April 30, 2007


We are familiar with pentathlons and decathlons in the SCA. It turns out that the word for an endurance event of 50 things would be called a quinquagintathlon.

I think that learning how to spell and say that could almost count as one of my 50 all by itself!

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April 29, 2007

Scribal Materials FYI


The roundtable I had planned for yesterday turned into more of a one-woman whirlwind through my materials. I thought I'd recap some of what I told the attendees, so that others might benefit:

Papers: obviously vellum or parchment (the real stuff, not the paper knockoff) would be grand, but grand comes at a price. I use Strathmore watercolor paper (90 lbs cold press), in both pads and sheets. I would NOT use Bristol board, since it is not chemically stable, and work I did on it 17 years ago is *already* degrading.


Cartridge: I love my Rotring set, but it cost me $50 US when I bought it 20 years ago, and the price has gone up since then. If you want a cartridge set (a good place to start), I would suggest the new Manuscript set that comes in a metal tin; I bought mine recently for $20 US. Both types of pens offer the alternative of a cartridge converter (basically a little siphon that allows one to use the non-clogging ink of their choice in one's cartridge pen), and the Manuscript set even comes with one. Nice bonus.

Dip: I am fairly new to dip pens. I have used copperplate pens (slightly post-period, to my knowledge) before, but have recently discovered the wonders of crow quills for outlining and defining my illumination work - NOT for calligraphy. I am pretty tough on my pens, so I opted for the extra stiff 107, instead of the standard 104. I love it, and have yet to have a splattering incident with it. Big plus here: including holder, it cost me $1.67 US just a few months ago.

Felt-tip: You couldn't make me use one of these if you paid me to; not even just for practicing a new hand. The drag of the nib across the paper, and the way the ink flows from the reservoir are just as much a part of learning a new hand as are the forms of the letters themselves. This is NOT a practice form worth trying, in my opinion. As far as using this type of pen exclusively, please just try to forget that such a possibility even exists - this would be akin to writing a scroll with a Sharpie. ::shudder::

Inks: I have tried many inks over the years, and have finally settled on Pelikan Black (their colored versions tend not to be light-fast, so I avoid them). This is a non-waterproof, non-clogging ink, and it works well in both my cartridge pens with a converter, and with my dip pens. Many waterproof black inks are lovely, but, personally, I find the constant struggle with inevitably clogged nibs to be a hassle.

Brushes: I use brushes made for acrylics for my gouaches; these are the ones with white plastic bristles. They are cheap (just a dollar or two US for a decent brush), and have one added benefit that I adore - I can see the color on my brush, and can tell thereby tell when I have gotten it clean. With water-soluable paints, this is NOT an insignificant thing; any paint residue left in my brush will combine with any new paint I put on my brush, and will change its color. Many scribes use a long number 10 brush (very skinny), but I prefer a wider brush whose tip I have bent to my exact personal angle; to each their own.

Paints: I use Windsor & Newton gouache, almost exclusively. Pricey, but worth it, since the depth of color is divine. I would recommend buying tubes separately, since not all of the colors in a set are ones are often used in period-style work. Jet black, ultramarine, and one of the whites (I'll let others fight about that, but I use zinc white without issue) are used throughout period, and form the core of my most used colors. I prefer early period work myself, so I have added yellow ochre, terre verte, alarizin red and crimson red (which I tend to mix since alar tends to be grainy, and crimson smooths *and* gives more of what the modern eye thinks of as red). For my terre verte, I am currently using Holbein gouache, which has a consistency more like acrylic paint, for those familiar with it. (Acrylics are plastic though, so don't even think about using them for scroll work, as they will peel and flake off.) Gum arabic can be added to any of the commercial gouaches to help with adhesion, if it becomes an issue.

Metal leaf: I am currently using Old World Art's imitation gold leafing kit, minus the sealant (toluene, in any form, is a NASTY solvent. I don't like cancer, and I don't like birth defects; I don't use it. Period.) My kit cost me $16 US when I bought it a few months ago, and came with 25 sheets of imitation gold leaf. Compare this with $50 US for 25 sheets of surface gold for the real stuff, with no sizing (adhesive) included. So far, so good, and it looks *far* better than any of the gold inks that I have tried. (I am looking for a good metalic gold paint for small areas post-painting though, if anyone can suggest something they have used with success. Edit: The East Kingdom Scribe's guide from 2004 suggests either Windsor & Newton or Pelikan metallic gold gouache.)

Other useful tools:

Paint wells: There are many period pieces showing paints in clamshells. This is lovely, and I will try this for looking better at events, but at home I use the little plastic caps off of insulin needles (not the long skinny orange ones, but the squat white ones); they are about 2 cm tall and 1 cm wide, and have a nice stable base on them, so they stand up well. I use a wide-mouth syringe (pilfered from my old chem lab) to put 2-3 drops of water into each cap about 10 minutes before I think I'll need them, and find that my pigments are nicely hydrated by the time I get to them. A few small mixing trays are useful as well, since I like to be able to see my pigments as I am mixing them up, and it is always a good idea to mix as much pigment as you think you will need for a given job (water-soluable paints can ALWAYS be reconstituted, but color matching is not as easy as it sounds).

Rulers and Shields: I like the gridded-off, see-through rulers made for quilting, as I can be assured that I am both aligned and working at right angles. I also use an old-school erasing shield (thin piece of metal with bits cut out) to help me erase stray pencil markings (or to frustratingly take out stray ink with a razor blade); my students this weekend, being from the post-word-processer era, had never seen such a thing, and marvelled at it. Proof positive that whatever's old will become new again!

Marking and sketching: I use either a mechanical pencil or woodless pure graphite pencil to mark out the details of my designs pre-inking, but I mark out my overall guidelines and rules with an embosser (cheap and easy to find, due to the scrapbooking craze), in emulation of the way this was done in period. I rarely have to erase anything anymore, since I only use pencil under areas that are going to be painted over anyway. Hurray!

* * *

Do you have other suggestions of things that have worked well for you? Please share them in a comment to this post, and please include how you used them, as varying contexts lead to varying results. Prices and links to sources would be divine, if you have those as well. Thank you!

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April 27, 2007

Scribal Resources FYI


I'm running a roundtable at Johnson College tomorrow, and thought I'd post some good scribal links here for folks to reference. I'll come back and add any great, new links I hear about.

The Morgan Library includes an *amazing* collection of high-resolution images from medieval manuscripts. You can look images up by era, provenance, or subject. Wow, wow, wow.

Gutenburg School for Scribes An excellent intro to illumination work, with step by step instructions for the absolute beginner.

Kingdom of Atlantia Scribal Arts is a lovely collection of links to era-specific exemplars, SCA exemplars, and articles on both period tecniques and their application in the SCA. Lots to digest!

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Join me!


The 50th Anniversary of the SCA is a thing to celebrate, and I'd love to make my personal project into a community event. If you or your group would like to join me, welcome! You can comment here, send me links to your site to include here, etc, so we can best figure out how to give each other some support. (Want to get 50 gentles in a web ring?)

Anyway, if others join me, I'd love to create an online exhibition of our work, or maybe even a travelling show to all the Kingdoms, however many we have in AS 50!

No idea what to work on? Here are some other ideas other I had:

  • 50 scrolls or scroll blanks for your (or even another!) local group
  • 50 entries in A&S competitions
  • 50 hours of A&S service - to your guild, to helping newbies garb up, to making reports for your group, to research for folks in your Shire, at Herald's Point, etc.
  • 50 new pieces of music to perform
  • 50 dance performances
  • 50 new folks in your A&S network (from outside your Kingdom?)
  • 50 bundles of herbs for chefs to incorporate into their feasts
  • 50 new dishes/drinks to cook/brew/prepare
  • 50 new links on your local groups website to sites of interest
  • 50 Collegia and Kingdom Universities to attend (ambitious!)
  • 50 new style variations in your scribal/embroidery repetoire
  • 50 new pieces of armor to suit up your local army
  • 50 pairs of shoes to plug the most glaring hole in most gentle's garb
  • 50 classes to either attend or teach
  • 50 articles/books to write, read or translate
  • 50 gentles you answer A&S questions for!

I'd like to invite groups to create goals as well. Some of my ideas, beyond the above, include:

  • 50 new decorated panels for your camp enclosure for War
  • 50 pieces of garb to make/collect for Gold Key (borrowing)
  • 50 bardic circles to host or classes to offer
  • 50 pieces to enter in A&S shows
  • 50 ways in which to make one's Household more period

Other ideas gratefully accepted; who knows what your comments here might inspire? Can you imagine if groups all over the Known World started churning out period footwear? Or teaching more classes than ever? (I'd be in heaven!)

While I'm at it, I'd like to point out that many of these activities could just as easily be part of a project called "the Service 50," and that is deliberate. Our Dream is not a solitary one; and sharing of my skills, time and knowledge are some of the greatest gifts that I have ever *received.* Most Scadians act this way as a matter of course, and that is one of the things that has made the SCA what it is today, and will soon have been for 50 years!

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8+ years to go....


So I'd better get started!

I have set myself the challenge of 50 Arts and Sciences projects before the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism - look up SCA.org if you have no idea what I'm talking about) turns 50 years old on May 1, 2015. It might sound like a really long lead time, but that averages out to one new project every 2 months, which means that I'll be busy!

The way I see it, this challenge can break down into Breadth and Depth:

  • Breadth: 50 projects in 50 different styles, disciplines, subjects, etc., or,
  • Depth: 50 of one kind of project, more or less alike.

The former really appeals to me, because, as a Jane (or Brunhilda) of all trades, I love trying something new. The latter also appeals to me, since I would love to really explore one art/skill in depth.

So, silly me, I think I'll do *both.*

  • I am going to try 50 NEW things. Some might be completely new disciplines for me (like I'd like to learn how to do some rudimentary celestial navigation), while others might just be a further development of a skill/knowledge that I already have (like I'd really like to try gold leaf illumination work with REAL gold leaf instead of imitation.)

  • I am going to make 50 NEW pieces of garb. My twin one year old daughters will likely get most of these as they grow, but hopefully my husband and I will get some new stuff out of it, and hopefully I'll clothe another gentle or two in the process as well.

  • I will also try to teach 50 SCA classes. I have taught a variety of subjects over the years, and really don't want to stop doing so, even though I now have the added considerations of mothering small children at events. Plus, trying to get all those classes into only 8 years means I might have to go back to Pennsic in that time just to get them all in. >:)

Fortunately I have a bit of a breather before May 1, 2007/AS 42, and my official start of this project. Too bad that my sewing today and my teaching tomorrow won't count...

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