Thursday, May 18, 2017

a scribal sojourn

in which our plucky heroine minds her p's and q's...

I recently volunteered to create an original SCA award scroll for Stromgard, as I really enjoy the drawing and painting aspect of the scribal arts. But since I want to be able to do the whole scroll myself, that means learning calligraphy as well. There are quite a few different styles of lettering; I am learning Gothic, since I love the style of illumination that was common in western Europe in the 14th century.

I started out by practicing lower case letter forms on graph paper, using a calligraphy felt pen, the larger size helps with learning to see how the letters are shaped, when good and when needs improvement. Then I switched to using a dip pen nib, in a much smaller size, that would work for the overall size of the scroll I am making, here the letters are less than 1/4" tall, written with a nib that is less than 2mm in width.
I realised that I needed to learn to make capital letters as well, once I spent a fair amount of time online looking at the three manuscripts that were my inspiration. While some of the text in history had inset versal capitals, it was much more common to only use versal letters for end caps, and to use calligraphed capitals inside the text block. So, I opened my trusty Drogin, and set about learning the "uppercase" letters too!

(the blurry edges and blobs are in part because I am writing on graph paper, which is too absorbent to handle calligraphy ink)

After writing through the text several times, over the course of several days, I had a sense of how it would work written out as a block, where to put the end capitals on the left, and the line fillers at the righthand ends... one last time on graph paper, so I can overlay it and begin to mark out the space where the rest of the design will happen.

While doing the research for this project, I found and fell in love with these ladies on horseback, and since this is a scroll for an equestrian honor, using those images as inspiration seemed appropriate.

(detail of my sketch)

... finally it was time to start actually writing on the bristol board surface that will be the actual scroll... it was so much nicer than writing on graph paper, and my pen work looked a lot crisper, though obviously still very much work of a beginner. I can only work at the level I am currently, it keeps me humble to try new things, and I can see gradual improvement from where I started. As always, my own standard is "would I be happy to receive this" and in this case, so far, my answer is yes. Hopefully as the work continues and I add the painted and inked decorations I will still be happy with the outcome.

I do go through a lot of graph paper and tracing paper when doing design work... it allows me to keep the good parts of a sketch, and go on from there, gradually working out how I want the design to look. This is several iterations in to my efforts to design the illuminated border decoration. I have been looking mostly at images of The Book of Hours (fragmentary), Use of St Omer, from the early 14th century, for my inspiration, though the women riding horseback are from a contemporary work The Queen Mary Psalter, and I found the little person holding a shield that is hanging from the foliage when I was looking through images of the Luttrell Psalter
Once I add a design for the large remaining space above the text block, it will be time to transfer the design to the actual paper, ink in all the motifs, and begin painting. I predict a fun weekend!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

midweek musings + wishful Wednesday


in which our plucky heroine notices what is going well, and what is not so much...

The previous week or so has had a lot going on in the steading here at at Acorn Cottage. Not just the baby fruit, but the Black Elderberry (Sambucus niger) that was planted last year in the parking strip decided to blossom! The whole plant is still smaller than I am, but there are buds and now flowers on last years growth, and an encouraging amount of further expansion in a skyward direction. My hope is to eventually have enough elderberries to make my own syrup, to help keep me healthy in the wintertime
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Farbjorn arrived down here from Blue Cedar House to help with the yard/garden/woodworking chores this month, the rest of the family had enough going on this month that only he could be spared. Nonetheless a rather amazing amount of work got done. First of all, on Monday when it was not raining, he managed to get both front and back yards weedwhacked, since it had grown much too long for mowing in the last three weeks, and he raked up all the clippings into the compost bins.

Some shelving scraps were turned into a new raised planter box for the backyard. Some of the older "used up" dirt from the planter boxes was used to fill in some of the divots in the back yard, that often catch me while I am walking, and attempt to cause grievous bodily harm to my nether joints. Tree branch trimmings from several years ago went into the bottom of the new planter, then the rest of the older "used up" dirt from the salad table and other planter boxes, then some of the partially composted leaf mulch from the chicken area, which wasn't anywhere near enough to fill it up... So the remaining good mixture of compost and potting soil was added to top it up, and we headed out to get another bale of good potting soil to refill the salad table, and some pine shavings for chicken bedding.

He also kindly helped me by rounding off the remaining three ends of the heavy dowels intended for my lashed tripod stool experiment, and drove me out to Ikea for a speedy acquisition of some LED task lights for the workbenches, and a clever clip-on one for lighting the wee drill press. It was a busy two days...

I mostly worked on completing the hat for Thora, which is a whole 'nother blog post tomorrow... but also managed to untangle the venerable rusty tomato cages, and attach them to the two round SWP rolling pots which are currently home to some hopeful sugar snap pea vine babies... the tomato cages should give them something to clamber up, providing they survive the forecast heat wave coming in this weekend and early next week. The former tomato cages are almost as tall as I am, if rather hard to see against the chain link fence.

The plants in the front pot are some funky "walking onions" which are kept as both a curiosity for their unusual growth pattern, and as additional insurance of allium self-sufficiency. In the very far background of the photo, you can see the feral grapvine starting to climb on the fencing, and a bit of the comfrey clump behind the compost bin... Gosh it is starting to look a bit like an actual garden space!
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While we were both out in the backyard, Farbjorn noticed an unusual bird in the tall conifer in the back corner of the neighbors yard. It was partially brown/grey, and partially a kind of dull greenish yellow color, not a familiar denizen of the yard. A few moments later I was just delighted to see a flash of bright yellow and red, when what was obviously a male Western Tanager flew into the tree as well! I have only ever seen one of them once before. It would be particularly wonderful if they set up housekeeping in the backyard, I will definitely keep my eyes open
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May SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey jersey pants loom weightsbag to Goodwill
2 brown trim bands sakura embroidery-
3 brown jersey pants supports for peas x
4 planter box x x
5 calligraphy for scrollx x
6 Thora hat cone x x
7 x x x
8 x x x
9 x x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
☽ O ☾


For wishful Wednesday, I am wishing for a local helper with a car, so I can go and collect cocoa hulls for mulch, from Woodblock Chocolate

Thursday, May 11, 2017

infant fruit


in which our plucky heroine notices that there may be some Useful Contributions to the steading come this autumn...

Despite the very wet weather this spring, it appears that there may possibly be apples to harvest this autumn. Somehow, between the raindrops, some apple blossoms got pollinated.

Even more surprising, since the feral plums bloom even earlier, there are tiny tiny green plum infants on the trees.

Not to be outdone, the feral grapevine is throwing up new growth along the fenceline, and there are tiny clusters of what could maybe become grapes?

??? what do you think, is this a grape flower? baby grapes? I have no idea... I figure that if the vine simply provides me with some grape leaves to make dolmas then it is earning its keep. Grapes for verjuice would be a nice extra.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

the Golden Branch Laurel medallion...


in which our plucky heroine can finally share last months commission, for those curious about what I actually do for work

...this Laurel medallion, which took up a good deal of my time last month, was awarded this weekend, but the story started over a month ago, when S contacted me.

The central motif is a good example of adding something personally meaningful to SCA regalia. In this case, since the person being elevated is a former Bard of the Mists, the Golden Branch symbol made a delightful center to the Laurel wreath, which is done in a metalwork style inspired by the 8th to 10th C metalwork found in the Viking Age archaeological artifacts from Birka Sweden...

My initial sketch that I sent to my client, brass filigree in the center of a silver medallion, and the filigree bent to size and shape prior to soldering:
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The first idea doesn't always work out as planned, and we need to switch to plan B... sometimes when soldering brass/bronze to silver, particularly if using high temperature hard solder, the brass starts to dissolve into the silver. (since hard solder is basically silver alloyed with brass, and the flux and heat encourages the formation of a eutectic alloy which melts at a much lower temperature than either of the two separate metals)

Plan B... creating the central Golden Branch motif separate from the Laurel wreath:

The central motif is only about 3/4" in diameter, and will be riveted in place behind and central to the silver outer portion... I decided that the Golden Branch looked better with a solid golden ring around the outer edge, instead of a scalloped cut on the silver

Working on custom regalia sometimes often means repeated careful drawings... most of the folks that order my work do not live nearby, drawings are a good way to clarify what is being done, and what is desired (plus on paper is a lot faster to change things up than in the metal!)

The silver outer ring is roughly cut to shape on the outside; I carefully cut the inner circle to almost big enough, then kept filing away a little bit at a time until the two pieces fit together neatly.

Some very thin twisted wire shapes are bent into the Laurel wreath and will be soldered in place, as is the beaded wire for the outside edge. (this is remarkably similar to the wire bending needed to create the motifs for my cloisonne enameling) Important to mark the places where the rivets will hold the whole thing together, to allow space for them.

I love placing the almost finished piece next to the drawing, how it shows what I feel is a successful translation of idea to sketch to finished object...


Once the medallion is fabricated, the final portion is the bail, which connects the pendant to a chain or ribbon... in this case I first stamped a decorative pattern on some sheet silver, soldered wire along each edge, shaped it into a cylinder with an extension, and soldered a reinforcement where the ends joined inside the bail. That done, it was pickled to clean off the oxides and flux, the end cut to a neat shape that would fit on the back, and then the bail, inner motif and outer Laurel wreath were drilled and riveted together.

My new mini drill press came in very handy indeed drilling all the holes for this project. Fabricating the eleven silver rivets was next, as S and I decided at this point that silver would look more like the Birka metalwork than using my favorite brass rivets...


Once the whole piece was riveted together, finished and polished, this gives a better idea of the scale of the completed medallion:


*(personalised regalia is my specialty, commissions gladly accepted)

Monday, May 8, 2017

media Monday - the mushroom hunters


in which our plucky heroine is always grateful that in this world filled with trauma, heartbreak and horror, I have the privilege of shifting my point of view to focus on the positive...

because this world is also full of kindness and thoughtfulness and beauty and poetry..

because science...

☽ O ☾

because flowers bloom even when it is raining...

☽ O ☾

because humor...

☽ O ☾

wishing all and sundry the best Monday possible under the circumstances...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

visible mending


in which our plucky heroine improves the situation...

Months ago, one of my favorite summer dresses caught on something and tore. Not just a small hole, or part of the seam coming unstitched, but a big right angle tear in the lower side back. Since the dress was otherwise in good shape, mending it seemed like a good idea, but thanks to my enthusiasm for decluttering fabric scraps, there were no pieces left of the fabric I'd used for the body of the dress.
Instead, I found a piece of Japanese woven plaid, a bit darker than the textured grey rayon, but the scale of the patterns was pleasingly close. I carefully stitched the patch in place from the right side, and then even more carefully stitched the edges of the tear on the back, in both cases treating them like needleturn applique, so that there would be no raw edges to fray. Still, the patch just looked, well, patchy. So, making a virtue of necessity, an embroidered larger version of the tiny cherry blossoms on the edge binding would make the patch look purposeful rather than poorhouse.

the back clearly shows the stitched down tear
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May SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey jersey pants loom weights-
2 brown trim bands sakura embroidery-
3 brown jersey pants x x
4 x x x
5 xx x
6 x x x
7 x x x
8 x x x
9 x x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday fragments - a finished SWAP and other treats


in which our plucky heroine is grateful for a return to the grey and damp...

This is my favorite kind of weather. Just cool enough that I can wear a dress under my pinafore, and only need a sweater or a rain poncho when the outside beckons. The overcast grey sky soothes my eyes and adds a gentle glow to the surroundings... Looking out my bedroom window this morning; the soft light brought out all the springtime colors

While inside the kitchen, all the spiderplant babies are taking over my kitchen cart! Need to get them potted up into hanging planters, and put a few more ceiling hooks up here and there. Seeing them every morning makes me smile, reminds me of the kind friends that shared them with me...
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There are so many lovely things in bloom right now, that any chance to wander outside between rainstorms is a chance to appreciate the everyday beauty of my neighborhood and environs...


Until I took a closer look, I thought these flowers on the corner in Karla's yard were wood hyacinths, which are blooming everywhere around here right now. Nope, they are our native PNW camas, much less common, larger, and really worth a second glance.

There are still some apple blossoms on the tree in my backyard. It will be curious to see if there will be any apples at all later this year, since it has been an exceptionally rainy April into May, which may have played hob with pollination (bees don't like the rain, I suspect, though I did see one bumblebee busy amid the flowers one day that it was not raining).
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Now there are eleven new garments hanging in my closet. My efforts for SWAP 2017 have been successful; I need to figure out how best to photograph them, which is always a challenge. This addition more than doubles the size of my everyday wardrobe. My goal for a number of years has been to have enough clothing so I can go a week between laundry, and slow steady effort has improved the situation quite a bit...


I am pleased with this set as a whole, all the pieces work together, fit into my overall wardrobe refurbishment project, and can all be worn with my other clothing as well. The turquoise dress, while obviously an accent color, looks good with three of the four pinafores, and with the addition of some jewelry or a scarf, looks okay with the fourth pinafore as well.

The petticoat pants, which were my best effort for fulfilling the SWAP "bottoms" requirement, do add needful cold weather warmth. They won't ever be worn alone, or at all in warm weather, but for the months of the year when the outdoor temperatures are under 60F, they will be very welcome, and SWAP requirements encouraged my efforts so that I now have a new TNT pattern for this necessary garment. I call that a win.
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May SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey jersey pants loom weights-
2 brown trim bands x-
3 brown jersey pants x x
4 x x x
5 xx x
6 x x x
7 x x x
8 x x x
9 x x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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