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 , , , , , | 1 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


This morning, as I was getting ready to go to an event, I had an epiphany on headgear.

To be fair, I had been stressing over proper headgear and if all else failed, I was just going to stick a couple veils on my head and just be done with it.  Until, well, I put a turban on my head, stuck a veil on it, and remarkably, it worked.

Many icons of Mary Theotokos have her veiled with a rather, well, bulbous head.  There’s not really a nice way to put it.  Her head is not a typical shape for humans.  Thankfully, this mosaic shows the wrap under her veil – a wrap that looks an awful lot like a turban.

There has been some discussion on other blogs on the shape of headrails, veils, and other things that go on the head.  Some have stated that there’s no way a rectangular veil could have lots of pleating as shown in paintings.  Of course the caveat goes that we don’t have photographs to base how things were worn, but we do a few have artistic renditions.  We have extant looms.  At the end of the day, though, we have few visual records due to Iconoclasm, so we are always conjecturing and experimenting and trying things out.  Also, this looks quite a bit like the headcovering of the ladies of Theodora’s court, only with a more sheer fabric to show the hair coiffed and curled and pinned into place, and not a round donut of fabric.
img_5042At any rate, the process is simple.  I braided my hair into a low bun (two dutch braids gathered together and wrapped together and held in place with a few Spin Pins – while these aren’t period, they work), and then made a turban to go over this.  The turban was made from a bit of a cotton sari, which is light and fairy breathable, and was big enough to wrap around my head.  It also looks quite a bit like the white wrap around Mary Theotokos’ head, just in coloured form.  To make the turban, take the rectangle of fabric, put it on your head and gather the long bits around the back, making sure that the fabric is pulled taut against the forehead.  Make sure your hair is covered, and then start twisting the excess fabric.  Once most of the fabric is twisted, take the twist and wrap it around your head as tight as you can personally stand.  You will then tuck the end into the rest of the twists.
img_5043After this, take a pashmina or a piece of fabric with similar dimensions (it’s recommended that you have a shorter width than the length, and place the selvedge edge of the middle of the fabric on your head.  Wrap the ends around your neck and over your shoulder.It doesn’t nicely pleat at this length/width, but I tried this same technique with a much larger piece of wool gauze, which gave a better effect.

This appearance of Mary is great for early and mid and I want to say *late*, but don’t quote me on that.

What did I learn here?  That it’s possible to create a look for pretty inexpensively.  Two, that it’s relatively easy, and that just the idea of adding headgear completes the look.  And three: did I mention it was cheap and easy?

So, there you go. Want to be lazy and not worry about your hair (too much)?  Try this out for your Byzantine persona, especially if you’re going for a persona from the 6th to late 9th centuries.



Posted in clothing, hair, how-to, musings, persona, persona development, Roman, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Project Disco Ball; or how to really bling an outfit


Remember this outfit?  It’s what I wore when I stepped down from being Principal Herald and I love it still.

Except it’s not blingy enough for my liking.

So, enter Project Disco Ball.

Bezants are little metal bits that are sewn to clothing.  They’re also called paillettes, but the main idea are bits of metal with embossed designs on them.  They were used as dress ornamentation as early as Ancient Greece and as late as Elizabethan England (see also spangles), so there’s a nice range in time in which using little metal bits could be used in customizing and making your pieces fun and sparkly.  Many of the documented bezants on clothing date from the 14th and 15th centuries, (though, check out this 11th c burse and these 12th c bezants!)  Anyhow, this article from the West Kingdom goes into some details about how and why these bits of bling were used.

Back to Project Disco Ball.

So, as much as I love my 11th c delmatikion, it’s still quite a bit plain.  However, after stumbling onto these Bulgarian beauties (with a minor complaint of not knowing how old the bezants are!  grr.  original link here – more on these photos can be found here), I wanted to augment my Byzantine with metal.

Here’s the process I’m using.  It’s not period as far as I can tell, as most of the bezants I’ve seen are stamped, however, my carving skills don’t exist, and these are the tools I have on hand.  If you have stamping tools, try them out.  Let me know how they work for you!


Things you will need:
Sheet brass at either 36 or 44 gauge (I picked this up from my local art supply store and chose the .005 thickness.  Blick carries this, but you may need to special order it.  I paid about $13 for it this year, but this is also depending on metal prices.)
Embossing ball tools
Needle tool or awl
Scissors (I feel like I have to say to not use your good fabric scissors for this project, but yeah, don’t use them.)
Cutting mat or leather padding

Optional, but helpful:
Stamps (try stamps meant for leather if you’re not good at freehanding shapes – warning – this can get expensive)
Hammer (for stamping instead of drawing on the metal)
Stamping machine, like a Sizzix (if you have this and the right dies, you can get some really interesting and pretty close to period embossed shapes, but this is expensive)
A small plastic container (for holding onto your finished bezants while you work on them)100_6498

To start, cut down your brass sheet into manageable pieces.  If you look at the photo above, the sheet I purchased comes in rolls of 12″ by 30″.  After you’ve cut out your sheet into smaller pieces, decide if you’re going to stamp or draw your outlines with your embossing tools.  If you’re stamping, you’ll skip past most of the instructions.  If you’re drawing, keep following along.

100_6499After cutting your metal, start drawing your design with your embossing ball tools.  Do make sure you’ve got a protective surface down – my first bezants were made on an MDF block, but I prefer the give of my cutting mat more.  You’ll get these really simplistic shapes without too much detail, but I promise that more detail will come later.  I find that using a smaller embossing tool makes it easier on this step and will give you finer lines, however, having a variety of sizes will come in handy later.  You can see the difference between the outlines (left) and a mostly finished bezant (right) in the dimension and texture of the piece in the photo to the right.  You will want the texture and dimension.  Promise.

100_6500After starting your outlines, flip the sheet over and consider using a slightly larger embossing tool at this point.  Go over the parts where you want to stick out with the tool.  In this case, I went over the interior of the wings because I wanted those to show up more.  One thing to remember – you will have a front and a back.  Once you decide which is the front and which is the back, stay consistent, as you run the risk of confusing yourself.  As you can see in this photo 100_6502to the left, the embossing adds quite a bit of dimension, however, one of the downsides is overworking the metal, which leads to warping.  I have found that the maximum size I can work and not warp the metal is about 2 inches across.  Your mileage may vary.

Once you’re done with embossing all of the details on this side, flip the sheet back and start embossing around the parts that are not already showing dimension.  This pushes the design out a bit more – makes it pop, if you will.

If you’re stamping your design, welcome back.  This is the easier of the two, but the more expensive, as individual stamps cost money, and finding them in the designs and sizes you want may be difficult.  Anyhow, when stamping, place your metal sheet above your cutting sheet/thick leather padding and below your die.  You’ll then take your hammer and evenly and directly hammer the sheet.  Tada!  You have bezants on a sheet!

100_6506Now that’s done, you’ll want to cut out your design.  Of course, don’t use your good scissors on this, as you are cutting something literally made of metal.  It will dull your scissor blades eventually.  If you’re stamping, try hammering harder to create a cut.  This, of course, does run the risk of dulling your stamp, however, you will end up with a much smoother piece.  If you’re using scissors, it is harder to prevent smaller sharp bits, so consider lightly filing the bezants so that they don’t grab the fabric and pull on it.

After cutting out your bezants, you’ll want to punch out holes so that it can be sewn on.  This is where I like having a self-healing cutting mat.  Even though the metal is 44 gauge and very thin (it’s like having a slightly heavier heavy-duty aluminum foil except brass), it still has enough thickness that punching holes can be tiring.

100_6505To do this safely, put your mat down first, then the metal, then line up your needle tool.  Press down evenly and gently, and then you’ll have a hole.  Flip your bezant over and punch where the holes are again.  This does two things: smooths the hole and increases the size.  Nothing sucks more than making bezants and finding that your needle is too big.

Really, you can do this prior to cutting out or after.  I prefer punching the holes before cutting out the bezants, but you may prefer cutting out the bezants first and then punching the holes second.  This is up to you.  If you have a hole punch, you could use this, however, I find that most commercial hole punches are too big for the bezants I’m making.


Pro tip: save your bits of cut out brass from larger pieces.  As you can see, after cutting out the super tiny bezant (look down in the corner), there’s still a lot of left over brass.  Save this for later projects in a plastic container.  Depending on the size of your bezants, there’s plenty to keep using and you’re not wasting metal.  I’ve kept these bits for later use, as I don’t want them to go to waste, and there’s still plenty of usable space.

100_6512And now?  Tada!  You have completed bezants now!  Sew them onto your clothing!

Caveat: cleaning and caring for your clothing has now become more expensive.  I do not recommend throwing this into the wash.  While brass puts up with a lot more abuse thank aluminum or copper, it is still soft enough to deform in a washing machine.  Brass will also patina over time whereas gold (the period and clearly more expensive option) would not.  I have a local dry cleaner that handles a lot of special event clothing (wedding dresses and the like) and I take all of my beaded, silk, and special fabric garb to them.  By entrusting your garb to professionals, you could be wearing your clothing longer, especially if you’ve got a lot of beading or baubles.  Of course, the other option is hand-washing, which, of course, is more period, but of course, more time consuming.

If you’ve got questions about making your own bezants, feel free to ask!  I’ll be glad to answer your questions!


Posted in Byzantine, clothing, fashion, jewellery, jewelry, later period, medallion, ornamentation, Renaissance, Rus, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, supply list, tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Queen’s Prize 2016

Queen’s Prize this year is done!  It was a wonderful experience, and being able to sound out new ideas, areas to explore, and things to do was great.

For those not in Calontir (or with kingdoms that don’t have a similar competition), Queen’s Prize Tournament is a time for  Calontir artists that do not already have a Grant of Arms or above in arts or sciences (so, Laurels, Silver Hammers, and Calon Lilies cannot participate as an entrant) to make something and get feedback from judges.  Here’s my entry on the last time I entered.


My display.  Thank you, Eynon!

This year, I entered with intaglio gem carving.  My documentation is located here (with clickable links!). Being able to create something with a few bits of rock and a Dremel that could have been worn by someone else in period is pretty amazing.

One of the cool things with Queen’s Prize is the amount of feedback that one gets, from documentation, to ways to improve, and even coming up with new ways to integrate the project into bigger projects.  My judges were great, and we were able to work together to think up some new rabbit holes to explore.

100_6491One of the other cool things is the neat encouragement gifts people give.  This year, I was blown away with the neat items I received, and it was such a boost.  The photo shows some of my entry, but also the neat items!  I am in love with the replica Greek amphora and the little vessel from Lochac, and I’ll definitely make use of the needle book, scissors, beeswax cake, and the beads (more Norse bling?  Maaaaaybe?)

100_6496Also, Queen’s Prize is the event where people give sponsor gifts.  Everyone must have a sponsor to enter.  That sponsor must provide a gift, which will be given to someone else later on and during court.  One of the things I love doing as a herald is reading off the names of the entrants, and seeing the excited squees and smiles of a fantastic day – and then there are times I am blown away at the kindness and the amazing talent of our artisans.  My gift for entering was this tiny little ring, made of rock crystal both shaped and set by Mistress Gillian Warrender.  This Byzantine loves her new bling!  Thank you, Gillie!

In short, this was an excellent day.  Court was fabulous (seeing my very first teacher in the SCA be recognised by the Crown as a Laurel was emotional and so very wonderful – and the ceremony made my little court geek heart flutter with joy).

Posted in Byzantine, calontir, ceremonies, ceremony, court, engraving, intaglio, jewellery, jewelry, rings, Roman, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Secret Project Roundup

I mentioned in Teaser! that I had a lot of secret projects.  And most of them came to fruition yesterday.  So, this post will be all about those secret projects.

img_4864My house has been the Pelican medallion factory as of late.  One of those was presented last week at Master Mathurin’s ceremony.  It’s small, about the size of a quarter, and is inspired by a lot of French manuscripts, especially French Gothic style.  The process that I use isn’t particularly period, as it involves resin, however, the appearance looks like some extremely late period pieces that involve glass cabochons and vellum.  This little guy is about the size of a quarter, and I used gouache (Royal Talens and Holbein pearl gold.)  It went on a cord made out of twisted linen by Master Alan of Darkdale.  I thank both Alan and Mathurin for the indulgence of speaking in the ceremony.


I was also asked to make the medallion for Mistress Svana, and this one I got to play around with.  Svana has a Norse persona, and while the medallions, again, aren’t period (same resin process as Mathurin’s medallion), it was something that I wanted to do for her that would key off her persona.  The large ring was so Their Majesties Calontir could place her medallion on her when presented and then when she went home, she could cut them off and use the bronze loops as a permanent solution.  The beads mostly came out of Svana’s stash, though, I did add a few smaller pieces from my stash (some carnelian, bone, and quartz), as the bigger beads would have overwhelmed the piece.  Learn from my lesson: don’t use 24 ga wire.  Use a wire that has a slightly lower gauge so that the beads don’t wear through.  Thank you, Duchess Susannah, Svana, and Sir Halidor for letting me speak in the ceremony.img_4847

I got to work with Countess Gwen on this project: largesse tablet covers for the kingdom of Northshield to help cover the e-tablets that are used in court.  These are commercially made covers which I’ve stripped down and repainted with leather paint.  Being able to help keep a more period Royal Presence always makes me happy.  (What can I say?  Presentation is everything.)

img_4816Lastly, this was a Lily (Calontir GoA-arts) scroll assignment I received.  The recipient has a Hungarian persona from the late 1400s, so it was off to find some Magyar pieces from that time period.  Thankfully, the Morgan Library has some pretty trippy ones (I’m pretty sure the 1970s got some ideas from some of these pieces), but there were some nice ones out there.  I fell in love with this one and used it for the scroll.  Being a lefty, I sometimes find that it’s easier to work on smaller scrolls, as there’s less of a chance for something to go awry with calligraphy.  So, this scroll is quarto-sized (~6″x~4″).  This was also my first time working with real gold leaf (my poor wallet), but I love the results.

So, even with all of the issues with being a lefty and calligraphy sometimes being a problem . . . sometimes having moments where forgetting what a letter looks like happens.  These photos were taken before I fixed the error (thankfully, it was the letter L to the letter F, so not as big of a problem), but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to retake the photo.  Ah, well.  I have a problem in that I really do love my stupidly tiny brushes, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

There you have it.  Secret project round up!

Posted in beads, brag page, calligraphy, calontir, ceremonies, ceremony, court, french, heraldry, Hungarian, illumination, jewellery, jewelry, largesse, later period, medallion, necklace, necklaces, Norse, wire, wire wrapping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Heralds Running Amok; or How to Put Together a Heraldic Retreat 2: Electric Boogaloo

Another retreat happened this year, and I am pleased to say that it was even better this go around!

Things I learned in between last year’s retreat and this year’s retreat:

Conflict is going to happen. I don’t mean conflict between people (though that can happen), but I do mean that the event will conflict with something. In this case, the retreat again conflicted with Pennsic, so we lost heralds there. On the other hand, we had nineteen heralds attend – up from last year’s numbers of around ten heralds, so the numbers got doubled.

That brings me to my second point: advertise often. Tell about perks of the site, what to expect, and what the classes will be. Look for connections. Advertising started with a Facebook event page that was launched in mid-May, with the event happening in mid-August. From May to mid-June, sporadic posts occurred, with weekly posts from mid-June point to the day of the event. Additionally, we set up a Google Form to have people sign up for the event so we would have a more accurate headcount.

So, I scheduled a lot of classes, and tried to make them all fit. This really didn’t work as well as I would have hoped. In the future, I would suggest a few key classes, and then leave time for people to hang out – a lot of work got started (including an impromptu session to register some things for the kingdom and a few preprints painted for Their Majesties to use), and I think by having more time to work on those things without the pressure of having to take a class helps.

We had tee-shirts again, with a theme of “Trousers of Nobility: Even Drunk, We’re Good at This!” In keeping with the theme, we had drunk OSCAR commentary Friday night after most the people staying the night had arrived. Make sure that if you have drunk commentary that you have 1) a sober person to type commentary and to filter out the drunken ideas and 2) a good (sober) moderator, as like with any commentary, things can get enthusiastic. And then, after drunk commentary, drunk star-gazing at the Perseids was quite a bit of fun, too.

Have an item that people can take home with them.  We had kazoos (mostly because I wasn’t going to purchase 19 vuvuzelas).  Speaking of vuvuzelas, they look an awful lot like a heraldic representation of a herald’s trumpet, so I made a new sign with two yellow plastic vuvuzelas, some paint, tape, and some foamcore to direct people to site.

In assisting with the post-mortem of the event, a survey (also done on Google Forms) was put out to those who attended so we could better gauge what could be done to improve the event. This can be shared with the organizers of next year’s retreat, and can help to figure out and zero in on things that the College needs to build on in the coming year.

Thank your host. Clean up things. Keep things clean, and respect the space. Thank people for coming. Basically, be a good human, and be aware of things.

I am tickled that this went relatively smoothly, and I hope that next year’s organizers do an even better job.  Thank you, Uji Gold Falcon, with entrusting me with the retreat.  Aine, thank you for letting us use your estate and for your hospitality.  Dorcas, thank you for setting things up before I could get to site.  Díarmaid, thank you for letting me bounce ideas off of you and for helping me set things up.  And to Calontir’s College of  Heralds, thank you for coming.

konstantia kaloethina

So, in Calontir, as you may know from reading past entries, I’m the Principal Herald.  This means that I lead volunteers within my regional group in heraldic activities ranging from vocal to sign, heraldic art to book (names and devices), and everything in between.

When I stepped into the job, I knew I wanted to build heraldic community as much as I could, so that heralds across the kingdom could ask questions and get answers from other heralds in their own backyard.  What a better way than to have a heraldic retreat?

In this blog entry, I’ll go through the ways that the heraldic retreat was put together, and how you can do one in your own kingdom.

My biggest help was having a deputy I could say, “hey, you want to help run a non-event?”  It was also good to have someone that I could bang out ideas with…

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