Barony of Forgotten Sea Arts and Sciences Championship

Yesterday was the baronial arts and sciences championship, which I entered on a lark.  The only caveat to the competition is that I could not have entered a competition with it before.  You may remember the carved Pelican medallion I made a few entries ago.  After buying a jeweler’s saw and blades, I cut the back off so that it was flat (and now I have a tiny chip of tagua to play with!) and carved in a cross of Calatrava with my Dremel.  It is times like this that I really wish I had more hand tools, but that will come with time.

My next step is getting people involved with showing their work off.  The work is beginning, but so is the fun.


Posted in brag page, Byzantine, calon cross, calontir, carving, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Elspeth of Stonehaven’s Calon Lily

One of the first people I ever met in the SCA was given her Calon Lily this weekend for embroidery, and lucky me, I was given the privilege to not only write her scroll text, but also do the calligraphy and illumination.

Countess Elspeth has a Scots persona, and so I used a framework consisting of the brieve-charters of King David I of Scotland, who is the same time period and location as Elspeth.  Quite a few were written in Latin (which is not a language I know well), but a few had been translated, so I could use the ideas as presented in them and modify them for SCA use.  After all, Grants and Patents of Arms in period were legal documents granting to the recipient things ranging from arms to a peerage.

In this case, Elspeth is fantastic with her skills with thread and needle, and was granted her Calon Lily (Grant of Arms – Arts, Calontir), so sheep, wool, and a mention of a church (which is where I first met her for a shire moot eleven years ago).

King Ashir exercising the royal authority and power, with the assent and consent of Ashland the Queen, his wife, to the dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, barons, etc., announces that he has granted in perpetuity to one such Countess Elspeth of Stonehaven her entrance into the Order of the Calon Lily, and all responsibilities, rights, and privileges of said Order. He also grants to the same Countess use of the badge of this order, to wit: Per pale purpure and Or, a fleur-de-lys within a bordure counterchanged.  Also granted to the same Countess a full toft for her use in embroidering fine cloth, beside the church in the shire of Lost Moor. He orders that 1/10th of 1/10th of the tax on wool gathered in the Shire of Lost Moor shall be granted to her for the upkeep of this toft. In addition Ashir grants the ploughgate of land from the desmesne neighbouring Stonehaven with three tofts and thirty acres of moor, fifteen acres on one side of the vill and fifteen on the other, and a croft of meadow surrounded by an old ditch of which the raising of sheep may occur.

IMG_0639.JPGThe inspiration for her scroll was a manuscript, which up until recently was thought to be English but is now thought to be Scots.  I used a Carolingian minuscule on the bulk of the text, and the capitals were done in the same style.  I am quite fond of the large INs that are sprinkled throughout – they give a lot of great visual difference.

On the whole, it’s a simple scroll.  One illuminated capital (which keys off of her heraldry with a unicorn and a dog), and a simple rendering of her with one of her pugs.  I used the tiniest amount of Holbein gold pearl (best gold gouache on the market in my opinion) for rendering her coronet and adding a bit for the background on the illuminated capital.  The other capital letters are Liquitex’s Ink! in red.  (you will want to clean the dickens out of your nibs after using it.  It is an acrylic ink and can rust the nibs, but this transparent red is such a beautifully pigmented colour.)

I hear that she is quite pleased with her scroll, and I am so glad she is.  Congrats, Elspeth!

Posted in calligraphy, heraldry, illumination, paint, scroll text, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteer Management in the SCA

One of the responsibilities of holding an office in the SCA is the proper care and feeding of volunteers. By managing your volunteers appropriately, you engender a sense of joy and fun, and encourage those volunteers to excel. This reduces the need for turnover, and allows others to grow from within the group. Additionally, in an all-volunteer organization, learning to manage people so that they keep coming back is so very important to retention, which the Society Seneschal, among others, has recognized as an ongoing project for the Society. This article will discuss ways to manage volunteers as a volunteer yourself, handle volunteers dealing with explosions of life, and will give a few resources.

The SCA is a volunteer organization. Full-stop. Everyone, from the members of the Board of Directors, to the royals of the twenty kingdoms, to the gentle with their bare AoA, is a volunteer. As a volunteer yourself, please remember that when managing your volunteers, that they have lives outside the SCA. Volunteers can and will walk away as their life demands. This is not meant to scare away other volunteers, but rather to serve as a caveat to the permanency of your volunteers. Commitment is treasured. Create a cause and a passion and a sense of fun for your volunteers to participate in – for here’s where your volunteers will want to stick around. Also, as a volunteer leader, be willing to get dirty and to work closely with your volunteers. It is one thing to direct from on high – it is something completely different to work alongside your volunteers in a true sense of servant leadership.

Communicate clearly and often. In many ways, being visible and active helps keep volunteers motivated and excited. Consider sending emails, posting on your group’s message board, or a quick message using the social media site of your choice. Spreading a wide net of communication means that your volunteers know that you are active and willing to answer questions and to address concerns. Be prompt with your answers to questions. Even if you don’t know the answer immediately, a response of “I’m not sure, but I’ll keep looking,” is still an acceptable response. If something makes you angry, step away for no less than twenty-four hours before crafting a response. Wait another eight hours (at least) before sending it. Showing patience and grace is key.

For new volunteers, be excited when a person is ready to take on the mantle of an office or joins in on a project. Encourage them. Check in on them outside of reporting or event planning time. Suggest they join (and ask questions) on the various unofficial groups (heralds, A&S activities, etc.) Invite them, specifically, to events such as retreats, A&S nights, or to fighter practice. Keep things fun. Consider gifting inexpensive items that may help them on their path [1]. Open lines of communication are one of the best ways to keep the excitement up and volunteers interested in doing their job.

Mid-level SCAdians often look for a place within the Society to learn more things. If they’re looking for new things to learn, have a conversation with them. Encourage them to take on positions that are well-suited for them or ones you could see them growing into, especially if you are in a position (e.g. Regional, Kingdom, or Society level) to do so. Even as group officers, this is a perfect time to get mid-level SCAdians involved in the process of being a group officer if they haven’t. Consider taking them on (if they’re amenable) as a deputy, with consent of your senior officer.

SCAdians who have been around a while are often self-directed. People who have held your job before you will be your eyes and ears, as well as your resources. Lean on them as much as you can for help.

Thanking your deputies, both publicly and privately, is so very important. As you are not the Crown, you cannot directly award AoAs or awards as such. However, being prompt with writing award recommendations to the Crown can help your deputies feel recognized for their time. Write thank you notes, messages on Facebook, or an email. Tell them that they matter to you. Thank your deputies and those who pitch in and help out consistently.

Don’t try to control every part, however small, of the activity or your deputies or the people you directly lead. Much like in a professional work environment, people do better when they’re given the responsibilities and support to do their jobs. They thrive. Let your SCAdians do the same. Check in with them at events, talk with them, but let them do their work.

Most volunteers (new, old, and in between) are content to do the job, and want to do it well. On the flip side, however, sometimes volunteers are struggling to do their jobs well. Burnout occurs. Modern life gets messy. Attacks of life happen. If those things happen to one of your volunteers, talk with them first. Make sure their modern lives are okay.

Talk with your volunteer, either by phone call or a meeting at an event. Let them know that while they have made a commitment to serve, their modern life takes precedence over the SCA. If they need to take a break, allow them to do so and to step away with grace. After all, a broken vessel cannot serve. Supporting your volunteers when their modern lives are less than stellar helps them feel cared about, and they’re more apt to come back after their life returns to more normal circumstances. Follow your phone or face-to-face conversations up with emails to them.

However, there are times when burnout happens, sometimes, and can sometimes manifest in less than positive directions [2]. If the undesirable behavior or action continues after you’ve initially talked with your deputy or volunteer, then it’s time to start setting an action plan in place. Be fair, compassionate, but also firm. Start small (a warning, if the officer is just not doing their job; or perhaps a conversation to see what the real issues are if they just seem “off” and unlike themselves) before going to a thermonuclear detonation (replacement or further sanctions). Document everything. Email your deputy to remind them of their commitment and of your conversation. Again, be firm, but fair. Firing a deputy right away can scare potential deputies from filling in.

Lastly, if the deputy still is not doing their job, remove them from office, replace them (if you can get the blessing of the previous deputy, this will go a long way), and while not indicating the reason for the changeover, publicly thank the previous deputy for their service and welcome the new one.

Example: A volunteer has an attack of life and cannot do their job with any frequency, but promises that they’ll get around to it as soon as they can. A month passes, and still their job is not getting done. As a result, it is affecting the ability for your group to get the bigger job complete. After a meeting via phone call or in person, where it is discussed that the job needs to be done by the volunteer, the rest of the boundaries and expectations for the job/position are laid out in detail. Follow this up with an email detailing the issue and the detailed plan as soon as possible. Check in with the volunteer by checking in on their activities. In the event that the job is still not getting done, you may wish to speak with the deputy again by phone or in person, and put together an action plan (the activity needs to be completed by a particular date, or else replacement will occur) will need to be put together. Again, an email should be sent to them detailing what the action plan is, and what needs to happen. Lastly, if the deputy still is not doing their job, remove them from office, replace them quickly, and while not indicating the reason for the changeover, publicly thank the previous deputy for their service and welcome the new one.

Want more resources on volunteer management? Check out how other non-profits manage their volunteers. Sources like,, and even the United Way have their best practices listed. While not everything will apply to the SCA, it is a good base to start with.

In closing, the SCA is a much more welcome and friendly place when our officers do what they can to make their own environment welcoming and friendly, and when your volunteers are happy with their work within the Society, it shows.


1. For example, one of the things I gave to brand new heralds as a newcomer’s gift from their Principal Herald were mini-packs of Crayola Pipsqueak markers, which were purchased at Dollar General for $1.50 a pack, which both helped them in designing their heraldry, but came in handy at consult tables. If you are an A&S Minister, items such as string, beads, extra fabric, paint, or items to make more stuff with may help.

2. The following section is more for those officers/volunteers who have hiring/firing capabilities. (Event Stewards, Territorial Baronages, Principality or Kingdom Officers, etc.) Again, most volunteers excel at their jobs and do a tremendous job of keeping the SCA in their part of the Knowne World running.

Posted in SCA, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, volunteer management | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

AMA Question #1

Space_wolf asked:

How do you keep your veil (particularly the outfit you wore when stepping down as Gold Falcon Principle Herald – in place, or do you just accept that over time it might shift / slip?

Also, before I start answering this question – go to her blog (which I’ve linked above)! She’s got some awesome tutorials that she’s done for her LARP group. They’re very cool!

So, in short, things do shift. Gravity is more than just a force of nature. Physics does exist. That all said, things that can be done to mitigate veil shifts.  I confess my hair is the sort that’s pretty slippery.  It doesn’t stay in braids long, and all attempts to keep it slicked back in something other than a ponytail usually doesn’t last long.  Welcome to the struggle that is my life.

And, the thing is, in most places and classes in pre-1600s Europe, hair for most noblewomen remained covered.  (Noted exceptions: royal women [read, queens and princesses] could generally do whatever they wanted with their hair.  Who’s going to tell the person who has the power of life or death what they can and can’t do with their hair?)  However, as much of European custom varies from location to location and time to time, please research the area you’re most interested in.  Take a look at art from the time period to get an idea!  Keep in mind that Europe, and especially Northern Europe was cold!  Covering one’s head kept warmth in!

Also, cover your head, especially if you’re outdoors.  Sunburned scalps suck.

First, the non-period answer, and what I did when I was still new (and until I figured out how to pin things!) to the SCA.  I bobby-pinned the ever-loving crud out of my veils.  You can see it in a lot of my portraits.  It’s just not period (nor particularly pretty) but it is serviceable.  For events where you might be outside and don’t want to lose pins or your veils (and you don’t care about making the period choices), this may be a good option.

100_6802.JPGSecond, the period answer: pins.  Many hairstyles in pre-1600s Europe use coifs, braids, wimples, and various other items to help veils stay in place.  Speaking from personal experience: this is not always foolproof because physics is a thing.  Wind happens.  You may have an incident with a doorknob catching a veil (welcome again to my life).  Things happen.  This, though, works out pretty well.  A bit on pins – there’s not a lot of changes between what has been found and what currently exists.  For more on Roman glass-headed pins, you can check out my entry here.

Back to pins in hair.  Much of this is based on what I do for Byzantine, which is going to be different than most of Europe.

Step one: put on a turban.  This works for a large portion of Byzantine representation, and really helps create the silhouette of the head (which, as discussed here, is oddly bulbous).

Step two: find a lightweight scarf.  I usually use pashminas.  They’re plentiful, relatively inexpensive, and can be used to fantastic effect in this manner, plus they bear resemblance to other headcoverings used in contemporary Byzantine art.

Step 3: pin the scarf to the turban.  You can see the effect here.  (Pardon the silly face.  I was talking in the photo, but you can see how it works.)  In the photo above, you can see the variety of pins that I own and use.  Some are handmade from scratch, others were gifts.  Some are even commercially made glass-headed dressmaker’s pins.  Use what your budget will allow.  I promise these will work, provide you get long enough pins.  When I pin my veil to my turban, I will put one pin in on the crown of my head (it should be in line with your shoulders), and then the next one parallel to that one a few millimeters away.  This, so far has worked for me, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

Step 4: Either tuck in the ends into your belt or over your shoulders (or both).  This helps keep the scarf out of the way, and helps support the scarf itself.

But, Konstantia, it’s too hot for a turban!  What should I do then?

Braid your hair in a milkmaid braid.  Put a veil on your head.  Pin it to your braids, leaving room for the veil/scarf/pashmina to have room to fold over a little bit to hide the pins that are still parallel with your shoulders.  You can see that effect here.  (Again with the catching me talking, resulting in silly faces.)

Again, this isn’t foolproof, and things will shift, but you lessen the chance to adjust.  Same with using wimples and the like for 1200s onward.

Hope this helps!

If you are interested in having your question answered, please feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me on my Contact page!

Posted in ask me anything, Byzantine, hair, hairpins, later period, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, veil pins | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ask Me Anything!

It’s been a while.  So much for keeping up with my New Year’s plans.  At any point, gratuitous project pic!

Tagua nut is also known as vegetable ivory, and is carved using a lot of the same methods, and has the benefit of being vegan and sustainable.  This piece isn’t necessarily a period piece, but rather more SCA in focus, however, Byzantine ivories are impressive pieces and I’d like to try my hand at one of these in the future.

I did use my Dremel, though this particular piece isn’t completely done.  I’ll be slicing off the back for more carving, though perhaps with something more simple, like a cross of Calatrava or the like.  I’ve been waiting for saw blades to get in so that I could do the nice fine-grained cutting that a piece like this needs.  Unlike carving copal or amber, it is a much harder substance to carve (I sanded quite a bit off instead of carving with a bit), but it takes ink stain beautifully, and is wonderful to scrimshaw, too.  It does, however, burn very easily, as it is vegetable matter, but I used this to some advantage to create texture and colour for the nest, which is about the colour this turns when it burns.

So, while I’m doing some more bits and pieces, I want to keep my brain active towards Byzantium.  My friend Anna is also doing the same on her blog, so check her out, too. Got a question about Byzantium?  Material culture? Religious studies of the period?  Early period Byzantium have you stumped?  Ask me your questions, and it’ll show up in a future post.  (I will, however, not do your homework, so, you’re getting citations on interpretations so you can come to your own conclusions.)

Meanwhile, back to the scriptorium!  I look forward to your questions!

Posted in about me, about this blog, brag page, carving, engraving, SCA, service, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Cormac Mór’s Pelican Text

I have been remiss in posting some of my projects.  This one dates from August 2012 (it’s almost five years old!), when my friend Cormac was made a Pelican in Caid.  In honour of him being named the next Wreath, I’m digging this pair of texts out.  This one was fun, as Cormac was the Crescent Principal Herald at the time, and had a few requests.

One: the first request was to use a period grant of arms.  Now, Cormac has a mid-15th c Scots persona, so using English grants of arms text from the period was well within the scope of things.  I found the grant of arms for Edmond Mille, dated 1450, and used this as a base.

Two: as Cormac was sitting Principal Herald, he had to sign off on any scrolls that mention heraldry, to attest that it was indeed correct (which, given that it’s his own device is really pretty silly), and then requested that this one be a little more . . . well, silly.  So, you’ll see two texts that are pretty close to being the same, just with a few silly differences.

To all present and to come who these letters shall see or hear, Patrick O’Malley alias King in the Realm of Caid and Kara the Twin of Kelton alias Queen in the Realm of Caid, greeting and all humble commendations. Equity will and reason ordains that men, virtuous and of noble courage, be for their merits by renown rewarded, and not only their persons in this mortal life, so brief and transitory, but after them, those issuing from and being begotten by their bodies be in all places of great honour for ever before others distinguished by certain signs and tokens of honour and gentility, that is to say by blazon, helm and crest, so that by their example more shall be persuaded to use their days in feats of arms and other virtuous works to acquire the renown of ancient gentility in their line and posterity. Wherefore We, King and Queen aforesaid, who, not only by common renown but also by the report and testimony of others, noble men worthy of faith am well & truly advertised and informed that Cormac Mór has for long pursued feats of arms & as well in this as in other matters has carried himself valiantly, and honourably governed himself so that he has well deserved & is worthy that henceforth for ever he and his posterity be in all places honourably admitted, received, acknowledged, counted and renowned among the number and of the company of other ancient gentle and noble men. And for the remembrance of this his gentility, We have devised ordained and assigned to the said Cormac Mór, for him the blazon, cap, and crest in the manner following, that is to say: a shield of Per fess with a right step Or and argent. And the crest on the helm, a demi brown bear, proper, as aforesaid, seated on a cap of maintenance gules & lined ermine, mantelled of the same, lined ermine, as the picture, &c., in the margin before this demonstrates, To have, hold and use and possess for him for ever. In testimony whereof We, King and Queen above-named, have signed with our hand and sealed with our seal these presents. Made and given the twelfth day of August, anno societatus XLVII, in the year of grace 2012.

Rex Caidis

Regina Caidis

And now for the more silly of the two: Cormac’s copy to sign, attesting that his own arms are indeed his own arms.

To all present and to come who these letters shall see or hear, Cormac Mór alias Crescent Principal Herald in the Realm of Caid, greeting and all humble commendations. Equity will and reason ordains that men, virtuous and of noble courage, be for their merits by renown rewarded, and not only their persons in this mortal life, so brief and transitory, but after them, those issuing from and being begotten by their bodies be in all places of great honour for ever before others distinguished by certain signs and tokens of honour and gentility, that is to say by blazon, helm and crest, so that by their example more shall be persuaded to use their days in feats of arms and other virtuous works to acquire the renown of ancient gentility in their line and posterity. Wherefore We, Crescent aforesaid, who, not only by common renown but also by the report and testimony of others, noble men worthy of faith am well & truly advertised and informed that Cormac Mór has for long pursued feats of arms by procuring pic-a-nic baskets & as well in this as in other heraldic mayhem has carried himself valiantly, and honourably governed himself so that he has well deserved & is worthy that henceforth for ever he and his posterity be in all places honourably admitted, received, acknowledged, counted and renowned among the number and of the company of other ancient gentle and noble men. And for the remembrance of this his gentility, We have devised ordained and assigned to the said Cormac Mór, for him the blazon, cap, and crest in the manner following, that is to say: a shield of Per fess with a right step Or and argent.  And the crest on the helm, a demi brown bear, proper, as aforesaid, seated on a cap of maintenance gules & lined ermine, mantelled of the same, lined ermine, as the picture, &c., in the margin before this demonstrates, To have, hold and use and possess for him for ever. In testimony whereof We, Crescent above-named, have signed with our hand and sealed with our seal these presents. Made and given the twelfth day of August, anno societatus XLVII, in the year of grace 2012.

Crescent Principal Herald

Cormac, thank you for letting me participate from halfway across the country in your day. It was wonderful.

Posted in Caid, ceremonies, ceremony, court, herald, heraldry, later period, SCA, scroll text, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rufus Tenstone’s Silver Hammer

I was asked to write a scroll text for my friend Rufus, who received his Silver Hammer (Grant-level, Sciences, Calontir) for his pottery at Coronation.  Rufus’ persona is a Saxon/ Viking orphan, found by the red painted old Roman 10 mile marker outside London.  This was delayed due to Coronation being postponed thanks to a predicted monster ice storm.  Today, though, was a beautiful day, and I am pleased to have the opportunity.

Since he had a persona from Anglo-Saxon England, I headed straight towards Anglo-Saxon poetry.  There are a couple of different forms, both with and without alliteration.  I opted for no alliteration, but made sure there were plenty of kennings, that is, a compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning, e.g., oar-steed = ship.

When there had passed in the circuit of years thirty
and two winters of this world,
accounted by numbers, in the reckoning of time,
since the purple-clothed falcon had slipped her jesses, the Glory of Kingdoms,
in middle-earth the land close to the heart, the golden song of the people,
there was the reign of King Ashir, ring-giver, and Queen Ashland, cup-bearer.
He, who sat battle-dressed, elevated to the rule of Calontir
She, who bore war needles fletched with raven’s wine
Across the earth, illuminated by certain goods, worldly treasures.
One may be destitute, a hard-fortuned man, who is nevertheless
wealthy in the mind’s crafts. One takes up a burden
greatly strong besides. One is handsome, ruddy in his form.
These rulers, bearers of rivers-fire, they sought a worker of river-flesh, who saw vessels made from river-bone
from dolphins’-home to falcons’-flight.

Rufus Tenstone was called before King Ashir, feeder of eagles, and Queen Ashland, bearer of valkyrie-might
He who creates vessels, bearers of the honey wave,
the spreader of red-hot embers of the sea, to him is granted
a hammer, of the snow-drift of the falcon’s land,
gifts of sea-amber and the hawthorn’s moor
and a hearth’s-ship near river’s edge
Let the carriers of tales sing of his mind’s worth.

Done by Our hands, the twenty-first of January, thirty and two years after falcon’s flight.



Based on The Gifts of Men, Elene, and Battle of Maldon.

Kennings are as follows:

“circuit of years thirty and two winters of this world” – Calontir is 32 years old as of January 1, 2017.
“She, who bore war needles fletched with raven’s wine” – Ashland is an archer, and I think she’s got red fletching – don’t quote me on that particular detail.
“One is handsome, ruddy in his form” – a play on the name Rufus, meaning ruddy or red
“worker of river-flesh, who saw vessels made from river-bone” – river-flesh is clay, river-bone is rock, which happens when clay is fired.
“from dolphins’-home to falcons’-flight.” – Rufus started playing in the SCA in Caid, hence the dolphin reference.
“King Ashir, feeder of eagles, and Queen Ashland, bearer of valkyrie-might” – feeder of eagles = warrior; bearer of valkyrie-might = archer.
“of the snow-drift of the falcon’s land,” – period descriptor of silver.
“gifts of sea-amber and the hawthorn’s moor/and a hearth’s-ship near river’s edge” – sea-amber = gold; hawthorn’s moor = land, also keys into his SCA group, Lost Moor; hearth’s-ship = a house.
“Carriers of tales” = skalds.
Posted in Caid, calontir, SCA, scroll text, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Leave a comment

It’s been a year: goal-writing and the SCA

I have to admit, I’m not one for writing goals.  On the other hand, though, I can see the point.  I’m also not one for resolutions (because self-improvement, while hard, is something that I think we’re all working on in one way or another).  On the other other hand, goal-writing allows us to see our own growth and learn from what we’ve done in the past – it’s not a checklist.  It’s a way to see how far you’ve come as a person (or your kit, etc.) and yet still show how far you have to go, and then using that as a form of finding contentment.  It’s kind of Zen, really.

Still, after seeing the question on the Boke of Faces (and okay, asking it myself in my kingdom FB group), I figured I should at least give it a try.

Goal #1: actually finish a project before taking on another one.img_5073
I have a problem.  It usually sounds like “Oh, yes!  I could do that!”  The problem is, while I can do things, it’s a matter of what other projects are on my plate.  I have some, like the Baronial Roll of Arms project (which I need to blog about – see right photo to get an idea) happens on specific nights, so I can work around that.  But, I also need to put in some serious work on a Gold Falcon handbook, too, and that’s harder.  (Especially since doing scribal is, in comparison, more instant gratification)  So, I’m going to be more conscious about what I’m actually working on before I take on another project.  This also refers to service – don’t volunteer time that you can’t take on, either. Actually take a break!

Goal #2: update my kit.
My soft court kit really is in pretty good shape.  However, I do need things like underlayers and shoes that actually look right that have an actual sole on them.  On the other hand, I’d like to eventually get authorized and start fighting Calontir Cut and Thrust, which means that I need to sit down and figure out what that fighting kit looks like, and what the rest of the nuts and bolts bits of it look like.  That is going to take some research and decisions, and lots of linen.  Oh, and swords.  Oh, yay, swords!

Goal #3: get authorized in Calontir Cut and Thrust.
I did some cut and thrust at a small event at the Shire of Theobald College, and I really had a lot of fun with it.  Also, may it be said that while I really didn’t like the concept of doing cut and thrust, my mind has been changed, and I’m glad that this is something that I feel good about doing.  It also means I need to eat better, move more, and actually drink more water.  So, I suppose that technically, this is a backwards route to a New Year’s Resolution.

Goal #4: Blog more often.
I’m really bad about updating the blog and going into projects and why I’ve done things and oh, yeah, persona stuff.  Part of this is not really knowing where to focus in on.  Jewellery is fun, and the stuff from my time period is really pretty simple.  But, there’s so much more to it, too.  I forget to share things here (especially when I’ve shared them on the Boke of Faces), especially since I can go so much more in depth with them.  So, this is where you come in.  What do you want to know about Byzantium?  Are there foods you’re curious about?  Do you have weird questions that you’ve always wanted to ask?  Please ask the questions!  I’ll try and go through and have an open question post, where I’ll ask for questions and then answer them in future posts.

Goal #5: Find the joy.
The SCA really is a lot of fun.  It’s part of the reason it’s been a big part of my life for the past decade.  Unfortunately, in the last two years, I’ve lost a lot of that joy.  (Then again, I also went through a lot of personal and family issues while being a kingdom officer, and I really don’t recommend that to anyone).  Technically, I started back on this path of joy-seeking earlier in 2016, but it’s a good path to remain on.  I’ll try to write more award recommendations, compliment more people, ask more questions, and do more quiet service.  And I invite you to do the same, as well.

And that’s it!  There are my five goals for Anno Societatis LI/LII (because that new SCA year in May throws everything off)!  Hope to hear more from you, and I hope to keep looking and doing things – but keeping my sanity and my joy in mind.

Posted in about me, musings, persona, persona development, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puzzling Out the Procession of the Martyrs

meister_von_san_apollinare_nuovo_in_ravenna_002The Procession of the Virgin Martyrs is an incredible piece of art from 6th century Ravenna (see also the mosaic of Theodora with Attendants, also located in Ravenna and completed during the reign of Justinian and Theodora).  Created with thousands of tesserae (or glass or stone tiles), this piece of artwork completed during the reign of Justinian and Theodora gives a glimpse of what the nobility wore.

The downside: it’s a two dimensional piece of work.  Masterfully created folds definitely look like folds, but cannot be flipped up or manipulated to really get a good look at them.  On the other hand, we have some textiles from Egypt (sometimes called Coptic textiles, but as the Copts are an ethnoreligious group that’s still in existence today, I prefer to not use this term, instead, I’ll use Byzantine-Egyptian textiles) that can provide some clues.

The first step in demystifing the Virgin Martyrs’ clothing was starting at the base level and identifying what they’re wearing.  I picked one of the women and traced around her, and then got to work colour-coding what she’s wearing.

22virginsAs you can see, there’s a bunch of layers.  When I first started looking at this particular piece, I wondered if the dalmatica was wrapped around the body. It is not. (I tried and I actually fell over when I tried to walk!)  Based on the folds shown in the mosaic, the dalmatica is hiked up and tucked through the belt, as if our martyr was off to work.  The white baldric looks as it’s part of the underdress, but it is a baldric (again, going off contextual clues from the folds and the fact that there is a martyr (or two) who do not have the baldrics.  The veil/palla is far more like what was seen in Imperial Rome, especially looking at her hair and diadem, however, given that another similar piece from around the same time was found within the Empire, without the palla, we can compare them fairly safely.

So, let’s look at what we do know, based on items that we have found.

Again, Egyptian tunics from the time are not going to be as fancy as what was worn at court in Constantinople, however, we can use them to get an idea.  This particular tunica comes close to the tunicae that the virgins are wearing (again, note the geometric construction and just how wide it is!  The belt is a necessity).  The decorative panel could have been woven in, much like the rest of the trim, though this is problematic based on the folds of fabric just under the panel.  It could also be simply artistic, as we don’t see this item in anything else from this time period.  We do see later pieces that have palliums, however, those are on the outside of the delmatikion, not in between.

As for the belt: metal belt findings were worn by men (as a way to keep pants up), however, there’s not much out there that has been worn by women.  Yet, we see the virgins all wear belts.  The Walters has a metal belt with coins dating from the 4th c, delicate, with chains connecting the coins together.  It is similar to the belts of the virgins, as they are decorated with gems and pearls, but unlike the belts of the virgins, the coins stick out quite a bit.

For shoes, there’s quite a bit out there.  At the Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum, a display has three pairs of leather slippers (all red and all gilt), all dating from the 5th to the 8th centuries.  A particular pair bears a strong resemblance to the shoes the virgins are wearing – pointed toes, as we can see in the mosaic.

Lastly, the superhumeral and the cuffs/bracelets.  We have examples of the superhumeral in art, but no surviving pieces.  Bracelets exist (the Ferrell collection has a stunningly gorgeous one), however, these appear to be cuffs on a gown pushed up as if for work.

It’s all searching, researching, and doing it over and over.  And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, ideas change.  For now, this is good to start with and with breaking the ideas apart and starting small.

Posted in clothing, fashion, persona, persona development, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments


My house, lately, has been the medallion factory.

IMG_5133.JPGCommissioned by my Pelican, I made these two pieces.  I’ll also be showing the bits that I’m not proud of (because it keeps me humble), so there’s going to be things that just aren’t pretty.  Welcome to the suck parts of being an artist: project fail.


Gabriel commissioned me for a set of two medallions, and as they were going to go on provost collars (he is a student to a Master of Defense, ergo, a provost), he asked if I could put a glass cabochon over them to protect them better.  This also is a bit more period, as there are miniatures dated to Elizabethan England with glass or rock crystal cabochons.  So, here’s the process I used.

What you will need:
Pergamentata, vellum, or a good cardstock
– think archival-quality papers that will take gouache paint well and are relatively thin.
Gouache – I primarily use Royal Talens brand, however, this piece also has Holbein pearl gold.  Use what you’re most comfortable using.
Paintbrushes – use your best paintbrushes.  I would also recommend super-small paintbrushes for detail work.  I use Princeton mini liner, monogram, round, and spotter in 20/0 because of the size of the piece.
Bezels – I use commercial bezels because I don’t have room in my house for a metal shop.  I purchased mine at Michaels, however, if you feel like making your own, go for it!
Glass cabochons – Again, I used calibrated, commercial cabs purchased at Michaels.  These fit in the commercial bezels almost perfectly!
Mod Podge – protect your hard work!  Some adhesives are water based and can make your paint smear.  By using Mod Podge or other similar sealants, your artwork can be protected while it’s under the glue and glass.
Adhesive of some kind – I used Liquid Fusion clear urethane glue.  It has some benefits, as it’s waterproof (but water-based), but it’s also environmentally friendly and doesn’t put off gross fumes but is strong enough to glue glass to metal.
Scissors or X-Acto knife – You’ll need these to cut your piece out of the paper that you’re using.

A liner pen – Instead of relying on a paintbrush to line charges to make them pop, a fine-lined pen can assist.  I used a Staedtler Pigment Liner in a 0.05 size, however, Pitt pens, Microns, and others like this work.  Again, you’ll want archival quality here!

1.  Measure your bezel.
This step is incredibly important, as trimming down artwork to fit can lead to lost details if the piece is too big.  I learned that the commercial bezels I used are about the size of a quarter, so I used that to trace the pergamentata so it would be the right size to fit inside the bezel.

2.  Draw out your artwork.
Plan where your paint is going to go.  I penciled much of the art in before adding paint so I could anticipate any problems with shading.  As I was working on a really small scale, it also made things go by a lot faster.  At this point, I usually don’t put in lots of details, as they’ll get covered by the paint.

img_51063. Paint!
If you have not painted with gouache before, here’s a bit of a crash course.  Gouache (pronounced “gwasche”) is an opaque watercolour, and is similar to what was used in period.  Wet your gouache down so that it has the texture of milk, then use your paintbrush to paint in the colouring book lines you put down in the previous step.

Take your time and really get in there to add the details.  Add dimension (especially if you’re going for a late period look – there’s a lot of great shading that happens), shadows, gilding, and other fun things.  This is a time to let your imagination go wild!  It’s also a great way to really show off what you can do with teeny-tiny brushes, too.

Working with tiny brushes can take a toll, so please make sure to take frequent breaks, especially if you’re not working on a slope (I don’t have a slope, so I took several stretch breaks to make sure I didn’t have back issues later).

Use a lining pen to make the charges pop, else for a later period item, sharp outlines are not a thing.  (study your period art influences!)

img_51264. Seal your piece.
Once the piece has dried, take a less than good paintbrush and lightly coat your project with Mod Podge or other sealant.  If in a pinch, and you don’t have Mod Podge, white glue can work, however, the key is in lightly covering the project.  At this point, the paint can still be marred by a heavy brushstroke with a wet medium, so it is best to brush it quickly.  In the picture to the left, you can see there’s a slight sheen on the miniature from the dried Mod Podge.

Because gouache remains “live”, unless it is fixed in some way, wet paint (or a wet brush or medium) passed over it will activate the existing paint, and the existing paint can end up lifting into adjacent colours – which can be incredibly discouraging.  Alternatively, you can use a spray lacquer, but this comes with its own issues (such as directing the spray where you want it to go).

5. Cut out your piece.
I always cut my piece out after sealing, as I find that it’s easier to work with once it’s been sealed and there’s less of a chance of the pergamentata curling from the Mod Podge by cutting it out after it’s dried..  Be careful as you cut with scissors or the craft knife – don’t cut yourself or your piece.

6. Gluing the piece into the bezel.
Fill your bezel in a single layer with the glue and let it get tacky.  This prevents the piece from rolling up, wrinkling, or curling from getting damp, and it ends up with a better seal.  Drop and position the painted piece in – toothpicks can help with positioning.  Let dry.
7. Gluing the cabochon into the bezel.
This is tricky, and being patient is the key, else wrinkling of the piece can occur.  Use a single layer of clear urethane glue, and taking care to get rid of as many bubbles as you can, gently place your cabochon on top.  Using superglue can cause the image to cloud up.

Behold project fail!

img_5116This was the first set I did, which failed because I got impatient and used actual superglue.  Yes, it’s heart-breaking, as I loved how the artwork turned out, however, being impatient did not help.  Be patient!  It can take several hours up to days for the glue to dry completely.

That being said, my Pelican is very happy with his new medallion, and yes, I’m open to most commissions for similar pieces.

You can contact me using the Contact Me form.  If you’re making some for your own use, I want to see how yours turn out!



Posted in brag page, glass, heraldry, how-to, illumination, jewellery, necklace, necklaces, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, supply list, tutorial | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment