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.
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.