia is edited by others in the world, it means that the articles may not be written by experts in the field, and at any time can have information replaced with completely incorrect information. However, Wikipedia and Wikimedia does have a treasure trove of other sources. The scan below is a Wikimedia Commons piece, and I love that I can get a close-up view of a piece I’d have to travel to Europe to go see – which is sadly not in my budget right now.

Dem sleeves, though.

Good news is that we do have some 14th century art to look at. This particular example to the left comes from the Lincoln Typikon (which dates from the 14th century), and while some of the ink and paint has flaked off, we can see the patterns of the fabric. We can also see that the garments for both Constantine Palaiologos and his wife, Eirene, don’t really resemble the cuts of the clothing from the post from That Other Social Network. A lot of the patterns look right, but Eirene’s gown is kind of a shapeless sack with huge sleeves, in comparison to other dresses.

This is pretty damning to the assertion from the social media post.

So, if it’s not Byzantine or even from the 14th century, what are the garments from the social media post from?

Well, the post from That Other Social Network features garments from the Palio di Legnano, a modern folk event or reenactment that takes place annually in Northern Italy the last weekend in May, commemorating the battle fought May 29, 1176 between the troops of the Lombard League and the Holy Roman Imperial Army of Frederick I, known as Barbarossa. (The HRE was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, but that’s for another post.) Check out the link above for some gorgeous costuming, but remember that these are the equivalent of costumes for a Renaissance fair here on our side of the pond.

Many of us love using social media to share our research and to inspire others to check things out, and I love that we can do this. On the other hand, we have to remember to look critically at what we’re posting (or sharing). If it doesn’t look right, it’s okay to ask for provenance. If the details don’t make sense, question it! Part of researching means to ask the questions that may not be getting answered.

And lastly, if you aren’t sure, tell people you aren’t sure about it. I would rather see someone trying to make an attempt in researching an item and say, “hey, I am not sure if this is right,” than someone passing on completely incorrect information with an air of authority. We’re all learning. I’ve made bad research choices, and I learned from them, and hope that by writing this post, you’ve got a chance to make some better choices in the future.

Posted in Byzantine, clothing, how-to, illumination, influences, later period, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

SCA Philosophy Question Ahoy!

Since November 28, 2017, I’ve been asking my social media friends list (which, yes, comprises mostly of SCA folks) questions about SCA philosophy, SCA personae, and the like. Sometimes, the questions may have been a bit pointed, and sometimes, well, it’s curiosity. I know I’ve repeated some in my questions (as I’m going through the list), so I’m removing those duplicates, but there are some rather closely linked questions that are just different enough that they’re staying. I’ve finally decided to compile these questions here for others to take and use for their own use. Please enjoy.

“In addition to knowledge transfer, what are traits that you find important or valuable in other SCAdians? What are values that you think need to be part of the knowledge transfer that we hold so dear? Please be respectful – this is a philosophy question, so answers can and will vary.”

“In what ways has the SCA affected your mundane life for the better? for the worse? Please be respectful – this is a philosophy question, so answers can and will vary. IKA is a thing. Any attacks or snark will be handled appropriately.”

“If you could go back in time to your earlier self (limit this to the first two years in the SCA), what advice would you give you?”

“What is the one thing that everyone in the SCA can do to improve the Society?”

“What is something you’d like to see more of in the SCA? Why?”

“Pick a knightly virtue. Explain why it is the most important to the growth of the SCA. What steps will you take to ensure it happening?”

“We talk about prowess a lot in both arts/sciences and in martial activities, but not in service activities. What does prowess in service look like to you?”

“What activity do you wish you could hear more people talking about or doing at events? Why?”

“What medieval concept do you find the most compelling in your modern life? Why?”

“Let’s talk PLQs for a second. What peer-like quality do you think is vital in the SCA? How do you know what a PLQ is?”

“What small items do you think your persona would have carried on their person? Do you want to add them to your kit?”

“What gets you excited about a particular event?”

“What is your persona’s favourite holy, feast, or celebration day? How do you think they would have marked it?”

“Heraldry. Why did you pick the items on your heraldic device? Why did you pick the name that you picked?”

“What is the most important award given in your kingdom? Why? (Please flesh out your answers, and please give your kingdom, for context.)”

“If money were no object (or the materials were just dropped into your lap), what sort of activity/art or science would you most like to do?”

“Tokens are often given as thanks or an atta-person. Tell (or show, really) me the about the one that really hit you in the feels. Why does that particular token hit you in the feels?”

“Many kingdoms have arts and sciences competitions and displays. Tell me about your favourite entries that you’ve seen. (no, it cannot be your own entry.) Why those entries? What inspired you about that particular entry?”

“What do you most want to research, but due to reasons out of your control, are you not able to?”

“What is your funniest or most humorous memory in your SCA life? (Make ’em good! I wanna laugh!)”

“Do you consider your heraldic charges to be like a patronus/totemic animal/etc? If not (or so, really), what made you choose your heraldry?”

“What’s your favourite SCA or SCA adjacent song? Why?”

“Who is your favorite historical Mediaeval/Renaissance woman and why?”

“What’s something that you think your kingdom is amazing at?”

“Our hobby can be incredibly expensive. What’s something that someone can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money to do to either get started or to continue doing?”

“What’s the most surprising thing you learned about something that happened within SCA period? Why did it surprise you?”

“Let’s talk food. Talk to me about your favourite feast or dish at an event. Who made the food? What was amazing about it? Why?”

“What classes in the SCA do you get the most out of? What classes would you like to see more of in the SCA? Do you have a favourite teacher?”

“Pick a knightly/chivalric virtue, by any authour. (Lull, etc.) How does this virtue apply to what you do in the SCA? Which of these virtues do you struggle with the most?”

“Hey, SCAdians. Do you blog/dress diary/etc. online? Do you find it helpful? Do you have a link for your blog?”

“The SCA has some legends and apocryphal stories. Tell me about your favourite legendary SCA stories!”

“What grabbed you to join the SCA . . . and how did you make it stick as a hobby?”

“Happy (SCA) New Year! Do you have any resolutions or plans of things to work on?”

“Where does your persona live? What sort of building do they live in? Do they want to live elsewhere?”

“What do you tell people (who are not involved) when they ask about your SCA hobby? Do you describe it to them? Details, please!”

“If there were an SCA Lootcrate made just for your persona, what would go in it?”

“What gets you in the mind frame of your persona the fastest? Is it music? Books? Television? Leave details.”

“So, let’s talk favours and tokens. We get that these are things that people give and wear, but we don’t really get into the reasoning behind them. What’s your reasoning behind wearing/giving them? Do you want to see more of this in the game?”

“What events do you put on your calendar year after year as ones to not miss? Why?”

“If you were to have a reliquary made for your experiences in the SCA, what would you put in it?”

“Do you have a motto? If you do, what is it (with translation, if needed)? Why did you choose it?”

“Let’s talk chivalry. Tell me about a time when you saw a truly chivalrous act. Who inspires you to act more chivalrous?”

“What’s something on your SCA bucket list? Why?”

“What is a physical item you’d like to see more people have in the SCA? Why?”

“Let’s go back to virtues for about half a minute. This is long, but I really want to get into some meat here. One of those lists of virtues I have seen is as follows: prowess, courage, defense, justice, honesty, faith, franchise, loyalty, generosity, courtesy, nobility, humility, and compassion. There are other lists, but this is a decent core list. Discuss: How does your *working* knowledge of these chivalric virtues affect what you do in the SCA? (for those with prechivalric personae, I’d especially love to hear your voices.) Who are exemplars to you of individual virtues? (also, it’s a sneaky way to think of #WordfameWednesday, so ha!)”

“Pretend you are at an event. What would make this thought experiment event a perfect one for you? What activities would you want to see? How long would it last for? Fill in the details.”

“Pick a specific time and place important to your persona, and tell me about the sociopolitical landscape in one pithy sentence. You have ONE sentence. Make it count.”

“What clothing do you wear to beat the heat? Do you stay with your time period/location, or do you change it out to stay cooler?”

“What’s your favourite event photo OR favourite photo of you in garb at an event?”“Tell me about something at an event that you found particularly moving or emotional (funny also counts, because we need levity). Fill in details. Tell us a story!”

“Tokens! We’ve talked about them before – but what do you do with them after an event?”

“Sumptuary laws in your kingdom – from sumptuary anarchy to heavily regimented, all kingdoms handle things differently. Do you wish it were different? If so, what would you change it to?”

“Tell me about your favourite feast or inn food. What made it memorable? What made it enjoyable? Who made it?”

“Bling! How would your persona bling it up? (and keep in mind that not everyone’s bling looks like my bling – and that’s okay.) How do you want to step up your bling game?”

“Do you listen to music while you craft or work on projects? What do you normally listen to?”

“Do you have an overarching quotation or concept that keeps your avocation in the Society going? If so, what is it? Is it from a writer in SCA period?”

“Tell me about a time (or event, I’m not picky) where you forgot about modernity and let the environment of the SCA wash over you.”

“How do you display your heraldry? Do you have a favourite way to display it? How about favourite heraldic artists?”

“Share with me the art/sciences of someone in the SCA. What do you like about their work? Why do you think people in the SCA need to know who they are?”

“The Society becomes family for many of us. Tell me about the time where that happened for you.”

“We are not always Serious People. And that’s a good thing. Tell me (or show me) a time where you did a project based on a period exemplar for the SCA (or SCAdian) just to for levity’s sake or to troll someone. Yes, you can definitely post photos, and yes, you get bonus points if you can document elements of said project.”

“When you think of knightly or chivalric virtues (and you get to make the determination on what set of virtues here), who in your circle of people do you think of? You can break this down to individuals or can go with one person. Up to you.”

“It’s autumn (or soon will be – don’t take away my joy)! What do you most look forward to in the latter half of the year? Is it the ability to wear your woollens or your cloaks? The cooler camping? What particularly do you love being able to do in the autumn? Why?”

“Do you have a persona story? What is it? If you don’t have a persona story, why not?”

“High persona events: what do you like about them? What do you not like about them? Do you want there to be more of them? Why?”

“What classes do you wish were taught more in the SCA? These can be classes on service, A&S, or fighting – but what do you wish you could see more of? (Who knows, you may inspire someone to teach one of these classes!)”

“I want you to sell an event in your kingdom to someone out of kingdom. The catch: it cannot be a war event. (so, no Lilies, Pennsic, GWW, etc.) So, why should we come to your kingdom for your event?”

“What’s something your kingdom, principality, barony, shire, canton, etc. do well? Brag on them here! If you have photos, post ‘em.”

“Music: post a piece of music from your time period/location, or something close! Would your persona have listened to something like this, or would it be for another class of person? (additionally, do you listen to something like this when you’re doing something for the SCA?)”

“Who was the first positive person you met in the SCA who either inspired you, made you want to be like them, or helped you out when you first started? And what did they do to help you out? Remember, if you tag them, they may not be able to see this post, so tell them how awesome they are, too.”

“This is inspired by The Physician (seriously, it’s a good movie and last I checked, it’s still on Netflix). How would your persona stay healthy? Who would your persona go to if they got sick? What would treatment look like?”

“Let’s talk books! Is your persona literate? Do they have access to books or a library? How many languages can they read in? What do you think your persona would say about your own personal libraries?”

“Scent memory is a thing. What scents instantly transport you to your SCA happy place?”

“It’s starting to get colder. How do you prefer to keep warm? Do you have a big heavy cloak? How about a Norse coat? How do you stay warm?”

“What’s your favourite SCA movie? (SCA movie, of course, is one that either takes place within SCA period oooor covers the general themes of a pre-1600s themed educational group.) Bonus: a gif from said favourite SCA movie.”

“What’s something you wish people knew more about your chosen time period or persona?”

“Let’s talk A&S projects. More importantly, let’s talk project fails (because sometimes, it’s more the journey than a “successfully finished project”). What project fail did you learn the most from? Which one do you wish you’d never see again? Let’s talk it out!”

“What area of study do you think the SCA could benefit more from? Is there a weird little art/science that few people haven’t gone down the rabbit hole on and you wish you saw more people do it?”

“What makes you or your art, skills, etc. beautiful or unique? Rules for answering the question above: Any variation of ‘I’m not’ will be dismissed. This is an exercise of introspection and elevation, there should be no diminishing of oneself. You should be able to come up with at least one thing. (Stolen, but hey, seriously, put some thought into it.)”

“You have the ability to create a saint from currently living SCAdians. Who are you beatifing, and why are they being sainted? (bonus: what are their miracles? What about their portfolio for reasons of invocation?)”

“Interkingdom Anthropology is a thing. What is your favourite bit of IKA that you’ve learned about in your time in the SCA?”

“What are you most passionate about promoting as part of our modern medieval lives? Why?”

“What’s your favourite part about SCA courts? Is it the chance to work on hand projects? The ceremonies? Do you have a favourite court story?”

“Our lives as modern people are far more transient than our medieval counterparts. When you travel to a new kingdom, do you justify it in your persona’s world, or is it an extension of your modern life?”

“What sort of catchphrase do you think your persona would have said, or how do you simply explain something that your persona would have done? (Examples: “I put the bling in enabling,” “it’s a colour. It matches,” or “who do you think I am? The help?”)”

“What do you do when the SCA no longer sparks joy in your life? Do you go do something else? Do you do another SCA activity?”

“What is something that you do in the SCA that brings you unspeakable joy?”

“What’s your favourite SCA story? Retell it here if you can.”

“When you do a demo, what sort of thing do you bring to show off what we do?”

“How can we better teach others in how to be better leaders and administrators? Please keep all comments civil.”

“How can more experienced members of the SCA better help out the less experienced? What skills, ideals, etc. would you be willing to put forward to help others? Please keep all comments civil.”

Posted in persona, persona development, philosophy, SCA, SCA Philosophy, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Survey of Byzantine Clothing Class

At Clothier’s Seminar, hosted by the Shire of Cúm an Iolair, I had the opportunity to teach a class on Byzantine clothing from about the 6th century to about the 14th century.

This will eventually be a series of posts at some point, but until then, please enjoy my handout (with a very large thank you to my Byzanbestie, Anna, for her handout on patterns).

You can access my handout here.

Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

Posted in Byzantine, clothing, early period, fashion, later period, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

End of the year project roundup: retrospective 2018

In the closing days of this year, I’m doing a retrospective. (Yes, there’s a few days left, but I’m not sure how many SCA-related projects I’m actually going to be able to get done by then, so. . .)

I started with a fairly short list of things that should have been dealt with. Most of them have been dealt with.

And then, well. I accomplished a lot. I learned a lot about myself in the process, and even though this was a rough year in my personal life, I still accomplished something. (And that is a victory!)

I was not always great at posting things to 12 Months of Crafting, but I posted here. Projects got done. 24 of them, by my reckoning. That’s a lot! I can definitely see where I was able to get the most projects done – the end of the year (though, I suspect having more time to do them helped).

I may do something similar for next year – this format helped keep me accountable.

So, what about you? What do you want to see me write about for next year? I am planning on keeping some of my SCA philosophy posts going, but did you like reading about my projects, Dearest Readers?

Things still to accomplish.

  1. Lined Skjoldehamn hood (Have cut out the wool and am working on getting it lined and assembled.)
  2. Cutting out several Byzantine bone box blanks in preparation for turning into Byzantine box icons. 
  3. Sewing up Byzantine boy garb (PLEASE HELP ME WITH THIS!  I have wool, but I really want something a wee bit lighter for the summer, so . . . waiting to get more linen.  Also just purchased a bit of wool for pants because pants and it was a screaming good deal on wool.)
  4. Creating four Byzantine peerage ceremonies (I’m picking through rather slowly.  There’s a lot of information.  De Ceremoniis is a doorstop of a book!)
  5. Found a second Skjoldehamn hood in my projects that’s getting hemmed up. Not sure where it will end up living.

Things I’ve gotten accomplished!

  1. Painting Aed’s shield.
  2. Secret project scroll #1 (known now as Sir Gawayne’s Augmentation scroll)
  3. Nobelese Largesse Secret Project (blogged about here)
  4. Mar’s Quilt block (which has been presented and photos can be found on facebook)
  5. Wrote Pelican scroll text for Jaida de Leon
  6. New Baronial A&S Champions traveling trophy. (I do want to do some clean-up work on this particular piece so that it’s more comfortable to wear.)
  7. A whole slew of Facebook frames for at least five kingdoms and one principality.(while not a period art, it is a service and probably something I should post.)
  8. Baronial preprints.  (I’ve honestly lost track of how many I’ve done for the barony.  It’s also a blast to work with others on this, too.)
    A bunch of preprints for TRM Ashir and Ashland to use.  And the preprint workshop at Valor helped Their Majesties out, too.  I may have to hold more of these in the future.
  9. Baronial roll of arms project. (this is honestly an ongoing project, but it’s fun to see how far it’s come in the years we’ve worked on it.  We’re up to 86 completed banners.)
  10. Camp banners for Valor.
  11. Creating handouts for Valor’s classes.
  12. Banner for KWHSS.
  13. Nikolai’s Herald Extraordinary Scroll (formerly known as Secret Project Scroll #2)
  14. Imperial Roman clothes and jewellery (I just need actual full-length photos of it)
  15. A bunch of preprints for TRM Xerxis and BelAnna (OMG, SO SHINY.)
  16. YouTube video (which was from a FB live session) on shading.
  17. Painted Dirik von Rosswald’s shield for his upcoming knighting.
  18. Making more casual Byzantine clothing (Finished with the Imperial Roman garb part of it.  It’s starting life as Imperial Roman, and then will be cannibalized for something 4th c. as a part of Operation Cooler Summers.)  It’s going here because it actually got finished as part of the process.
  19. Eynon’s Boga Hirth Scroll, formerly known as Secret Project scroll #3 (text, calligraphy, and art)
  20. A conjugal achievement for Anna and Gieffrei.
  21. Thaddeus’ Achievement of Arms.
  22. Painted Jon Chesey‘s shield (it glows in the dark!)
  23. Count Logan’s Silver Hammer scrolls.
  24. Cormac Mór’s Achievement of Arms.
Posted in project management, Retrospective, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Logan’s Silver Hammer

Being able to work on this was truly a joy.  The work that Count Logan has done in researching banners and then teaching others, well . . . he gets it.  And his work truly is amazing.

When I started researching things for his scroll, I knew I wanted to do one of two things: a runestone and something really cool with this century-old slate from a barn in Ohio that another friend brought me to do something with.  Logan considers his persona to be “first generation Calontiri,” which can make it interesting to custom work a scroll, but with his wife’s research in Norse life and their Norse reign, I drew inspiration from that.  It took a bit for the scroll text to get to me, but once it did, work began in earnest.  The first thing I wanted to knock out was the slate runestone, because I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to carve it out, even with my Dremel.  (Also, being able to use a power tool on a scroll makes my day.)

Runestones are usually fairly large things.  Given that Ylva, Logan’s wife, has a giant runestone,  I was pretty sure that they did not want a second one, so this is where I was thankful for the slate tiles.  The exemplars are usually not this small, but again, making sure that they would have a place to display it was important.  One of the benefits of slate is that it is relatively soft – it’s right in the middle on the Mohs scale at 5.5, though, because it is comprised of parallel foliated plates (that is, plates running parallel to one another) means that layers can cleave off when carving.  (I’ll get more into that later.)  With the slate being that soft, it meant that my engraving bit would work just fine. Given that I had about a week to get the scroll completed, this saved me.

I started out by washing off several decades worth of dirt and debris in my bathtub with. . . body wash.  (I couldn’t find my dishwashing liquid.)  Once clean and dry, I used a Crayola coloured pencil on the slate (did you know that they can be cleaned off slate with a few spritzes of water and some elbow grease?) to get the initial lines drawn in, starting with the badge for the Silver Hammer.  Once that was in, I proceeded to start engraving the art in with the Dremel.  Given that this was formerly a roof tile, I knew I couldn’t go too deep, so I took out only a few millimeters of material – enough to show the carved texture, and enough to keep the ink in.  Note to all: wear personal protective equipment, as carving rock kicks up a lot of dust.  This dust should not be in your lungs.  Just do it.

Inking the runestone.

Once the badge for the order was in and painted with Liquitex Titanium White ink, I started carving in a double headed snake from Logan’s heraldry to better key into something that would be uniquely his.  It would also allow space for some text, like in stone U 611, found at Tibble.  I ended up transliterating the runes into Elder Futhark as I did not have time to get a full translation, with the inscription reading “Gothi Duncan Bruce of Logan – Silver Hammer” with the date in an angular numeral style (as the Norse generally didn’t use numerals).  I did run into a few issues with some of the parallel plates cleaving off and going a bit deeper than I would like (like what you can see in the photo), but the text could still be made out.  Once this was done, I started inking in the snake and text with a brush and some Liquitex Napthol Crimson ink.  The benefits of using an acrylic ink means that the colour is bold and fairly loose, but also some lightfastness, as well.  Having a loose ink means that capillary action could pull the ink down the carved channels, which means I didn’t need to use a lot of it and that it would stay where I wanted it.

All told, it took me about two and a half days of fairly solid work to get the runestone part done.  However, I was given some pretty amazing scroll text from M. Katherine von Heilige, and it also needed to be shown off, so, I did a second piece.  (Also, it prevented Logan from going “I got a rock,” which, while funny, was not what I wanted.)

So, I went back to about the time period of the runestone exemplars and remembered that Norse raiders did go a-viking and took out a couple of Irish monasteries.  This was where I started looking at insular manuscripts like the Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells, and simplified a few things.  Also, note to self: when you have four days to get a scroll finished, do not go for a brand new style.  Whee.  (I don’t normally do insular scrolls, but well. . . .)

Once I settled in on the Book of Kells for being my exemplar piece, I proceeded to start on a Tiny Scroll. . . and it did not go the way I wanted.  So, I started over.  And promptly screwed up.  Again.  So, with a deep breath, I started one last time and got exactly what I wanted.  In hindsight, I probably could have added a few more things, but it was Wednesday, and I was tempting fate.  Most of the scribal hand was inspired by Bain’s Celtic Art, which, while a secondary source, worked for this scroll.  (I believe the term is “close enough.”)  If I had more time, I perhaps would have done more of a complex page, but, again, less than a week to get both scrolls done.  Time management had to be on my side for this.  The calligraphy was done with a Brause 3/4″ mm nib and Higgins Eternal ink, with the coloured portions done with gouache on pergamenata.  Both slate and perg are about the same size: 8.5″ x 11″.

This scroll taught me a few things.  One, if I have nothing stopping me, I can get a scroll (really, two) done in a week.  Two, working with slate really is quite fun, and three, at the end, it’s all for the recipient, and seeing his face was worth it.

Congrats, Logan.

Posted in calontir, carving, illumination, Norse, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Applying a Medieval Aesthetic to Modern Art

As modern people playing a medieval game, we sometimes bring references to our modern loves within our time in the Society, whether it be through subtle cosplay or what goes into a particular piece of art that we create for someone else.  While we prefer to keep some of those things from encroaching on our medieval lives, sometimes the joy of hiding modern things in plain sight at events because they look right at home.

Besides hiding phones in cases made to look like wax tablets or girdle books, our modern items and loves can also hide in other ways.  For example, on a whim, I decided that the one thing that the fantastic beasts from the Harry Potter universe really needed to be in the ultimate fantastical beast collection: a bestiary.

So I painted a Niffler in the style of a 12th c bestiary (like the Aberdeen Bestiary), and also calligraphing text written in Middle English.  Most bestiaries, from what I can see, were done in Latin, but I don’t happen to be particularly good with Latin.  Middle English is a bit easier to cobble together from Modern English sources.

One of the ways to incorporate a modern item into a medieval setting is to draw it in a medieval way.  Humans look cartoony, and well, most animals don’t look like their real-life counterparts.  It was quite natural to take the same sort of concepts as applied to animals like Amphisbaena and Yales and use them for a completely fictional universe.

I may do more of these.  I mostly did this for practice with calligraphy and illumination, but I find a certain silly joy in doing ridiculous fictional animals in a wholly period style.

Speaking of practice, woof, my calligraphy needs it.  But, we’ll see how much it improves with the next piece.

Posted in calligraphy, illumination, influences, later period, paint, philosophy, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thaddeus’ Achievement of Arms

Finally!  I got another thing checked off my list of backlog projects!  

We had a fundraiser for tents for Heralds’ Point and for arts and sciences for Lilies War, and I offered a heraldic achievement using gold leaf.  Unfortunately, my life got a bit busy, and this got put on the back burner.  I finally got to a point where I could sit down and get this done.  

So, without further ado, the process.

Similar to Anna and Gieffrei’s conjugal achievement, I started by pencilling in the detail.  Calontir’s sumptuary laws for bestowed peers allows for use of any paired supporters (not to include the falcon), helm, torse, crest, mantling, and motto in the achievement.  Thaddeus also wanted something 15th c German, so I used a sallet helm.

Once the pencil was down, I started the work for gilding.  I tried a new technique for raised gilding, using PVA glue, a couple of brushfuls of water, and a bit of gouache so I could see where things were going.  I gilded the nails of the lions, as well as some of the fur and the sword.  After letting the glue dry enough, I did the breathing on it to moisten the glue enough to get tacky, and laid down the gold (which is a pale gold, not a rich gold.  Once this book is done, I’m investing in a much more richer colour), using a straw to save my back.  Note to self: condensation formed on the inside of the straw and caused a couple of wet spots, which while easily cleaned up, did cause some issues.

Once the gilding was done, I started laying in the rest of the shiny bits, using my FineTec palette.  I used both Arabic Gold and the silver pans to really push the two metals used in his device, as well as making the sallet helmet look metallic.  Any shading done to the helm was accomplished by mixing gouache with the silver to keep the appearance consistent.  When working with FineTec, I generally mix the paint a bit on the thick side for fuller coverage, but it’s a decent paint.  (John Neal carries a full complement of FineTec/Coliro paints, if you ever wanted to purchase some for your own use.)  As far as mimicking shell gold, FineTec is a bit more sparkly as mica is used in the formulation, but goodness, it’s a gorgeous paint.

Once I got the shiny bits down, it was time to paint all the things.  And boy, there was a lot of paint.  A.  Lot.  Of.  Paint.  A few days worth of paint.

Did I mention painting?  Yeah.

One of the things I added that Calontir law doesn’t specify (and looks like it’s a post-period item on achievements, alas) is a compartment, which is the thing that the supporters stand on.  The compartment for this particular achievement was green grass.  I added it as I felt it centered the piece and brought the everything together.

Things still to accomplish.

  1. Lined Skjoldehamn hood (Have cut out the wool and am working on getting it lined and assembled.)
  2. Cutting out several Byzantine bone box blanks in preparation for turning into Byzantine box icons. 
  3. Sewing up Byzantine boy garb (PLEASE HELP ME WITH THIS!  I have wool, but I really want something a wee bit lighter for the summer, so . . . waiting to get more linen.  Also just purchased a bit of wool for pants because pants and it was a screaming good deal on wool.)
  4. Creating four Byzantine peerage ceremonies (I’m picking through rather slowly.  There’s a lot of information.  De Ceremoniis is a doorstop of a book!)
  5. Found a second Skjoldehamn hood in my projects that just needs to be hemmed.  Not sure what will happen to it, but argh, craft stash.

Things I’ve gotten accomplished!

  1. Painting Aed’s shield.
  2. Secret project scroll #1 (known now as Sir Gawayne’s Augmentation scroll)
  3. Nobelese Largesse Secret Project (blogged about here)
  4. Mar’s Quilt block (which has been presented and photos can be found on facebook)
  5. Wrote Pelican scroll text for Jaida de Leon
  6. New Baronial A&S Champions traveling trophy. (I do want to do some clean-up work on this particular piece so that it’s more comfortable to wear.)
  7. A whole slew of Facebook frames for at least five kingdoms and one principality.(while not a period art, it is a service and probably something I should post.)
  8. Baronial preprints.  (I’ve honestly lost track of how many I’ve done for the barony.  It’s also a blast to work with others on this, too.)
    A bunch of preprints for TRM Ashir and Ashland to use.  And the preprint workshop at Valor helped Their Majesties out, too.  I may have to hold more of these in the future.
  9. Baronial roll of arms project. (this is honestly an ongoing project, but it’s fun to see how far it’s come in the years we’ve worked on it.  We’re up to 86 completed banners.)
  10. Camp banners for Valor.
  11. Creating handouts for Valor’s classes.
  12. Banner for KWHSS.
  13. Nikolai’s Herald Extraordinary Scroll (formerly known as Secret Project Scroll #2)
  14. Imperial Roman clothes and jewellery (I just need actual full-length photos of it)
  15. A bunch of preprints for TRM Xerxis and BelAnna (OMG, SO SHINY.)
  16. YouTube video (which was from a FB live session) on shading.
  17. Painted Dirik von Rosswald’s shield for his upcoming knighting.
  18. Making more casual Byzantine clothing (Finished with the Imperial Roman garb part of it.  It’s starting life as Imperial Roman, and then will be cannibalized for something 4th c. as a part of Operation Cooler Summers.)  It’s going here because it actually got finished as part of the process.
  19. Eynon’s Boga Hirth Scroll, formerly known as Secret Project scroll #3 (text, calligraphy, and art)
  20. Thaddeus’ Achievement of Arms.

Posted in brag page, herald, heraldry, later period, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Omphaloskepsis: that pesky C

Before we get started: I will be watching commentary and IP addresses on this post.  Any use of the terms “Nazi,” or related terms will result in being blocked.  I will not tolerate it, nor will I also tolerate bashing of individuals.  Any conversation that is not constructive will be removed.  Commentary is okay, but at any point that it becomes toxic, I am turning off comments.

Ah, the SCA.  Society for Creative Anachronism.  Never has a name been more problematic for the mission statement of a group.  Now, I say this as a member of the Society, but perhaps we need to really evaluate what the C, or “Creative,” really means to us as a group.

A bit of history: when the SCA was formed, a name for it didn’t exist.  Given that the SCA was originally a party in held in protest of the modern ages in Berkeley, California, it’s perhaps unsurprising.  By the time the second gathering rolled around, albeit in a city park where, to reserve the space a name on the form was required.  Enter Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Yes, the authour.  (I won’t get into the other issues surrounding her, as it’s not particularly salient to this post, but I’m aware of them.)  Being a wordsmithing type, Ms. Bradley came up with “The Society for Creative Anachronism,” being a group creatively exploring things set out of their 20th century native timeframe.

So, we have an origin for the name.  Let’s look at a bit more history into the Society.  At the 1966 Berkeley party, humans, elves, dwarves, and the like were acceptable concepts.  After all, it was a protest against the modern age, with the even the College of Arms registering a few Elven names in the early years of the Society.  As time progressed though, the Society moved further away from Tolkien-inspired, with the exodus of elves beginning in AS XVI (1982 CE).  It was decided in AS XXVI (1991 CE) that the College of Arms would not register elven names any longer.  Effectively, this marked the beginning of a more historically-oriented organization.

What does this mean?  Well, for one, it meant focusing our organization into a more thoughtful, historical view.  Sure, the focus is still quite broad (literally to the beginning of recorded time to 1600 CE), however, we still have that pesky C.  Many of us have heard the phrase “It’s not the Society for Compulsive Accuracy!” or “but Creative is in the name!” and while those people are correct that the SCA is not that, on the other hand, the SCA allows room for people to grow and explore that history in hands-on ways, which, yes, involve some creative uses of materials and odd justifications for why a Roman legionary might be sitting next to an English Elizabethan courtier.

As an organization dedicated to pre-1600s history, perhaps we need to look at what makes us tick.  On one hand, being a live-action history club is a lot of fun.  On the other, though, due to our somewhat abstract view (on the whole) of medieval history, it gives us less tooth when we meet up with some of our other reenacting brethren.

The big tent approach to medieval and Renaissance culture (and outliers) has led to some interesting issues.  How far do we carry the concept of authenticity within the Society?  For some, they are content to wear tennis shoes, sit in bag chairs, and enjoy camping and archery. . . and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that desire to do so.  Others may be content to sew by hand an entire outfit from the skin out using natural fibres or creating a scroll using animal vellum and period pigments.  Guess what?  That’s quite all right too.  Within the Society, we make countless choices for the non-period item, whether it be for expense, safety, skill, or even health.  (And we’re not the only historically oriented group that does this, either!  American Civil War groups don’t use real bullets, Revolutionary War groups may have individuals using plastic fifes, and wise reenactors involved with early 19th century events aren’t going to intentionally wear garments dyed with Scheele’s Green.)

And yet, these two camps between authenticity and having fun seem to be at odds.  We are all aware of that One Guy who counted all of the stitches outside of an arts and sciences competition and complained loudly that “they weren’t period” and made someone feel terrible.  (For the record, I think that One Guy is not a nice nor cool guy.  Authenticity is a flog for yourself, not others.)  I’m here to say that people in the Authenticity Camp and the Having Fun Camp can get along.  But like many things in life, it’s going to have to come with some rules for getting along.  Below are Konstantia’s Rules for Getting Along with the People in your SCA-hood.  Of course, use these rules as a guide, not a dogmatic “it must always be this way” sort of situation.

  1. Realize that your goals may be different than others have for themselves.  It’s perfectly okay to have goals and desires and things to do in the Society.  It’s also perfectly okay for your goals and desires to be different from someone else.  It is not okay to belittle someone for wanting goals and desires that are different than yours.  If someone has a goal of attempting something more period, don’t try to dissuade them by screaming “but the SCA is CREATIVE!”  It’s okay to like different things, y’all.
  2. The rules of the SCA exist for a reason. Every subcategory in the SCA has rules.  Corpora even states that “provided [people wear] and attempt at pre-17th century clothing, [conform] to the provisions in Corpora, and [comply] with any other requirements (including, but not limited to site fees or waivers),” anyone may attend an event.  That being said, the attempt at pre-17th century clothing can be as elaborate as a tee-tunic over a pair of jeans, or a fully-realised 12th century Byzantine ensemble.  It just has to be an attempt, and provided everyone is following the rules, let that person be.
  3. Live and let live.  The Society is about history, yes.  But the Society is also a group of people; a group that comes together to celebrate pre-1600s history as much as our own history.  Our history is just as important as the history we study.
  4. Be kind.  Look, I get that we are not going to get along with everyone.  It hurts nothing to be kind.  And if the Society is predicated on the concepts of knightly virtues (courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak), then we ourselves should ready ourselves to think and act with these concepts.  Grace goes an awfully long way.
  5. Learn when to give advice/critique.  I seriously wrote a blog post about this earlier this year.  There is a time and a place for advice and critique, and how to broach that subject with others.
  6. Encourage each other.  The Society can only be better if we truly encourage each other.  So, your scrubs-wearing friend did well at archery?  Tell them they did a great job.  Your period-minded scribe friend knocked a scroll out of the park?  Let them know what you think.  We could really be a hell of a mutual admiration society if we encouraged each other more, were more thoughtful with our speech, and listened more often.
  7. If someone wants to go more period, let them!  All too often, I’ll see a post where someone wants to up their game, and there’s at least one comment where someone insists on the “but it’s CREATIVE.”  Look, a lot of things are creative.  How we research, how we determine how to make something, and even the justification of having a Japanese and a Byzantine in the same space is creative.  If people want to up their game, let them!

Look, our origins are a little bizarre.  And yet with our approach to historical practice, the Society has lasted over fifty years.  If we are to last at least fifty more years, we must consider that there may be reasons for people to play at the multitude of levels that we have.  For me, I’d like to be more period in my research and portrayal of someone who could have existed.  You may not, and that’s fine.  But please, don’t yuck my yum.  And I will remember to do the same to you.

Posted in musings, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Achieve!, or the Diary of making an Achievement of Arms

Achievement of Arms are a period way to show off one’s accomplishments in the SCA, as combined with one’s heraldic device.  I had the great fortune to create a conjugal coat of arms for my Byzanbestie Anna and her husband Gieffrei, and ended up also blogging the process, too.

Let’s start off with the details and definition of what a heraldic achievement of arms actually is.  An ‘achievement’ is a full formal display of a coat of arms. This form of display is normally used in very formal situations, and can be used for decorative elements, banners, and of course, on scrolls. An achievement is one’s heraldic device surrounded by all the extra elements accorded to an individual by their rank in the SCA according to their kingdom’s sumptuary laws. Most of the elements, however, are optional and do not have to be displayed.  Further bits of interkingdom anthropology: Ansteorra registers heraldic achievements – other kingdoms might not (mine does not).  Check with your local herald before you decide to start on your own.

Achievements consist of individual elements coming together in one full heraldic-a-go-go display.  These items are as follows: 

  • Escutcheon (the shield itself)
  • Motto (usually on a scroll-shaped object)
  • Compartment (what a supporter stands on.  This can be green space, or in more modern examples, a natural surface like sand or flowers)
  • Helm
  • Torse (twisted roll of fabric laid about the top of the helmet and the base of the crest)
  • Mantling (depiction of the protective cloth covering worn by knights to protect them from sword blows to the head – it looks awfully squid-like in art)
  • Coronet (optional)
  • Crest (optional)
  • Supporters (if one is entitled to them)
Garter stall plate of Walter Blount, 1st Baron Mountjoy (c.1416-1474), KG. 

Remember how I said that achievements are period?  They are!  Check out this example from St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, which displays the names and arms of the Knights of the Garter in their own personal chapel stall.  This enameled example belonged to Walter Blount, 1st Baron Mountjoy (c.1416-1474), and the extant plate dates to 1474.  It’s enameled brass, and you can see a crest (the horns), a coronet, a helm, mantling (the Cthulhu/squid-like item surrounding the arms), escutcheon (the shield), and label (the name on the scroll).  

So, for Anna and Gieffrei, I went a little bit more Anglo-Norman for their conjugal arms.  Anna and Gieffrei both have late 11th century personae, which mean that heraldry displayed in this manner is a bit late for them, but, as Anna basically said “I trust you.  Go crazy,” I kind of did.

Sorry for this being sideways!

I started by pencilling in everything on pergamenata (purchased from John Neal, Bookseller). Anna wanted a Byzantine double-headed eagle and an alligator for her supporters, so I used one of her badges [(Fieldless) A crocodile tergiant fesswise contourny sable gorged of an antique coronet Or] as inspiration for this supporter.  Gieffrei got a silver dolphin (he’s a Navy Chief outside of the SCA) and a Norman lion.  Anna went on the dexter side.  Normally, the male spouse would go on the right (that’s stage right for you non-heralds out there) to indicate that he is the higher ranking of the two, but hey, this is the SCA – Anna outranks Gieffrei, so her device went there.  

You can see the flat colour (sort of) on her gator. I’d already started to lay in some of the shading on it by the time I’d taken this photo.  Also note the diapering on the red bordure and the shading on the shield, making her dolphin pop.

Once I got everything sketched down in light pencil the way I wanted it, I started laying in flat colour with the gouache I had.  I, admittedly, bounced around a bit.  I started on Anna’s escutcheon, then her gator, then over to Gieffrei’s shield and, well, all over the place, but I started with the lightest colours (white, really) first, using Holbein’s Zinc White.  Normally, I’d add a bit of black to tone out this white so I’d be able to build dimension later and could add a bit of a permanent white (which can be used to paint over existing colour as the pigment is ground a wee bit more fine and doesn’t muddle into the underground colour as much), but it was fiddly and I skipped doing this, though, I did use a more charcoal-coloured grey for her dolphin to give it a bit more dimension and shading.

After the flat colour painting came the shading.  Now, when I laid down the flat colour, I tried to lay down a midtone so that I would have room to add lowlights and highlights, but also to keep the piece from appearing too dark or light. Gouache is an opaque watercolour, and can be quite forgiving about certain things, but there comes a point when no amount of globbing a lighter-coloured paint onto a darker-coloured object will save it, so start in the middle and add your highlights and lowlights carefully.  I also laid in my metallic paints (which are made by FineTec/Coliro, and can also be purchased at John Neal).  Anna’s eagle and her coronet, as well as Gieffrei’s Norman nasal helmet and dolphin both got the metallic treatment. The nice thing about using these particular metallic paints is that they can be mixed with gouache for any additional shading.  They are very shiny and very sparkly, as they have mica mixed into the pigments.  (I’ve used by FineTec/Coliro and Kuretake’s Gansai Tambi Starry Colors, and I have to say that I really like the FineTec more – it just pops off the page and mixes so well with the gouaches I have on hand, plus it’s incredibly pigmented.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.)

So small!

Of course, this is how most of the painting went.   I spent the better part of a day adding in colour, then low- and highlights until I got things to a place where I was happy with them. Details like Anna’s coronet were done to really make the piece personal to the owners of the achievements, and I am pleased that Anna is happy with the completed piece, which consists of the escutcheons, mantling, torses, supporters, a helm (his), a coronet (hers), a compartment (with their favourite flowers of tiger lilies and forget-me-nots), and their mottoes in Greek and Latin.

I did paint in their mottoes – after all, I had already laid paint down on the scrolled paper-looking thing, and this paint would wreak havoc with my pen nibs, so I brought out my trusty and beloved 20/0 Monogram brush from Princeton Brush Co.  The bristles are long enough to hold a decent amount of paint, but it’s a small enough brush to be able to see the things you’re painting.  Anna’s was done in Greek, using a translation she provided, and Gieffrei’s was in Latin, using a 12th c proto-gothic hand.  Doing calligraphy with a brush has its own sets of challenges, but by going slowly and methodically, I was able to complete this. Unfortunately, I didn’t get Gieffrei’s motto centered exactly, so this is my big regret with the appearance.  (there’s always something that I’m less than happy with in everything I do.  It is usually best to look at it, sigh, and learn from it, and then let it go.)

Ding!  It’s done!

The completed achievement is still one of the biggest I’ve done at 11″ x 14″ – I usually work much smaller as there’s less of a chance that I’d smear something, being a lefty.  On the other hand, working on this size allows for a bit more detail in the finished piece.  And my clients are happy.  And when they’re happy, I’m happy.

So, what’s next?  Well, not much. Admittedly, I’ve been working on some modern commissions lately (money is good!  It means I get to show up to hang out with my medieval friends), but this particular piece really was a lot of fun and reminded me why I love heraldry so much.

Posted in Byzantine, Greek, herald, heraldry, history, illumination, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments