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.
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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

And after you ditch the donut. . . the bling!

My Byzanbestie, Anna of Anna’s New Rome, just made a post about how anachronistic and frankly, terrible, the fabric donut is with Byzantine clothing.  You can read about it here, with this another part of our collaboration.  (TAG TEAM GO!)

Of course, this led down the rabbit hole of what to do to further ornament oneself, especially in the Society, which follows a pretty Anglo-Normative use of regalia (e.g. strawberry leaves for ducal coronets, etc.).  For those of us who are a bit more Eastern in our outlook (I see you, Byzanbabes), I bring you this.

Theodora with her attendants, Ravenna, Italy. 

It may be hard to make out, but if you look at the lines right at the start of the forehead, and even with the lady at the end of the line on the right, they’re wearing diadems.  This dates from a late Roman use, presumably by priestesses, moving along to women of high rank as Christianity swept through after Constantine.

Crown of Theodolina, 7th century Langobardic, Monza, Italy

The best part is that we have surviving diadems in this sort of style.  Check out this gorgeous diadem that’s currently at the Walters.  There are a couple of ways to wear this – on a leather strap, much like the above linked Late Roman example, or perhaps even pinned into the turban/fakiolion itself.  Again, the only exception to this appears to be the lady on the end of the line on the right and Theodora on the left.  The lady at the end appears to be wearing a gemmed band, similar to some of the crown of Theodolina, queen of the Lombards in the 7th c.  So, I think what we can extrapolate here is that the cultural exchange that was already in place by the 5th c CE between the Byzantines and the Lombards.  (there’s even protracted sort of conflict, too!  Check out the Byzantine–Lombard Wars.  Downside is that the Lombards ended up with Ravenna.)

The point, here, is that wearing bling over a turban, especially for  (early!) Byzantine use, is period.  Wear it.  Look fabulous.  And keep adding!  (Check this out.  I need a new project like a need another hole in my head, but I’m thinking I need a set of these to replace the pearl pendilla that I have.  I suspect this was suspended from hooks or pins that were attached to the turban or to the diadem itself.)

NB: I am a herald in the Society.  Please, please, please check your local kingdom sumptuary laws before you go putting a coronet/circlet on your head.  I will not be held responsible for the response you may get by wearing something outside of your station.  Otherwise, go bling yourself out.

Posted in Byzantine, clothing, hair, herald, heraldry, jewellery, jewelry, ornamentation, persona, persona development, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I live. . .

IMG_1543I know, I know.  I haven’t posted in a while.  I promise I still live.  I’ve been eaten alive by my modern work life and haven’t really posted a lot of the projects I’ve been working on.  I did finish the painting that’s on the left for the Mews (it’s the cover art for the November Mews), and while the art is a bit more modern than medieval, I enjoyed working with watercolour and gouache.

I’ve also been participating in Inktober.  I know, when I started on this whole “NO NEW PROJECTS,” I promised myself no new projects until the old ones were done.  But Inktober has really helped shock the creative juices back into work.  I’ve been participating in two lists: one that’s SCA themed, and one that’s a bit more modern.  You can see the art on my instagram account.

One of the cool things I’ve tried in the last month was working with Lord Jon Chesey on sighting stars with his quadrant.  It’s a lot of fun, and it was a cool way to connect my modern love of the heavens with a counterpart who existed within SCA period.

This is a super quick post to let you know that I’m still here, and that I’m still plugging away.

Posted in #MedievalMonday, calontir, illumination, project management, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Project Updates

Updates have been hard for me lately.  I’ve been dealing with some things to work through as of lately.  I am pleased that the finished pile is getting larger, but the six items have been there for a while and I just need to do them.  DO THE THINGS.  (but also, reminding myself to be gentle with myself, because holy hell, it’s been a rough month already.)

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.  (It’s been. . . warm.  It means that I don’t want to be outside cutting bone with a Dremel because it’s uncomfortably warm outside.  And stagnant summer air is awful.)
  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. Thaddeus’ Achievement of Arms (purchased more perg and some Tresser’s Pink Stuff from John Neal Books.  Have started work on layout.  I just need to be disciplined and get this done.)
  5. 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!)
  6. 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.)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.)
  11. Camp banners for Valor.
  12. Creating handouts for Valor’s classes.
  13. Banner for KWHSS.
  14. Nikolai’s Herald Extraordinary Scroll (formerly known as Secret Project Scroll #2)
  15. Imperial Roman clothes and jewellery (I just need actual full-length photos of it)
  16. A bunch of preprints for TRM Xerxis and BelAnna (OMG, SO SHINY.)
  17. YouTube video (which was from a FB live session) on shading.
  18. Painted Dirik von Rosswald’s shield for his upcoming knighting.
  19. 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.
  20. Eynon’s Boga Hirth Scroll, formerly known as Secret Project scroll #3 (text, calligraphy, and art)
Posted in project management, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heraldic Mythbusting – I got the Armorial azures; or, why does my heraldry not match the Armorial?

Let’s play a game!  What happens when you give some heraldic artists a few words describing a heraldic device and ask them to draw it?  Read below to see what happened!

This particular blog post will serve to do some heraldic mythbusting, and to give a peek behind the curtain of the Society College of Arms.  It will also go into a discussion about heraldic art, and why heraldic art can sometimes be a bit, well, squidgy.

A couple of weeks ago, I put out a request of a few heraldic artists, especially those who could do heraldic art from blazon (which is the shorthand that heralds use to describe a heraldic devices).  The blazon I gave them to draw was “<Fieldless>, a seraph proper.”  Society heraldry defines “a seraph proper” as having “Caucasian skin, red hair, multicolored wings.”  I gave no further direction other than to have the artists draw the given design in whatever medium they wanted (digital, traditional, etc.) and to make sure that they followed the Society heraldic default.

I had a few takers (my thanks to Master Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, Mistress Florlief in Haga, Lord Richard of Dunheved, Lord Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin, and Lord Ragnar Leifsson for their permission to use their art on this post).  As you can see, I got some really cool, but really different art styles and even colours.  And the best part?  Heraldically, they’re all technically correct (the best kind of correct)!

 

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This is what I submitted!  Not too far off from the other artists!

Also, don’t try submitting this design; I’ve already done that (see right).  (sorry!  I know, it’s a neat idea, but the thought of having a seraph with macaw wings is awfully tempting to a Byzantine!)

Anyhow, so, how can these all be correct?  Why is something completely different stylistically still the correct emblazon?  Is what’s in my kingdom’s armorial really the official art?

Small coat of arms of the Czech Republic.svg

Lesser arms of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

In heraldry, provided that the elements are drawn according to the words of the blazon, it’s a correct emblazon.  Let’s take a look at a period example: the Kingdom of Bohemia.  (Gules, a lion rampant queue forchée argent armed, langued and crowned Or.)  If you’re not familiar with blazon, this translates to “a red background, a white lion with a forked tail facing the viewer’s left, standing on one leg with the other three in the air, wearing a gold/yellow crown.”  Got it in your mind’s eye?  Awesome.  (I’ve given the Wikipedia version of it on the left in the event it’s not coming up in your brain.  This is a modern rendition, so it may look completely different from the next few bits, which are from period texts such as Siebmachers Wappenbuch [1605] and the Zurich Roll [1340]).  They are all valid emblazons based on the blazon provided above.  They are in chronological order, starting with the Zurich Roll.

 

So, there are some minor differences in the positioning of the legs, and Siebmacher on the right hand side has it facing the wrong way (though, this shows up a lot in rolls of arms within period, where the arms face the middle of the book itself).  Some of the feet aren’t quite off the ground, and in others, it looks like the lion is a champion aerobics instructor.  But, the red background, white lion with the split tail wearing a gold crown are all there, even if they don’t look exactly the same.

In short, artists gonna art.

That being said, I do want to address the concept of “artistic license,” especially in reference to Society heraldry.  It is one thing to change how a lion might look.  You might change how the tail is curled or how open a wing is.  You can add diapering or shading.  There are a multitude of things that a person can do to really make their heraldry stand out.  If someone has a background with ermine spots, provided there’s more than 5, it’s an ermine background.  Countervair could have more than two “columns” of vair bells and still be correct.

It is a completely different thing, however, to change an item to something completely different.  That is not artistic license: that’s creating a brand new piece of heraldry, and should be discouraged (unless it’s a relative creating a similar piece of heraldry to show a family tie, but that’s neither here nor there).  Painting a standing seraph to look like a Byzantine icon is okay provided it looks like a standing seraph, as is painting in knotwork animals.  Substituting an animal for another, or changing a line of division, well, that isn’t artistic license.

What’s in your kingdom’s armorial is not your officially registered device, which may seem surprising to people.  Remember how I said “artists are gonna art?”  Same goes for the person doing the armorial.  What is official is what someone submitted to the Society College of Arms through your College of Heralds – and the Society Archivist has copies of all of these forms (as should your own College of Heralds).  Anything else is up to heraldic artistic license.  The official blazon (the words, remember) can be found in the Society Ordinary and Armorial.

Onto the mythbusting part of this post – changes to heraldry.  In Society heraldry, we register the emblazon, that is, the picture.  Laurel staff (Wreath Sovereign of Arms) might change a blazon (that is, the words describing the picture) without a submitter’s permission, because the College of Arms wants the best way to describe the picture using heraldic language.  (If the picture submission is changed without your permission, please discuss this with your Principal Herald.)  Sometimes, the College will go through old submissions, and will reblazon (that is, changing the words to describe the picture) based on newer research on what something was called in period, or even to better describe the items on the device.  The picture remains the same.

But, Konstantia, what if I want the tongues on my animal to be an exact colour?  Do you blazon those?

It’s a good question.  Some things in Society heraldry are not explicitly blazoned, even if they’re explicitly so in the emblazon.  Details like tongues, toenails, and yes, pizzles (yes, the genitalia of heraldic animals) are usually considered “unblazonable” – in other words, they are unspecified by the College of Arms.  If you really want them to be a particular colour, work closely with your kingdom’s College of Heralds to make sure that your desired blazon ends up in your kingdom’s armorial, but do be aware that because we don’t typically blazon them because they are pretty small details and with blazon in the Society having a certain economy of language.  (Other places, like the Canadian Heraldic Authority and the English College of Arms may make blazons quite a bit longer.)

So, in wrapping up: heraldic art is much like other forms of art.  Changes to heraldry refer to the blazon to make it easier on heraldic artists, and sometimes the small details are ignored.  Artistic license (to a point) is a good thing!  What’s in your kingdom’s armorial is not officially your emblazon.

I hope this helps when it comes to heraldic art, and I can’t wait to see your own personal twists on your heraldic art!

Posted in herald, heraldry, SCA, service, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments