So where was I..

There have been real life work projects.  They have been consuming ALL the time and head-space – stupidly so – to the point where my SCA life was pretty much shelved and reluctantly ignored for the past several months.  Things are starting to free up again so here I am (not completely out of the woods yet, but look! Aren’t those things trees?!)

The problem with a long period away is that it makes catch up blog posts more daunting than they probably need to be.  I’ll give a whistle stop tour so that I can start thinking of new  posts as less Herculean tasks.

The first is that at 12th Night Coronation of King Vitus and Queen Isabel in Ingestre Hall – a lovely 17th-century Jacobean mansion situated near Stafford in England – all kinds of awesome things happened including a very, very lovely ceremony making me Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter’s newest apprentice. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to some new and absolutely lovely people from all over the Kingdom, including my apprentice brother Master Æiríkr inn Hárfagri, one of the original first three Masters of the Order of Defence in Drachenwald.   I confess a lot of the occasion is a wonderful blur –  I will have to come back to it after I get past my blog writer block and post separately, it deserves a bit more than a catch up post mention.   

There has been cooking.  I was head cook for Collegium, Glen Rathlin’s fencing event 4-6th March 2016.  As I am not a fencer and it was to be a small event I undertook to provide traveller’s fare, breakfast, lunch and feast with as many recipes from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi as I could because I just love his recipes.  I think to make this easier I’ll make a few small posts about my favourite dishes from the weekend, but for now I have to say the *MOST enormous* thank you to Lady Alays de Lunel and Timothy of Eplaheimr for their help throughout the weekend – they were wonderful and amazing and deserving of a great many fantastic things, and of course to Lady Constanza of Thamesreach for sanity and assistance.   His majesty King Vitus said extremely kind things about my cooking and gave me a gorgeous box of spices at the event itself and then 2 beautiful veil pins at Festival of Fools.   I was also given the most gorgeous folding spoon by Lord Duncan Kerr – I am a happy cook🙂

Regarding archery, Aodh and I came to an arrangement to swap bows so I could see if having a lighter poundage would help but I haven’t had a lot of chances to try it out yet, as I was minioning for the weekend at Flaming Arrow, but soon I hope!

There have been a few new scrolls, mostly I’m still having enormous trouble with precision, but I practice ever on.  I had the great pleasure of creating a scroll for Lady Sela’s induction into the Order of Robin, also at Flaming Arrow – that one was fun. I wanted something to reflect some of her great loves.  I chose wordsmithing and astronomy and worked on a scroll based on the 29th or Star-Shaped Diagram Of Poetic Metre, In James Nicholas of Denmark’s Poems written in 1363 in honour of Aymer of Valence, Earl of Pembroke (d.1324) (Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius A XIV,  f.23r) Lord Aodh provided the words – I needed every line to begin and end with M 

I really missed Lady Sela’s calligraphy skills on that one!  She and I continue to collaborate on projects – also for Flaming Arrow we worked together on a Fox for Viscountess Susannah (words also by Lady Sela) and the Winter Archery prize scroll

Last but not least is the fastest AoA I’ve ever done -calligraphy and illumination on this one – and it had to be handed out not quite finished as the assignmment came in very quickly after their Hignesses Pól and Caitriona took their thrones not even a week before last weekend’s event Festival of Fools – I need to add some gilt ivy leaf decoration around the edges and remove the pencil marks and the small gold blob that seemed to appear out of nowhere.  The recipient Christian, called the enabler,whose name is not nor never shall be Rupert seemed pleased – with thanks to Lord Aodh again for the wording.

Coming up in Part 2! The elevation of Master Baron Master Master Etienne ….

Ink Making for all!

Some time ago there was a plot where I would go to Yule Ball and Kingdom University and there Mistress Genevieve Rouge Maunche and I would teach a class on making ink.  In the mean time various things conspired against my attendance (mostly very good things, mind) but we plotted some more, class notes were written and take home kits planned and now I am giving the class at Yuletide University in Ireland and Mistress Genevieve is giving it at Yule Ball the following weekend.

These are a couple of the kits I’ve prepared and sent for Yule Ball – the biggest one at the back contains the teaching kit and the smaller ones at the front are a couple of the student kits.   I’ve added my own little tokens to thank everyone in the class for participating🙂

You can download the Irongall Ink making classnotes in pdf format.  If you have any problems with this download or document please do let me know.

Garb making for a Viking Event



I think I’ve recounted my complete bewilderment in the face of garb before. I feel in some way as if I’m just moaning when I say I really don’t get it.  I suspect it’s got something to do with the fact that I don’t really know what shape I am, apart from  “generally blob shaped”, and while intellectually I genuinely can see how the series of rectangles and long triangles I’ve been introduced to can combine to fit on roundy bits and look really well it’s like some other part of my brain just goes “Nope” and walks away.

Dun in Mara held a garb making weekend a couple of weekends ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wanted to try to start something to wear for the upcoming Althing, but mostly I really just wanted the very pleasant company, to sit and sew.    I actually quite like the sewing bit.  On the Friday I finished some hemming on a tunic I cut out for my eldest.  On Saturday I was starting to feel bad procrastinating (and just looking at the jade coloured linen I brought along, willing it to become something by itself).  I was temporarily saved by an impromptu class on how to identify fibre using a burn test given by the weekend organiser Lady Cassandra della Corona – this was brilliant, I’ve heard about the burn test before, but it was great to have a run through with different samples and really see and smell the differences.   After that I was chatting with Cassandra who was has been doing amazing research, she was trying to visualize her way through deciding how she wanted to work with her Hedeby/Haithabu inspired options for an apron dress.

Jade dress side

I cheekily volunteered my fabric and my generally blob shaped self to experiment with so she could try out one version without committing her fabric ’til she had seen how it worked. Turns out she really liked this idea, score!! She talked me through her ideas, drafted the pattern and cut the pieces and all I had to do was sew them up, which I did by hand. Heaven!!!  I’m going to refer to her blog for much better details than I can report on at this point.. 

Her research had led her to understand that we could use darts in the back to further shape it and she pinned it up for me again to sew.  Her further research after the event revealed that we should have used darts to the outside rather than the modern way on the inside, but I’m not going to worry about it.  What I need to worry about is finishing it!!  I had all sorts of ideas that I might get some simple embroidery done on it.. procrastination is a terrible thing.  This weekend I’m going to have to put in some serious work to finish the seams, get the straps on and make accessories.

More illuminations..

More to follow, just needed to add the photos but I can say right now that these scrolls are the point at which I have decided once and for all I need to start teaming up with a good calligrapher.  The second one, based on the “Chansonnier De Jean De Montchenu,”  was my practice piece so the script is particularly poor, I was trying it for size.  The actual scroll I was working on got ruined at the last minute.

An Order of the Fox based on the Taymouth Hours, England, S. E. (London?), 2nd quarter of the 14th century for Lady Haesel of Bernslai


A promissory Ffraid for Lady Emoni de la Fére based on the “Chansonnier De Jean De Montchenu”,

Something’s Fizzing in the kitchen..


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A quick interlude post before I tell you about some adventures in Garb making and a very lovely and relaxing time with fellow SCAdians at the Dun in Mara garb making weekend. There was also  lovely food courtesy of Lady Juliette (OMG deep fried courgettes, I forget how much I adore them)  But before all that I must say some things about the making of elderberry wine and raspberry and froachán melomel.

IMG_1187The elderberry wine got off to a dodgy start when I got to the planned harvest site where there have been enormous quantities of the things since I was young enough to take the trouble to lay them out on the road and stomp on them to fake gruesome murder sites.  (Not today or yesterday.)  Some kind and considerate person has taken some tractor mounted hedge cutter and has torn the entire face off every elder tree along the quiet country road. Luckily I remembered another site and while these ones weren’t as pleasingly plump as the other site’s had been shaping up to be, they were properly ripe and juicy.  I gathered about a kilo of them for batch one, set about de-stalking them with a fork then picked it over to remove the less ripe ones.  I added an equal quantity of sugar, some citric acid and red wine yeast and let them stew happily with at least one good stir for 5 days.  I am not as patient as I should be when straining the used berry mix through muslin, I sure I slopped a good glass full over the counter top through sheer impatience.  The whole lot is successfully strained, airlocked into a demijohn and it’s been cheerfully bubbling away ever since.

IMG_1183Project 2 is the melomel. I’m a little bit excited about this one because the flavour of the honey and fruit before I added the yeast was nicely intense.  I may be a bit of a sucker for raspberry melomel and fraocháns are probably my favourite berries in all the world.   I froze the fruit for a couple of weeks first, let it mush as it thawed and then let my 12 year loose on it with a potato masher.   I then heated 2 cups water per 1 cup honey for 3lbs of honey and boiled it for 10 minutes.

Ugh, right?  IMG_1186 It never ceases to amaze me how much scum comes off of boiled honey and water, and how much it looks like the scum you remove when boiling bacon, but it removed water impurities I’m told and idled away the waiting time.  Again impateince as I waited for the honey water to cool to proper blood heat temperatures, but I went off and did something useful and the result meant I had great fun for a couple of days watching the fruit trying to escape from the fermenting vessel.  It seems to be bubbling along very happily, no more escape attempts and it has an amazing colour.  Fingers crossed this one is going as well as I think it is.

Adventures in clay..



My third entry for Champions of Lough Devnaree was an unfired Clay (Terra Cruda) grotesque head.  The idea behind this piece was to mimic a common practice where students wishing to become sculptors would work on practice pieces in clay.  I would very much like to try sculpting in a more serious way, but I am definitely currently held back by my current lack of proper appreciation for representing shapes in 3D and how simple shapes can be made to work together and a lack of any sort of training in art, even just classes or at school.

Clay is a more forgiving medium allowing for constant addition and subtraction to the piece you want to work on,  allowing you to experiment with form, structure, movement etc.   The important thing is to make sure you have it consistently worked over (lots of prekneading) and it isn’t too dry (cracks shouldn’t form when you’re working with it) or too wet (it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands and fingers)

That unfired clay practice or concept models were a period practice is evidenced by some surviving late period pieces.  Unfired clay is brittle and easily damaged and, as practice works, wouldn’t have a naturally high rate of survival to modern times.  Those that have survived have probably been preserved as they were worked on by Masters, including for example Michelangelo, who routinely worked through a series of ‘sketch’ pieces in wax and clay preparing for a final sculpture.   I chose as my inspiration piece a grotesque head by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Bologna, also known as Giambologna. He met Michelangelo on a study trip to Rome aged 21, and it was Michelangelo who is reputed to gave advised him that the models of Greco-Roman and Renaissance sculpture on which he was working were of too high a finish before the basic pose had been fully established.  Ever after, Giambologna became a convert to the practice of working through sketch-models in preparing his sculptures and there are several extant pieces of his in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  

2006BK6009_jpg_lFor this project I took as inspiration Giambologna’s “Mask”, made of unfired clay in Florence Italy ca. 1578 currently held in the Medieval and Renaissance, room 62, case 16 x 15 in the Victoria and Albert museum, acquired in Florence from the Gherardini collection.  The mask  “is an unfired sketch model for grotesque masks on the façade of a building for the Palazzo Vecchietti, Florence, which was designed by Giambologna for his patron, Bernardo Vecchietti” – See more at  The original has a broken and unrepaired nose and the ‘fabric’ of his headpiece is a bit indistinct.

In truth I ended up having to enter my practice piece as real life events didn’t give me an opportunity to have another go.  I had old clay in the house that was definitely past its best which I brought back to life with water and much kneading.   The practice piece was to work out what bits went where and to get a feel for what I was trying to achieve, so the finish is especially poor even allowing that pieces like this were not finished to any great degree.   I didn’t use modelling tools and I didn’t clean up the piece at the end, planning to do that with version 2.  

What I would do differently – I was working from a single, on screen, 2 dimensional image, this is definitely not the way to do this sort of work! I would probably create an raised armature to get a better notion of the shape and angle of a face not lying on a table.  I believe  this would probably make it easier to gauge things like the height and curve of the forehead.  It would also allow me to use less clay, which would mean quicker and more consistent drying.   

I’ve just realised I don’t have a picture of my version at the minute.. will have to add it later.

Adventures in Pigmentation – AKA Never leave documentation til the last minute!!


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This project was so much fun.  My eldest son came across me so many evenings cackling to myself half singing “this is soooo much fun” that I’m half surprised he didn’t raise the possibility the fumes were getting to me.

fraochanIt started when I was in the mountains picking  froacháns (bilberries) and, as usual, staining my fingers a deep but rather pleasant shade of purple. I wondered, not for the first time,  if I could make a pigment out of it.  Turns out I can, and did.  First I found an article called Illuminating the ‘elusive’: reconstructing mediaeval recipes for anthocyanin pigments by Sylvie Neven which talked about how certain pigments are not documented well, probably due to their wide availability in nature and hence their relative valuelessness.    Her article dealt particularly with anthocyanins obtained from, for example bilberries and cornflowers.    I decided to give the bilberry pigment a try.  I was told

The basic operation is relatively simple and similar from one recipe to another. The petals or the berries are ground and crushed in a mortar in order to produce a foam. The juice is then extracted by filtering the foam through a clean (linen) cloth.”

I can tell you I could have crushed those berries ‘til the world ended and no foam was going to appear, obviously I was missing something. This led me in turn to Strasbourg Manuscript, an artist’s recipe book, whose content has been dated to the beginning of the early fifteenth century, and is believed to be the oldest German-language source for the study of Northern European painting techniques.   I concentrated on just the organic sources for colours in an attempt to track down this mysterious “foam” and learned about “lakes” in the process.  These kinds of pigments are not particularly light fast and are considered suitable only “for use in a book”.   A “lake” pigment is a pigment made by precipitating a dye with an inert binder or mordant.  This range of organic colours seem to have been particularly used as translucent glazes, shading, flesh tints and so on. .  This is the point at which I got hooked.   I had dye stuffs, I had alum.. I could experiment! 

First I tried the Bilberry pigment.  My clue was “clothlet” which I had discovered in the context of a pigment recipe before.

The color is made from these lilies as follows. Take these fresh flowers in the springtime when they are blooming, and pound them in a marble or bronze mortar and squeeze the juice with a cloth into a glazed porringer. And in this juice soak other linen cloths, clean and soaked once or twice in a solution of rock alum and dried. And when the cloths are thoroughly saturated with the juice of the lilies in this way, let them dry in the shade; and keep them between the leaves of books; for a very lovely green, splendid for use on parchment, is made out of this juice preserved in this way by combining it with giallorino. And note that after the cloths are dry, if they are again soaked in this juice and dried, they will be better. And you do the same thing with those buckthorn berries which are gathered in the vintage season, namely, in this fashion. Take the aforesaid seeds or berries, put them into a glazed porringer, and break or crush them well with your fingers. Then dissolve in clear lye; not too strong, as much rock alum as it will dissolve on the fire. And pour enough of this lye and alum over the berries in the porringer to cover these berries, crushed as directed. And let them stand so, out of the way, for three days; and then wring them out with your hands in a linen cloth, and strain the juice into another glazed porringer. And if you want, you can keep it in linen cloths; do throughout as directed above for the juice of the lilies. But otherwise put it into a glass bottle, and keep it by sealing the bottle.

An Anonymous 14th Century Treatise De Arte Illuminandi, The Technique of Manuscript Illumination translated from the Latin of Naples MS XII.E.27 by Daniel Varney Thompson, Jr, and George Heard Hamilton, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1933, p. 6.

IMG_0887So now I knew I needed alum, lye and dye stuff.  Excellent!  I crushed the berries with some water, added an equal quantity of alum and allowed it to stew for a while.  Thanks to the inestimable Lady Gytha I had a stash of PH strips so I made sure everything was nicely acidic and then added some washing soda crystal solution.  Yep, that was a foam!   

This was where the breakout of evil cackling occured.  I had to experiment some more.  I would have liked to use homemade lye but time was short and there was a bag of Washing Soda Crystals just there…  I decided to go for a few different reds: madder, brazil and cochineal. 

Madder (Rubia tinctorum), as discussed befire, is a root that has been used since very ancient times as a dyestuff.  It yields an orangey red colour, depending on whether you use hard or soft water, temperature and so on.  It does not like to be over heated which makes the red turn into a sort of muddy brown.  It is not especially forgiving and brazilwood was more frequently used as a cheaper, more reliable source of colour for pigments, and Cochineal from the New World in late period is FAR easier to work with.  I did a lot of reading up on how best to work with the madder as I had knew it could be temperamental colour wise from previous dyeing experiments.  I learned that it is best to soak the madder for anything up to a week, frequently pouring off the sort of brassy orange coloured water and adding fresh clean water to get a truer rose colour at the end.  I only had a couple of days to spare for soaking but it definitely improved the final colour.  

 This is where I *should* have started the documentation process.  I took photos but I didn’t keep proper notes as I was going along and I ended typing furiously on the last day I had access to a printer before CoLD.  Seriously not ideal.  

madderrootAnyway, Step one – stew up your dyestuff.  In this case Madder does not like too much heat so you’ve to try to balance everything just right.  I had serious time constraints so I didn’t stew it quite as long as I might have liked, double boiler over at least 24 hours would be best, at a nice even temperature.  I instead went for a couple of hours and then left it to cool overnight.  Next day I added added an equal amount of alum (equal to the dry weight of the madder root I used) and warmed the mixture  for another hour gently.

IMG_0883So at this point I have an acidic reddish mush, confirmed with a PH Universal strip.    I strained the mixture and prepared a medium warm solution of washing soda crystals.  The famous foam (fizzing in this case) kicked off and then it was just a matter of letting it sit.

Next up was Brazilwood, a dyestuff from chips and shavings from the Caesalpinia tree.  In this case I had a recipe that stipulated I soak the chips in lye but I made a mistake and added the alum.  Aparently the difference is that steeped in a solution of lye it colors the liquid deep, purplish red, and hot solutions of alum extract the color from the wood in the form of an orange-red liquor.  It doesn’t actually matter in terms of getting a pigment,  I’ve seen recipes for both methods, but I would have liked to try it other way around.  With this one I experimented and seperated it into two different jars, one where I left more acid in it, one which I completely neutralied.  The neutralised is a much pinker version.  I also experimented with using vinegar and have been advised that I can make the colour more opaque by adding ground cuttlefish bone, (which would also neutralise any remaining acidity)   It was on this experiment I noticed how big a difference adding alum to the initial dyes bath makes.

moreacid neutralised

IMG_0913Cochineal comes from scale insects that feed on a particular cactus in the New World. This one is definitely late period. Lakes would also have been made from Kermes (also scale insects) that are early period.  I made the preliminary dye mixture with far too much cochineal so it’s a rather impressive looking purple!!  

Once you mix and things fizz and the salts start to form and fall you just leave them be, safe from any cats, children etc for as long as you can.  When you come back you should notice very clear layer of pigment and a much clearer, sometimes completely clear layer of liquid on top.  I was short on time so I didn’t do any additional washes.   You can start to remove the clear liquid with a turkey baster, then when everything is settled you can filter and leave the residue to dry.

filteringAgain, HUGE thanks to Lady Gytha for the filter paper, made this job very straightforward.  By the time CoLD came around I hadn’t managed to get them dry enough, I had to display them as pastes, which was less than ideal. I couldn’t stick them in sunlight or the oven on low heat as sunlight and heat notoriusly affect these colours.
These are the plates of colours a little further on:


This is the what ideally I would have left the sample above get to in the filter paper too:
IMG_1169 IMG_1170 IMG_1171
The idea is to let them dry like this and then pulverise them with a morter and pestle. But I’ll continue to dry these and post the results when I get them to a powde

Some Sources for this project

Neven, S., ‘The Strasbourg Family Texts: Originality and Survival. A Survey of Illuminating techniques in Medieval South Germany’, in Revista de Historia da Arte, n° especial, 2011, pp. 65-77; Neven, S., ‘Describing the “elusive”: a new perception of the practices and the resources of illuminators in the North of Europe from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century’, in Renaissance Workshop, London, 2013, pp. 188-190.

Borradaile V. and R., The Strasbourg Manuscript. A Medieval Painter’s Handbook translated from the old german, Londres, 1966.

Medieval and Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting: Original Texts with English Translation, Mary P. Merrifield, 1967

A Spectroscopic Study of Brazilwood Paints in Medieval Books of Hours, Maria Joao Melo, Vanessa Otero, Tatiana Vitorino, Rita Araujo, Vania S.F. Muralha, Ana Lemos, Marcello Picollo

Medieval to Early Modern Ink and Pigment Recipes, Some Ink and Pigment Recipes.
PDF booklet of ink and pigment recipes was compiled by the Special Collections Conservation Unit of the Preservation Department of Yale University Library.

The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, Daniel Varney Thompson 1956

Exprimenta de Coloribus in the Manuscripts of Jehan Le Bègue which is found in Original treatises, dating from the XIIth to XVIIIth centuries on the arts of painting, in oil, miniature, mosaic, and on glass; of gilding, dyeing, and the preparation of colours and artificial gems; preceded by a general introduction; with translations,prefaces, and notes. By Mrs. Merrifield. v.1, Merrifield, Mary P. (Mary Phila- delphia), London, J. Murray, 1849

The ‘Book on How to Make Colours’ (‘O livro de como se fazem as cores’) and the ‘Schedula diversarum artium’ Debora Matos Luis U.Afonso, Lisbon

Artists’ Pigments in Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts: Tracing Artiditic Influences and Connections – A Review –Mary Virginial Orna

Helpful advice for ladies who wish to try Woodturning…


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Make sure you wear a high fronted top.  Ladies who experience problems with popcorn at the cinema will not need me to elaborate.   Let me just show you some “sawdust”

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Right, I have about a gazillion posts to make to try to catch up with all the things I’ve been doing because yes! I have actually been doing stuff, I promise.  I have proof of this in that I am, since September 5th, this year’s Arts and Sciences Champion of Lough Devnaree.  (I was trying to be serious, but my inner child has just whooped and started making airplane runs around my head it’s so happy.)   My plan was simply to enter some different sorts of projects to help Lady Cassandra realise her hope to get entries across the full range of Drachenwald’s competition categoires, and maybe raise a little interest particularly in the functional sciences category (I am running a science University soon after all)  I’ll take the entries as different posts, see if I can’t kick start this blogging habit again.

an_elizabethan_sycamore_goblet_circa_1580_d5323646hFirst up is the aforementioned turning.  I spotted this goblet on Pinterest.  It’s Elizabethan from about 1580,  made from sycamore and the original was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2010 for £9,375.   It’s original dimensions were 7 ⅝ inches/19.4 cm high, with a bowl diameter of 3 13/16 ” /9.7cm and a foot diameter of 3 ½ “/8.9 cm.   I liked the shape of it and decided I’d give it a go.  While I set out to try and get approximately the same sizes I determined that the original was probably turned freestyle, and that the piece of wood I was working with would have almost certainly end up with different dimensions just determined by the need to get a satisfactory finish.  The dimensions were roughly ⅗ allocated to the goblet bowl, ⅕ to the stem and the last ⅕ to the foot.   The goblet has a decorative pyrographic incised panel and bands.

IMG_0876I was working with a modern lathe, having neither a period lathe or the expertise (yet) to make one.  This would have the distinct advantage of being more consistently stable, but I do feel many of the actual setup, centering,  hollowing, turning and finishing skills are likely to be similar to enough, revolving around  the judicious application of sharp metal to rotating wood.    I didn’t have any sycamore wood easily available so I initially tried on a piece of ash timber that unfortunately ended up with a big knot hidden in the centre, which meant I couldn’t successfully hollow beyond that point.  I finished work on the ash just as a practice piece.

IMG_0881 IMG_0902

I was then  gifted a very lovely block of linden (also known as lime) wood which works beautifully and has a pale colour, though not as pale as sycamore.  This I thought was auspicious as my device is a linden tree🙂  Turning is IMMENSELY satisfying, it’s just fabulous watching a shape appear as if by magic from under your chisel with streamers of wood shavings spinning off.

IMG_0916The pyrographic bands were burned by holding thin metal wire into a precut groove and allowing the friction from the turning to burn into the timber.  If every you have frustrations and anoyances in your life allow me to recommend this practice as a stress reliever…
The geometric band was first plotted out on a strip of paper measured by wrapping around the top of the goblet and then plotted out in points around the goblet itself. finished with a hot metal rod. IMG_0922 (1) 

I discovered that walnut oil is a common, documentable sealant used by turners in the SCA through research on Stefan’s Florilegium  and since I hope to actually use the goblet I chose it over a beeswax and turpentine alternative.  

The hard bits:  Setting the block up, shearing the edges straight and making sure it’s centred.  Judging how far to push in with chisel when separating the piece, knowing that cutting in too far could end up with everything flying up at you from the lathe at speed.  Definitely the hollowing out stage, it’s hard on the nerves the deeper you go in. 

Illumination for a Venetian Lady.


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Before Raglan I was charged with the task of creating a scroll for Signora Cassandra della Corona.    Creating an award scroll for someone you know is a wonderful thing.  First you get the thrill of a really good secret –  Cassandra has long deserved this particular award – Second, you know things about the person and their tastes, so you can plan accordingly.   In the case of Lady Cassandra I lucked out, she’s in the House of Green with me and I had in the past asked everyone in the house about their preferences and I know her well enough to know she really appreciates when people work with her Italian persona.  Creating an award scroll for someone you know is a terrifying thing – what if they don’t like it?

My checklist for a suitable scroll exemplar to work from included the following:

1) Italian, preferably Venetian style
2) the colour purple –  I wasn’t quite up to purple parchment dyeing so I improvised.
3) And emphasis on sumptuous things – pearls, cloth, gold
4) Peacocks

My initial searches for Venetian Illumination were disappointing, it was difficult to find a something suitable as a scroll and most tended towards fine art minatures.  I initially settled on a piece that was pretty but didn’t have any of the necessary Cassandra-ness I was looking for.   It was bugging me and maybe because of this my sketches were not turning out as I was hoping.  I decided to have an other trawl on the internet and finally came upon an article on, entitled A PRONOUNCEMENT OF ALLIANCE: AN ANONYMOUS ILLUMINATED VENETIAN MANUSCRIPT FOR SULTAN SÜLEYMAN by Ana Pulido-Rull.  It begins

This article introduces an anonymous illuminated manuscript created in Venice for Sultan Süleyman the Magnicent (r. 1520–66), prior to his third military campaign against the Habsburgs in Hungary and Austria in 1532.  The manuscript is a panegyric in honor of the Ottoman sovereign (henceforth referred to as Panegyric for Sultan Süleyman), written in Italian and imbued with strong political connotations……..Its linear sequence of events begins with an assertion of the alleged semi-divine origin of the House of Osman from the Greek god Apollo and Cassandra (daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy).

 I was hooked – it specifically used the name Cassandra?  Had to be a sign, right?  Then there were different pages with purple scrolled edges motifs and *gasp* a tiny picture of Cassandra and Apollo on one page and a peacock on the next!  And pearls, jewels, flowers, gold writing, gold edging.. yep, this was the one.  

The shells I need to write up as another post, we gathered them on a Household day to the beach (Cassandra’s idea!) and I adore using them.  The ridges help with mixing the paint to a smooth consistency and I use different sizes depending on the amount of a colour I need.  They also add some calcium to my oak gall ink when I use that, which helps reduce its acidity.

I learned my lesson from my last scroll and this time did the calligraphy first.   This was a new hand entirely and even after several attempts I wasn’t managing the precision I was looking for and in the end had to settle on an imperfect but at least presentable (I hope) version.   I do enjoy calligraphy, I’m just concerned it pulls down the finished product.  Practice, practice, practice I suppose…  The original work had gold calligraphy and a patchy gold border so I used Windsor and Newton gold ink to replicate this, with gold leaf gilding in the initial B.  The gold ink doesn’t flow as freely as I would like and needs very frequently stirring.

img_2319Next was the sketching, with lots and lots and lots of measuring for correct proportions from the original, with enough room to add signatures and the Silver Martlet.  I haven’t quite mastered the habit of using a ruler as often as I should.  I use a putty rubber for constantly revising the sketch until it as closely matches the original as I can manage and it’s fantastic, no traces left and keeps the perg nicely clean throughout.
I use a very soft pencil so it doesn’t leave any indents but I have to develop the habit of img_2320paring it far more frequently than I currently do.  I was still happy enough with progress at this pencil stage, which was a significant improvement on my previous attempts.

On the advice of Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter the next step is to ink everything and rub out all the pencil marks.  I’m always a bit hesitant after this stage because I know my penmanship still needs work, and the lines lack precision     

img_2322Painting next, this is the bit where I lose hours and sit up wondering why I’m starving.  My trips to Scriptorium have taught me to see how images in illuminations are made up of definite single strokes, so I am practicing to try and recreate that more faithfully.  I’m still not getting the precision I’d like but a few pieces turned out well and I am definitely seeing improvements.   I really like the oranges, for example.  
 img_2329 img_2332 img_2335


(The cat print wasn’t in any of the original, it’s just for Cassandra)  All in all I am pretty happy with how this one turned out, I know I have a ways to go with precision and execution, but the core ideas were sound for the Lady in question and I was especially pleased with finding the original art work in the first place.

And of course it’s important to recognize the reason the Lady was awarded the Silver Martlet in the first place:

Be it known by this charter that Elffin and Alessandra Melusine, Prince and Princess of Insulae Draconis, mindful of the beautiful work and exquisite skill displayed by our subject Signora Cassandra della Corona, and the great inspiration she has become to those in our fair lands who seek to better their knowledge in the Textile Arts, charge that she continue to enrich our Principality in this way and confirm the said Cassandra as a member of our most noble Order of the Silver Martlet within the nones of August, anno Societas 50 at Raglan Fair

Verily, I doth suck at this blogging lark..

So I am typing in this box to will myself to remember what it is I need to backfill.. Let me see, what have I done.. more cooking, more ink making, Scriptoriums with Mistress Melisende,  a very tiny amount of sewing,  more not-properly-successful attempts at casting a pewter seal matrix for the fun of it, some wood turning and pyrography with my dad, a really great day collecting seashells for holding and mixing paints in with the House of Green, lots of kitchen work and a day feast at Festival of Fools, Archery at Flaming Arrow and archery classes at Smouldering Arrow, scroll research, gilding and a lot of mulling over ideas for the ultra awesome challenge that is the A&S competition for Champions of Lough Devnaree this year.. Actually yes, let’s start with that and see if it inspires some action..  the challenge reads:

..this year will see not one, but eight Arts & Sciences competitions!
Inspired by the categories of the Drachenwald Kingdom Artisan competition (, I [current A&S Champion Lady Cassandra della Corona] invite submissions in the categories of Culinary Arts, Fine Arts, Textile Arts, Performance, Martial Sciences, Decorative Sciences, Functional Sciences and Research Papers; where gentles may enter in as few or as many categories as their skills lean to. The winner of each of these categories shall receive a prize in keeping with the spirit of the Arts & Sciences Champion of Lough Devnaree.
The holder of the title of Champion will go to the gentle from this isle, who holds the highest average score across all of their submissions. If a person from without the isle claims a similarly high score, to them shall go the title of Guardian.                                        All scores shall be decided by judicial review, and to aid in this I ask that all entrants submit a summary of their piece no later than 28 August 2015.

Hmm, just as well I went to read that again, I had forgotten the by 28th August” bit, that really does concentrate the mind.    Given my previous work and natural tastes lets see what the categories are suggesting:

  • Culinary Arts – this includes brewing and subtleties, so my gut feeling is maybe entering some of the blackcurrant wine that should be aged pretty well for CoLD or maybe something in the sugarpaste line.
  • Fine Arts – this category includes stuff like Calligraphy, Games, Toys and Dolls, Heraldic Display, Illumination, Painting, Sculpture and Stained Glass (I like this section, not sure it’s quite ready to like me so much🙂 )
  • Textile Arts – hmmmm.  Not so hot on the textile side of things though dyeing is included in this category.  We shall see.
  • Performance – oh dear..
  • Martial Sciences – hahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahah. Someday.  I do fancy blacksmithing something rotten, truth be told.
  • Decorative Sciences – Book Binding, Enameling, Glasswork, Jewelry All the stuff I’m ITCHING to get into.  I shall have to pick a project.
  •  Functional Sciences (like Ceramics and Pottery, chandlery, leatherwork, paper making, tents and woodwork) should be able to mange to make something to enter in the leatherworking or woodworking side of things, work allowing. 
  • Research Papers.. hmmmmmm I suck at blogging, haven’t studied for years, this one could be a challenge..

Suggestions on a postcard (comment!) always welcome!


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