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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The calligraphy thing - photo intensive

Right. Why Blogger chooses to show my images in reverse order of my uploading them, I don't know, but I have no intention of showing you the finished piece and ruining the suspense for you as we work backward to a blank page.

The page measured and cut, and its margins all marked out and sketched in.

A bit of backstory, in case you hadn't caught it before: I'm part of a historical re-enactment society, one which takes its authenticity semi-seriously (along with a decent helping of Monty Python and the Princess Bride), but still, one that studies authentic medieval culture. In our society, you can earn awards in three main "tracks": arts, service, or martial skills (mock battles and such).

Lettering complete after two days. Yes, it's upside down.

The three highest awards you can earn in these tracks are the Laurel (think poets); the Pelican (a medieval symbol of Christ and self-sacrifice); and the Knighthood. These three awards are Big Deals, not given out that often, and only after a council of people who already have the award decide that you're ready.

Celtic knotwork sketched in. I'd call this crazy-making except someone would be guaranteed to tell me it's too late for me to worry about going crazy.

At any rate, when you belong to a society dedicated to researching the Middle Ages, when someone earns an award you're not going to print something off at the local copy shop to give them. You're going to find yourself a "scribe", or more than one, to make the certificate.

"That's where I come in. My name is Thursday. I carry a quill." (sorry)

Drawing in the initials and capital letters. I took a lot of photos of these as ways to measure progress.

Now, here's where we depart somewhat from authenticity: we scribes are making an award ceretificate that has the wording of a royal proclamation - essentially, medieval legalese - decorated to look like a page from a bestiary or Book of Hours, and referred to as a "scroll".

Twisty-bendy critters biting one another, and spelling the word "knight".

But hey, what the hell, it's a lot of fun to do whether it's strictly authentic or not. I got to conspire with the recipient's wife to learn more about his preferred time period for playing in, preferred culture, and so on, and then figure out ways to incorporate that into the piece.

Take a look at the alphabet first. It's the same as was used in the Book of Kells, so right there I've got his time period more or less nailed - 700s to 800s AD. As long as I match the decorations to the writing, the time period is set. It also does a good job of defining the location of his culture, since the Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and Irish Celts did a lot of mingling (ie, burning and pillaging) during that general time frame.

Beginning the gilding; I did the trickiest parts first to get them out of the way, and also because I couldn't wait to see how they would look.

So yeah, that's the backstory. The picture are starting to get more interesting now, so I'll reserve comment for the stuff that might need explaining. Here we go...

Halfway through the gilding, starting on the fine details in copper.

Can I just say that figuring out how to combine the two critters for "BE" was a real bear?

Copper almost complete; this is sort of a demo of how gilding works: apply sticky, apply leaf, use soft dry brush to remove the excess. ...I had a lot of excess.

Gilding complete! Note the two bowls of leaf scraps on the table. I collected them for use in a lampwork beadmaking workshop.

Pretty much all pieces work in the same order: lettering, then gilding, THEN color. The word "knight" was almost illegible until the solid colors went in to distinguish each letter.

Here is the piece at its "almost done" stage. I still wasn't sure what color or metal to use on the circles around each of the badges in the border, so they are still blank. The badges represent various awards and affiliations that the recipient has, along with his personal heraldry at the top center. Gotta like a guy who uses a crawdad instead of a lion or a dragon or whatever, you know?

Here are a couple more close-up shots of the initials. They make great progress markers; I probably should just lay them all out in a row and skip the rest of these photos altogether.

After coloring comes detail work, usually in white. This will be followed in a little while with filigree and outlining in black or near-black.

While the "BE" was more difficult, I'm actually more proud of the "D" shown here. The other was partially copied from another source, while I managed to invent this one from scratch.

Here the outlining has begun; the critters' mouths had been left unpainted deliberately, so without the outlining they would be invisible.

The initials here might not look too much different from the previous photo, but trust me, the outlining makes a HUGE difference. You can also see the filigree on some of the smaller capitals here.

And here, at last, is the finished piece. My only regret was that I rushed some of the final outlining around the border knotwork, in order to have the piece ready to present in time. My husband and daughter had already left for the event where this was to be given; I arrived, sore hands and all, just as everyone had gotten seated and dinner was about to begin.

The recipient and his wife both loved it... and I got to set it out on a table for people to stare at, after the evening's main activity was done. Who needs a paycheck when you can get an afterglow like that? ...And a new pair of medieval shoes as barter?

It's been two weeks, and part of my thumb is still sore.