Maunche: Lijsbet von Catwiic

This award was to be given to someone I know, making it an exciting assignment to receive!   After reading the recipient’s EK Wiki page, I had some ideas, but while chatting with the Laurel to whom I apprentice, a whole other avenue opened up… thanks to snickens!


After searching on the internet, I found a digitized version of a book of hours in the Walters Art Museum’s collection that featured the snail-chickens that I was looking for.  W. 427 is a tiny manuscript created ca. 1500 in Bruges or Ghent.  I also contacted the fantastic wordsmith, Nicol mac Donnachaidh, to put in a request for text.  Since it was Pensic time, I had plenty of time to peruse the manuscript and consider layout, and what elements I would want to include.  This was to be my first attempt at “Squashed Bug” style illumination.  I felt bolstered by a recent class given by Camille des Jardins at our local scribal night, where we had explored gold work, including mosaic gold, or tin sulfide, which was used to paint the background of the Squashed Bug illuminated panels.  We were given the opportunity to use actual mosaic gold, and also how one could combine yellow ocher, burnt sienna, red, and gold gouache to replicate the color.  We also had a tiny lesson in shading, and both of these were invaluable.


I laid out two pages for the scroll, inspired by folio 90r, but substituting the plants in the original for ones more meaningful for the recipient of this scroll: saint John’s wort, lavender, and elder.  I also copied the snail-chickens and roosters from folios 56v, 57r, and 171v.  My panels were much larger than the original manuscript, but I wanted to make sure that I allowed enough space for the text to be run in with out being crowded.

Thinking I had a good handle on the hand needed and size, I blocked the panels on my Bristol paper and set to work.  The original has rose colored ink marking between the lines of text and at the margins.  I used a combination of 2 parts scarlet, 2 parts deep red Winsor and Newton Ink, and 1 part water, and used a ruling pen draw the lines.  I’m always afraid that the text won’t fit, so I started with a gothic hand and a number 6 nib.  It was tiny, and by the time I was done, the text felt too small, and the letter forms weren’t quite right.  Upon closer inspection of the manuscript, I decided to employ Rotunda instead, and even though it took three tries, I’m so glad that I went back in and enlarged the text and changed hands.  Since my panels are much larger than the original book of hours’ pages, the larger text feels better proportioned, and there is still room for signatures to be added.  I did decide to omit the smaller illuminated capital letters used in the original, because space was going to be tight with the larger hand.

Doing the calligraphy so many times gave me a chance to see that the composition could really use some more flowers to look more like the full panels in the original.  Now it was time to paint the scroll, and as the layers of gouache build up, things really started to take shape.

The whole piece was a gradual process of laying down paint, looking at the exemplar, returning to push it a little this way or that.  The colors were all very close, so shading and highlighting were important.  Thanks to Camille’s sharp eyes during a helpful critique at the end, I decided to go back in and change some of the shadows and define and highlight other elements, resulting in a stronger piece.



As with all projects, the more I look at the exemplar, there are things that I would change next time, but I am also very pleased with how this scroll came out, and hope it will be a worthy acknowledgment of the efforts and care that the recipient has put into her studies and projects!

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Velum Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink, Winsor Newton Scarlet and Deep Red

Nib: Mitchel no. 5

Paint: Holbein Artist Gouache, Winsor Newton Gouache

Words: Nicol mac Donnachaidh

Silver Mantle: Ronan O’Faelan

The recipient of this award has an Irish/Norse persona, so this scroll provided the chance to explore early imagery.  Though there were many similarities stylistically, I was having a difficult time choosing between a more Irish treatment, which would mean Insular style artwork and calligraphy, or a more Norse direction, which would mean a more runic hand and different imagery. Fortunately the words provided by the multi-talented Solveig Bjarnardottir were inspired by the Poetic Edda, so it made sense to have the accompanying imagery and text be Norse influenced as well.

After taking a peek at the recipient’s East Kingdom Wiki page I decided to work with images from the Gosforth Cross, an Anglo-Saxon stone cross carved in the first half of the 10th century, located in Saint Mary’s church yard in Gosforth, England.  The sides of the cross depict scenes stories about Norse gods told in the Poetic Edda, also.  I wanted to use the image of the wolf headed knot work, and was lucky to find carefully drawn illustrations of the eastern side of the cross to start with.  I also found a photograph of the west side of the cross.  I see these scrolls as an opportunity to explore period imagery and form, rather than a platform for my own illustrative style.  So with a project like this I prefer to trace with a light box, rather than draft my own sketch to follow.  I brought both the drawing and the photograph of the panels of the cross into a photo editing program and laid them out to fit the page.


With the illumination portion laid out, I turned back to the text.  I didn’t feel comfortable translating the text into runes for many reasons, mostly because each rune is not just a symbol representing a letter/sound, but a magical entity or being unto itself.  It felt better to me to make similar symbols to use as letter forms, in hopes that the spirits of the runes would not take offence.


Now with these mental hurdles of what and how were cleared, the actual lettering and painting went very smoothly.


While researching imagery I had come across the Tjängvide stone, and really liked the way that the red pigment on stone looked.


Not quite sure if I wanted to fill the background in with red or not, I started with the outlines of the illuminated blocks.


I really loved them with just the outline, but was leaning toward filling the background in with red.  My partner suggested gold though, and I’m so glad that he did.


Filling in with the gold gouache meant going back over the red lines again, but I like how that helped make the fine lines in the knot work more bold.


Paper: Strathmore Bristol Velum Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink

Nib: Drawing nib

Paint: Holbein Artist Gouache, Winsor Newton Gouache

Words: Solveig Bjarnardottir

Award of Arms: Khay of Clarion

The opportunity to take on this assignment came with only a short time before it would need to be delivered.  I had been working on scroll blanks as practice and had a few tucked into my portfolio that I hadn’t yet had the chance to deliver.  This felt like a great chance to try using one for a finished scroll, and also allow me to accept the assignment.

Each scroll assignment includes an often brief passage written by the person recommending the recipient for the award.  In the case of this scroll, I was inspired by the words offered and decided to try my hand at composing the words as well, being aided by the keen eye of my mentor, Camille des Jardins.  My previous scrolls had taught me how challenging it can be to fit words into the space available, and it was really liberating to chose my own words with the calligraphy in mind.

The I chose to use a blank with a monceros inspired by the Aberdeen Bestiary folio 15R, after reading about the recipient’s diving enthusiastically into the SCA.  There’s something magical about the “Dream” of the society, much like there is magic about this wonderful creature.  There’s more about the process of painting this blank in an earlier blog post.

Monceros detail

I traced the layout of the blank onto graph paper and practiced an early gothic hand to see how the words needed to flow into the space.  It was a little nerve wracking to do the calligraphy on the finished painting, but also really satisfying to be able to provide a scroll on short notice to help recognize a dedicated person with this award.


Paper: Strathmore Bristol Smooth Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink

Nib: Speedball number 5

Paint: Holbein Artist Gouache, Winsor Newton Gouache

Award of Arms: Adam MacGregor

This scroll was another wonderful opportunity to play with marginalia!  After conversations with people close to the recipient, and pouring over texts, I found inspiration in Albrecht Dürer’s “Death Riding”, and a 14th century text from the Yates Thompson collection: no. 8, folios 269 R and 294 R.

After the initial drafts were finished to see how the text would flow, I laid out the illumination and text block for the finished piece.

Building up the layers of color and gold was as satisfying as ever, with this piece.  And I felt more prepared going into this scroll, having a better feel for how important a tight layout and color plan is from my experience with earlier pieces.  White work remains a challenge, though, and practicing on a more regular basis would probably be wise.


Paper: Strathmore Bristol Velum Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink

Nib: Speedball number 5

Paint: Holbein Artist Gouache, Winsor Newton Gouache

Words: Gregor McLaughlin

Turtle and Trefoil Brooches

This project started a bit more than two years ago.  I had been developing a set of early Norse woman kit (Viking age) and had sewn dresses and a coat, woven trim, made shoes and a bag… but there was one glaring omission… the large turtle brooches that affix to the apron straps, and a trefoil brooch to hold the coat closed.  I strive to make all the things I wear to events myself, and really wanted to design and make my own brooches based on period examples, but there were some aspects of the project that I couldn’t wrap my head around.  Though I had done metal casting before, this would require a more complicated two part mold than I was familiar with, and I wasn’t clear about how the back of the brooches and the pin assembly was fashioned.

So I started with what I knew, and sculpted models of the brooches in clay (polymer for the trefoil and earthen clay for the turtle brooch).  I was inspired by the finds from Birka, as well as a very simple turtle brooch that now seems to be referenced only on Pinterest, unfortunately.

Last year my partner helped me cast a mold for the front of the brooches with Mold Max 60 high temperature resistant silicon.


Then the project sat.  I thought about how I could do the backs, and kept looking at pictures of extant finds and modern reproductions.  When I could see how it might work, I used additional clay to model the backs of the brooches with tabs that would be drilled to hold the pin assembly, and other tabs that would be bent to hold the tip of the pin in place.

The casting process went quite smoothly, even though my small pewter ladle required several scoops to fill the large brooch.  As a result, some of the metal’s impurities were incorporated into the pieces.  But for a first try, the pours went very smoothly.

Drilling the holes in the tabs to hold the pin felt like the hardest part of the entire process.  But with some patience, I was able to complete the pin assembly.  I’m so looking forward to wearing them this weekend to the SCA event: A Market Day at Birka!

At some point I would love to make a set of these in bronze, possibly using precious metal clay. But for now I am more than satisfied.

Award of Arms: Walter mac Donnaghi

This scroll is my first assignment as a scribe for the East Kingdom.  As a very new calligrapher I decided to work with the Luttrell Psalter, as I was most familiar and comfortable with those illuminations and had been practicing a gothic hand.

luttrell 97v.pngAs calligraphy is my growing edge, I started this scroll by practicing writing the text, provided by Nicol mac Donnchaidh, to determine nib and paper size.  The following images show how the scroll began to develop:

After sitting with this piece for a few days, I still didn’t feel satisfied.  I didn’t feel good giving this scroll as it was, and decided that I really didn’t have anything to loose, and carefully set about painting over some of the elements.

I ended up enlarging the versal so it filled the entire block, adding gold around the shield, and behind several of the oak leaves, and changing the top element from pinkish to red.  This feels much more balanced to me.  I love how the large blue leaves and the diapering pattern turned out.

I learned so much with this project, including how to correct the calligraphy by scraping and burnishing the paper to remove the ink.  I also learned the importance of developing a tighter design before starting in on it.  I felt so nervous about doing the calligraphy, and making sure all the correct elements were included, that I overlooked some basics.  My big take away was the realization that, yes, these are lovely and precious works of art that I hope the recipient will love, but at the same time I need to relax and not let myself be intimidated by any of that, or the deadline.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Velum Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink

Nib: Speedball number 5

Paint: Holbein Artist Gouache, Winsor Newton Gouache

Words: Nicol mac Donnchaidh


Court Barony: Audrye Beneyt

My second scroll assignment came close on the heels of the first.  Though my To-Do list before Crown Tournament was long, I could not pass up the invitation to do this very special award for a woman who would soon be my apprentice sister.

I am so fond of Audrye, and yet, was at a loss about what source material to use for her scroll.  My scribal mentor, Camille de Jardin, recommended something from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta, and as I started looking at the images of this work from the J, Paul Getty Museum I became more and more excited about the possibilities.  This book was created in Vienna, Austria in two stages.  The calligraphy was done by Georg Bocskay between 1561–1562, and the illumination was added by Joris Hoefnagel about 1591–1596.

Gillyflower, Mayfly, Fly, and Snail
Image from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta

I loved the layout of this page with the snail, and after Camille’s suggestion, decided to include a snail for Audrye, a heartsease pansy for the Queen, and an oak twig and acorn for the King.  This scroll also provided the opportunity to start learning a new calligraphic hand, humanist miniscule.  What a joy this hand is to write!

I laid out this scroll using an enlarged copy of the original page, extending the lines of text to give me a little more room for the text.

After the text had been run onto the page, I started in on the gold filigree scroll work using gold gouache.


With this done, it was time to figure out the images.  The original medium was listed as water color, a medium I love, but hadn’t used for many years.


I decided to start with the snail because I figured it would be the most difficult, but in truth the acorn had me more thoroughly stumped.  This could also have been because I started in on it at the end of my 10 hour gold work and painting session.  Working with water color was as lovely as ever, and after studying the original I noticed that the fields of color were often built up from many tiny brush strokes, rather than relying solely on large wash layers.  Working this way was new for me, but I am really pleased with the results.  The effect felt much less “painterly” than using bolder layers of color washes, and it felt easier to blend colors for shading and highlights, creating more of a trompe l’oeil feel that the original had mastered so well.


This Crown Tournament will be the first court that I’ve attended where scrolls made by my hand are being awarded, and I am super excited to see this one handed out!

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Velum Finish – 11×14 inches

Ink: Higgins Eternal Ink

Nib: Speedball number 5

Paint: Water Colors, Winsor Newton Gold Gouache

Words: Alexandre Saint Pierre