A Roman Inspired Scroll

A document in landscape orientation. The top half of the document is latin text in calligraphy. The bottom half of the document is a painted roman mosaic. There are two peacocks, heads toward center, flanking the badge of the A&S Champions of the East Kingdom, a rampant blue tiger holding a candle. The mosaic background is gold, and all three charges are in rectangular boxes with graduated blue borders.
Ink, pencil, and gouache on pergamenata.

After I learned that my award scrolls for the past reign (Consort’s Champion of A&S and Order of the Maunche) had been backlogged, I had an idea. I wanted to create the document for my successor, the new Consort’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. It seemed like a beautiful end to my tenure as Champion, going out with with Art as Service. I reached out to the Sovereign’s Champion, who is also a scribe, and suggested that we make the award scroll documents for our successors. He loved the idea, volunteered to coordinate with the Signet’s Office, and suggested that our documents not “match” but instead make something in our own style.

I don’t know that I have a scribal style yet. I tend to do something new each time. And I was determined to come up with something. And while I’d love to create a Heian inspired scroll, it’s not right. This is the scroll where the Consort of the East chooses Her Champion. So I decided the document should be inspired by Empress Honig, the One choosing Her champion. It gave me the opportunity to create a piece of art inspired by and for Her Majesty to present. I also wanted this scroll to be something Empress Honig would be proud of as a Laurel who specializes in illumination. Her Majesty had styled Her reign Roman. My immediate thought was to mimic a roman mosaic. Her Majesty’s personal arms include a peacock, so I set off in search of peacock mosaics.

I examined so very many mosaics of peacocks. And also borders of mosaics. A neat tidbit from my research, I learned that bird feathers were quite often rendered in glass rather than stone.

I liked this Peacock from Antioch the best.

A mosaic of a peacock facing left, standing on a branch with a pomegranate on it.
Detail of a peacock in the border of the mosaic of Opora, Argos and Oinos dining dating to the 3rd century AD. Found in the House of the Psyches in the Daphne suburb of Antioch. Reg. no. 1937.127 [On display in the Baltimore Museum of Art.]

You can find it here: http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/antiochMosaicsBaltimore4.html 

The initial idea I had was a document oriented in a landscape position. Two peacocks (as it’s Her Majesty’s second reign) facing each other. Between the two peacocks, two oval or round badges, stacked, with the Consort’s arms as the top image and the A&S badge the bottom. Simple borders “line” the images into a “unified” mosaic. Words would be above the image in a rectangular block.  After playing with digital layouts, I settled on a similar design, placing the two badges side by side instead of stacked.

Digital mock up, two peacocks flankinf the arms of the Queen of the East Kingdom, left center and the badge for the A&S Champion, right center
My design process always includes a mock up. This was a quick version made in Paint.

And then I began to wonder about the words. A Roman inspired scroll should probably be in Latin. I immediately thought to contact Domina Fortunata, who has a talent for both Latin and wordsmithing, and was delighted when she consented to assist. We discussed how I felt to have been chosen as Consort’s A&S Champion, and how artistry can move the heart of the Empress. She composed beautiful words in a Latinate prosody style that encapsulate the idea I was trying to describe.

The words in Latin:

Narrete nobis, O Musae, historiam herois. Impartite quae cogitonem artificis semetipse Imperatricem Orientalis iniecit; velut Pygmalionem Galatea, Sapientia philosophos, Daedalo Innovatio iniecerunt. Ante diem tertium Nonas Martii, in anno quinquagesimo sexto ab Societate condita, decernitur <Insert name here> Heroem Reginae Artibus et Scientiis

And the translation:

O Muses, tell us the story of a hero. Impart some knowledge of the artist who inspired the Empress of the East; like Galatea inspired Pygmalion, as Reason inspired philosophers, as Innovation inspired Daedalus. Three days before the Nones of March in the 56th year from the founding of the Society, <Insert name here> is declared Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. 

I chose to do  the calligraphy in what David Harris calls “square capitals” in his text The Calligrapher’s Bible. It dates to the 4th century. After I taught myself the hand, it was time to put pencil, ink, and gouache to pergamenata.

I started by drawing out the lines for the calligraphy and the block outlines of the images.

half lines for calligraphy, half blocks to mark the boundaries of the mosaic, pencil on pergamenata

After some practice on a piece of perg (I was previously practicing on artist paper, the difference is astounding, perg being a much smoother surface, the pen glides on it!) I then did the calligraphy with a dip pen.

The same document. The lines are now filled with calligraphy. It is Latin written in square capitals.

After the calligraphy was complete, I painted a practice piece on the same perg I practiced the calligraphy with most of the mosaic image; one peacock, the Queen’s arms and the A&S Champion’s badge, Sparky, the blue tiger, holding a lit candle. The faux tiling looked good, but the Queen’s arms looked absolutely awful. While I was debating what to do, the Sovereign’s Champion shared his progress with me. I noticed that he didn’t include the King’s arms on his document and knew exactly what to do. I decided to omit the Queen’s arms from my document. And I’m so glad I did.

I redid the pencil outline for the mosaic blocks and instantly felt confidant in the design choice. It was more balanced. It looked more like the hundreds of images of mosaics I poured over.

The same document. Now the blocks outlined for the mosaic are shifted with the center block being less wide, and the flanking blocks on left and right slightly wider.

I then traced the charges using my light pad. The document remained taped to the light pad until complete to alleviate any warping that might occur while painting. I do this with all my scrolls made with pergamenata.

The same document. Inside the blocks are now the outlines of the badge of the A&S Champion in center and peacocks flanking it

And added some guiding border detail.

The same document. lines added to the borders of the mosaic blocks

As to the technique for painting a mosaic style scroll, I drew process inspiration from Magistra Audrye Beneyt’s mosaic scroll for Gauis Claudius Valerianus, Her advice on this project was invaluable. The process is basically to paint in the broad swaths of not very well blended color and then go back with a particular color and paint each tiny little grout line. Thousands of tiny squares.

First I painted the background color.

The same document. The background of the three animal charges is painted yellow.

Then the border. I chose shades of blue to keep a very blue and gold East Kingdom populace colors theme and add unity between the peacocks, Sparky and the border.

The same document. The borders are painted in shades of blue, darkest on the outside and inside fading to white in the center.

Continuing with the blue, I painted Sparky and the peacocks.

The same document. Charges now have blue paint applied to Sparky (the A&S badge) and both peacock bodies with some blue details in their tail feathers

A dark brown for the peacock’s legs.

The same document. Dark brown paint added to the peacock legs

Some peachy pink feathers. The feathers are one block/tile high.

The same document. Peachy pink added to peacock tail feathers.

Then the darker red shades and other detail.

The same document. Dark red added to peacock tail feathers, greens and oranges added in small spots on the bird's body

Sparky’s tongue and the candle flame.

The same document. Detail of the Champions badge, the tongue and flame of the candle are now red.

And then I started the grout lines.

The same document. Detail of the left peacock with grouting lines starting to be applied in tiny squares

I finished one peacock.

The same document. Detail of left peacock with grouting complete. The peacock has a kind of grid laid over the image to mimic mosaic tiling

And continued on to Sparky.

The same document. Grout work has spread to the center charge of the Champions badge, a little more than 1/3 done
The same document. Detail showing the completed left peacock and central Champion's badge

And finally finished it.

The same document. It is now complete with grouting being painted over all tree charges/mosaic blocks.

My hearty congratulations to The Honorable Lady Ysabel da Costa, the new Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. It was a privilege to create this award document.

Event-ing Season

I’ve been able to attend several events.

The East Goes East – was a rewarding event to autocrat/schedule. Their Royal Highnesses attended, and much to my surprise, They even sat in on one of my classes. It was such a deep honor. And speaking of honors, Lady Patience Faircloth and I received a commendation from the Board of Directors of the SCA for the event. I was floored. We have discussed the possibility of making it an annual event.

Aisles of March / Crown’s A&S Championship – In what will be a recurring theme, I did not complete the items I wanted to for this event for myself. Eventually I’ll make a hiogi (wooden fan) but it has not happened yet. I did complete the scroll/document for the next Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. The next blog post will be its write up.

A document in landscape orientation. A block of text in latin takes up the top half of the image, the lower half is a mosaic painting, two peacocks, heads to center, flanking the badge of the Champion of A&S, a left facing blue rampant tiger holding a candle
Award document for the new Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. Ink, pencil and gouache on pergamenata.

I was very emotional stepping down. I didn’t cry in public, but it was incredibly difficult to let that position go. I am quite in awe of the project submitted by the new Queen’s Champion. It was a deep honor to be in the room consulting with Their Majesties and Highnesses regarding the next Champions. I am so very grateful for my time as Champion and the work I was able to do to inspire the Arts.

Gulf Wars in Gleann Abhann – This is a 22 hour drive one way. For this trip, 9 of those hours were through heavy snowstorms. I don’t know why I decided that driving straight through was the right idea, but that’s just what I did. We arrived early enough to get on site and set up camp, but with the temperatures predicted in the high 20s and weary from the drive, we stuck to the original plan and a hotel was procured. Our tent heater got a workout as it was in the low 30s the next night on site. I spent the majority of my free time sewing, even staying up through the night and sewing for nearly for 24 hours straight to finish the items for the Champions A&S Competition. I was very pleased with the work I did. But there was disappointment at the A&S Competition. Of course I wanted to win for the Glory of the East Kingdom, but that did not happen, and that’s ok. It was my first in person A&S competition, and there was definitely a learning curve. I did get some confusing and even angering comments from my judges that made it clear they did not have the time to read my documentation. I’m puzzling over ways to make it easier to get into the documentation for future competitions. I’m also very grateful for the Laurel who took me aside after the competition to talk me down and help me reframe the competition. I didn’t know if camping/eventing would complicate it, but I was able to continue writing and posting poetry the entire time. My partner and I did decide to leave the event a day early (there was a minor flooding issue) and the drive home was very relaxed. This event was also the 19th anniversary with my partner, we met at Gulf Wars.

Gathering of Fools – was a pot luck local event. I made two lovely Japanese dishes, a carrot and daikon salad and a shitake mushroom dish. I was astonished when I was called into court and made the First Poet of Carolingia. Her Excellency Carolingia presented me with her own quill, tied with a beautiful silk ribbon to mark my new office.

Coronation – was a beautiful event. I displayed the kosode that I sewed at Gulf Wars and retained for the first time officially. I was also able to process in with the new Royals in evening court. This was the first time that I was able to wear my travelling outfit at an event.

Balfar’s Challenge – gave me another chance to retain for TRMs. I spent a lot of time chatting with friends and meeting new people. And I also learned that the makeup I wear is not adequate in preventing sunburn.

East Kingdom College of Performers Challenge Assembly and Schola was a delightful Bardic event that I attended with Her Excellency Carolingia. I took a few classes and performed a tanka. It was a beautifully relaxing day, if a little warm.

Otter’s Welcome was the Barony of Carolingia’s event to welcome newcomers. I had a ferocious migraine, and showed up late, but eventually found where I was supposed to be to set up for the Largesse Derby. I spent most of the day speaking with Mistress Cathain who was watching over the A&S display. In court I was inducted into the Order of the Moon, the Barony of Carolingia’s A&S award. Just before court, His Excellency Master Aquel presented me with a small box. inside were two beads, a beautiful glass bead, and an astonishing carved bone netsuke charm in the shape of a tiger eating it’s tail. The gift was presented with a directive to carve my own inro, a decorative case used to hold small objects that usually hangs from the obi/belt.

War of the Roses did not happen for me. That migraine I had at Otter’s was actually a COVID symptom. Luckily no one seems to have gotten ill from spending time with me at that event. I did not complete the items I wanted to for this event either, even if I couldn’t go. Every time I approach making myself something other than Japanese garb, I freeze up. I know how to make these things, I just can not picture myself actually wearing anything other than Japanese. So I guess there’s no point in making any of it. I do still need to make a few non Japanese items for my partner, a Viking under tunic and pants, and a late period shirt and doublet. We also discovered at Gulf Wars that he really prefers more simple garb, so I’m devising ways to make the ties on his hakama much easier and will be revising all the sleeves on his kosode.

As much as I would love to go to every event I can, that is just not currently financially feasible. I’m grateful for the 8 events I’ve had so far this year. I plan on 1 in July, Great Northeastern War; 1 in September, Falling leaves, though I’d love to attend Ducal Challenge to see the former Sovereign’s A&S Champ be inducted into the Order of the Laurel; and 1 in November, St Eligius Arts and Sciences Competition. I will consider Coronation and Crown list once they are scheduled. Unless circumstances change, this will be it for the rest of the year.

Beyond events, I have a few active projects…

TRMs Garb is “due” this month. I may need to ask for another two weeks, as I lost two weeks to COVID.

New Scroll! I actually turned down the next assignment I was offered. I was asked to make the Bardic Champions’ documents, and really would have loved to do it, but I was planning to compete and thought that would be a little weird. This assignment is an AoA. Luckily the gentle has an East Kingdom wiki page, so I can easily pull the information I need that was not included by the person who recommended them. This document has a quick turn around, and will need to be completed by the end of June so that someone can hand deliver it to the event on July 1st. There’s no way I can give up the time required to mail it. And I’m loathe to mail scrolls/document anyway.

Samurai Training – I’ve picked this back up. I’ve been attending Fighter Practice and doing daily drills. I need to get my armor together so I can actually start sparring.

Genji Project – I’ve now talked to a number of people about this project, and I think I’ve worked up the courage and cleared my project schedule. I’ve decided to start in July. I’ll do a write up of the project to officially announce it. And there will be other happenings. This will also mean more frequent updates to the blog to follow along with the project.

And I have a completed project:

100 Days of A&S – At last, a completed project. I spent at least 15 minutes, every day for 100 days doing something A&S related. Usually this was writing a tanka, but it was also work done to support A&S at events and studying Japanese, sewing and researching and teaching classes. I’ll admit this was an easy project, and that it continues as I am still writing tanka, every day.

Deadlines

Oh dear. I didn’t mean to let January get away from me, but it did. I spent it moving back into good habits.

I’ve been writing tanka, everyday. And I’ve picked back up my daily studying of Japanese. Still coming up short on my samurai training, but I do manage some small amount of stretching or exercise most days. And I found a potential armorer for when I purchase my first full kit. He’s currently working on my partner’s kabuto (helm).

I now have more projects (I know, I know) and firm deadlines. I’ll lay it out.

February 7th. My last contribution to Meet the Artist Monday.

February 19th. This is the day of The East Goes East, the virtual event that I am co-autocratting. I’ve been hard at work confirming classes, answering questions and creating the class schedule. I have a number of things that still have to be done for this, mostly advertising and communicating with teachers, and including slide-shows for my classes which need updating! I plan to do a run through of my classes as well.

March 5th. This is the day of the East Kingdom’s Crown’s A&S Championship. For this I would like to complete my karaginu and hiogi in order to wear full karaginu mo for the first time when I step down as Champion. I also have a scroll assignment due at the event. I have the research complete and a possible layout designed. I’m also working with a wordsmith (someone who crafts the words of the scroll). I intend to do the calligraphy myself, but have a couple of calligraphers in mind if I can’t accomplish it. I also intend to contact someone who has made a similar scroll for advice. And there’s also the secret project. I have all the materials I need for these projects.

March 10th. I’ve decided to attend Gulf Wars in Gleann Abhann (specifically in Hattiesburg, MS). I generally have enough garb as I was headed to Gulf Wars (and an hour from site) in 2020 when the pandemic closed the US down. but I do have a few things on the agenda to do: (1) Complete travelling outfit 2.0 to be entered into the A&S Championship. This requires a kosode, kyohan (leg protectors), and a kake-obi. I have all the materials for this. (2) Make a linen asetori (undergarment/sweat wicking garment) I’ll need to order linen. (3) Fix my partner’s hakama; the ties need to be redone. (4) A Viking undertunic and a pair of pants for my partner (also requires linen to be ordered). (5) Pretty cloth masks to go over our kn-95s. (6) Inventory/Organize Wardrobe and pack garb.

April 7th. I have a potential commission due. The proposal goes out this weekend.

May 25th. The time travel outfits. One full Viking and one full 16th century Scots ensembles for me, and a new doublet for my partner.

June. I’m part of the team making the wardrobe for Their Royal Highnesses. My contribution is due in June.

Annotated Bibliography will happen over time.

Eboshi (hat) happens when it happens.

Still dragging my feet on starting the Genji Project. I have revised it, and I now think it is best spread out a bit over two years. The 1 year timeline was just not feasible with all I want to do. And that’s just fine. I’ve also listened to the librivox recording for the fifth time. The recording is of the translation by Suematsu Kencho, the first to translate it into English, but it’s just the first 17 chapters (there are 54), and it’s not exactly faithful to the original. He states in his introduction that he has cut bits out. Still worthwhile. I learn something new with each listen, and have purchased the paperback.

So there’s a lot to do…

Picking Up the Project List

Now that we’ve reflected on the year, it’s time to get set for the next. Shall we start with reviving the old project list? Perhaps a list by type of project? Or prioritized by deadline? Hmm. I think we’ll just go by how they pop into my head.

Travelling Outfit 2.0 – this needs a kosode and a kake-obi. While I still haven’t decided about the sleeves (whether or not to remove the “extensions”), I have the materials for the other two items. This has no hard deadline, but would be best if it was ready for spring.

Karaginu Mo – I would like to wear full court dress at the upcoming Crown’s A&S Champions. This requires amending the karaginu I was gifted so that it has a lining. Deadline is the event, but it hasn’t been scheduled yet. Depending on when it is held, I’ll be wearing either hana tachibana (flowering mandarin orange) or yamabuki no nioi (scent of kerria rose) as those are the only appropriate kasane (color combinations) that I can make with my current wardrobe.

Hiogi – wearing full court dress requires the appropriate fan. I have the supplies for this as well, I think. I might need a sturdier pin for the pivot, but that would be the only thing. Same deadline as karaginu mo.

Eboshi – if I make a hat, I can get away with wearing my partner’s hitatare kamishimo, a matching outfit of hitatare (like a jacket) and hakama (pants). My partner would also like a hat. I think I have some black silk to use for this, I don’t know if I have enough for two or not. No deadline.

Secret Project – I’m tremendously excited about it. The deadline for this is a the same as the karaginu mo and hiogi.

Samurai Training – I need to come up with a plan and stick to it. This is complicated by it now being cold enough where I live that I’m not really willing to spend much time outside. Also still dealing with a pesky injury.

Language – I’ve fallen behind, badly, having not studied in months. I’m trying to be gentle with myself with the projects like this one that languished while I was dealing with the loss of my father. I’m honestly still dealing with that. Grief is complicated.

Tanka – this is an ongoing practice. I write at least one every day. It feels good to have this constant artistic outlet. I will admit I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another 1000. Probably not though, as I have a different project that requires the kind of dedication it took to complete that and then some. (See Genji Project)

Possibilities Dancing in the evening air Intoxicating

One idea outshines the rest And a plan begins to form

Time Travel – I have two full outfits for myself and some pieces to make for my partner to complete two outfits for him. None of this is Japanese, and it has a deadline of May 25th.

Classes – the Saishi/Hair Ornaments class still needs research. Pilgrimage and Power needs its handout spruced, and so does Introduction to Japanese Women’s Dress. I’ve recently dreamed up an advanced kasane class (which requires a ton of research), but my basic class, Kasane for the SCA, still needs its handout worked on. There’s a theme here… I also have a demonstration video I want to record showing how to use modern theatrical makeup to fake the look of period Heian makeup. I’ve done a test run, I just need to do a full go. Deadline-wise, I’ll need to have the intro class and kasane class ready for February 19th.

Meet the Artist Monday – this project will continue until I step down as Consort’s Champion of A&S , probably April. It would be neat if the next set of Champions decide to continue it.

The East Goes East – a virtual event on February 19th! I’m co-autocratting the event with Lady Patience. It’s planned to be a virtual schola centered on East and Southeast Asia celebrating the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Tiger. There will be classes, an A&S display, and it will wrap up with a renga party. (Renga is collaborative poetry)

Genji Project – Have I actually described the project before? Maybe bits of it… I don’t really want to divulge its secrets just yet if I haven’t… I want to get this started, but I’m having trouble committing myself to the time as I find my footing with the work I’m doing to pay for my hobbies and life in general. It’s a major undertaking, and a commitment of just over a year. I have all of the resources I need for this one, I just need the courage to start. It occurs to me that starting this project for either 2022 or the Lunar New Year might be appropriate.

Annotated Bibliography – a list of books and papers with whatever notes I care to share. I’d like to create a resources page, and the annotated bibliography would be part of it. This will drive me to read more books, and really get to know the resources I have at my disposal so I can more easily share them.

Wardrobe Organization – as I contemplated the massive amount of delicate laundry I need to do having dragged yards of silk behind me at an event, I realized my wardrobe has gotten a little unwieldy. I need to give everything a proper organization and create a spreadsheet so I can better fill in the gaps as I create new pieces. My partner’s wardrobe could use the same treatment.

Commissions – I’ve started taking in commissions. I have one solid and another likely. And a large group of possibilities. The likely one requires a bit more research and patterning.

So many projects Responsibilities and Quickly moving parts

A little work every day And all remains in motion

OK, so that’s a lot of things going on. And a lot to keep track of. A lot of responsibility and so many moving parts. The priorities are starting to shake out as deadlines firm up. It will require a fair amount of discipline to execute everything well. Perhaps the daily tanka practice has exercised my perseverance muscle? We shall see.

December is for Reflection

I recently asked for advice from my Facebook community. I felt that I was in an artistic slump and asked, “How do you fight the blahs and get back to making art?” I received so many wonderful responses with incredibly helpful suggestions. And I was reminded many times to be gentle with myself.

Some of the helpful suggestions: wander through a museum, take a step back to recharge, do an unrelated art, dance, color, get a deadline, make a gift for a friend, learn something different, spend time outside, listen to an audiobook, start with something small, pick up a UFO (unfinished object).

I realized that part of my “slump” was project specific. I’m having quite the argument with myself about which fabrics to use as substitutions for silk. I have several uchiginu cut out ready to be stitched, but they’re out of linen, and I don’t know that I like the look…

The other part was feeling that I hadn’t accomplished enough this year, that I hadn’t done enough. A friend reminded me that I had completed major projects. Once I reflected a bit on the year, I realized she was absolutely right. Let’s take a look.

In January I completed my travelling outfit, and was named a finalist for Crown’s A&S Champs.

February saw a win in the Calontir Clothing Challenge and I was selected as Consort’s Champion of A&S.

In March I completed two lengths of kumihimo for my Laurel.

For April, I ran the Poetry Month Challenge.

May held both Bardic War and the Laurels’ Challenge and Display. I competed in Bardic War with original poetry (our team won both that war point and the war). That performance was entered into the Challenge and Display along with a write up of how I planned and executed the travelling outfit.

In June I completed the Tang inspired scroll.

In July I was inducted into the Order of the Maunche and the Sovereign’s Order of Excellence.

August was the first installment in the ongoing Meet the Artist Mondays project with the Sovereign’s A&S Champion.

In September I made an Elizabethan man’s shirt and taught 2 classes.

October saw the completion of my 1000 Tanka Project and I stepped up as Deputy A&S Officer and Largesse Coordinator for the Barony of Carolingia.

The 1000 Tanka project was entered into the Third Online Kingdom Display in November, and I also completed the annual Tanka Challenge issued by Saionji Shonagon. Rounding out the month of poetry, I was invited to speak with a Laurel and her Apprentice about tanka.

Would I have liked to have done more? Absolutely. But I did enough. And having reflected on the year, it ups and downs, I find myself ready to take on more and restart my work on various projects that I had put on hold.

Sliding Through September

Well, I did not accomplish everything I had set out to, but that’s ok. Sometimes life does not allow things to go as planned.

Events – There were four fantastic events since my August Update. Bjorn’s Retreat, Coronation, Harper’s Retreat, and Falling Leaves. I learned that going to an event with company is better for my mental health. I attended Bjorn’s Retreat alone. My anxiety spiked on the way, and I considered turning around even after I had arrived. But I was able to spend time with good friends, and make new friends and stand in court for the first time as Champion. Coronation was slightly easier, as I was accompanied by the lovely Nobildonna Fiore now Her Excellency, Baronessa of Carolingia. Had car trouble which caused my anxiety to spike. But I also got completely ready, make up and clothing in less than 20 minutes, a new record for me. I met my fellow Champion in person, which was a true delight. Standing in court next to him was wonderful. I met a dazzling array of people that day and swore fealty to the newly crowned Emperor and Empress. I did decide to wear junihitoe + uchiki instead of full karaginu mo. This was a great decision, as I was already overheated in what I was wearing. Harper’s Retreat was a lot of work. My partner attended with me. We recorded Carolingian Investiture (the ceremony where the baronage is turned over to new heads) and I taught 2 classes (more on those shortly). It was our first time setting up the camping equipment in the dark, and it went rather well. Watching my dear friend receive his writ for Laurel (given notice that he will be elevated to the order for excellence in the arts and sciences) was the highlight of that event. Falling leaves was virtual, and I had some conflicts, but was able to attend the last court of Thomas and Raziya and the first court of Fiore and Frithuric.

Classes – At Harper’s Retreat I was scheduled to teach two classes. On Saturday for my Heian Women’s Clothing course, I didn’t have any “actual” students. Her Excellency Raziya and the Consort’s Bard, THL Agnes kept me company and workshopped my class with me. I am grateful for their questions and insight and will be revising the handout. My other class, taught on Sunday, Pilgrimage and Power: The Travelling Outfit, had two students. These ladies also asked a number of questions, and I will be revising my handout for this class as well to include more information. That handout needs more pictures. Ok, so they both need more pictures. Once they are revised I will create a page on the website for class handouts and provide links so you can view/download as you like.

1000 Tanka – Current count is 909. I can almost taste the finish line on this project. As it’s drawing closer to the finish, I’ve begun some work to tidy up the document. I didn’t actually number the first 375 or so poems. I had counted through, and left a few numbers, but I didn’t start really numbering the individual poems until I was already more than a third of the way through with the project. I found one bit misnumbering early on that corrected itself a dozen or so poems later. But I skipped 388 entirely. So I made a note and created a poem for that spot, appropriately dated, to take the spot. If anyone ever reads the whole document, I hope they can chuckle at the error. Reading through the older poems as I numbered was like reading a diary. I didn’t realize how much of myself was in all of this.

Consort’s Champion – Meet the Artist Mondays is going very well. I still need to create the wiki page for it. I’ve gotten to in person stand in court 3 times now. It’s fascinating. And it’s such a privilege to watch deserving gentles be recognized for their prowess, service and art from behind/beside the thrones.

Travelling Outfit 2.0 – So this didn’t go as planned. I have not yet made the kosode or kake-obi. I’m not sure when I’ll pick it back up. At the moment I’ve shelved all of my projects with the exception of 1000 Tanka while I focus on my family.

An August Update

It’s going to be a busy rest of the month. But, let’s start with a bit of catch up on July’s progress.

I finished the super secret project, a Tang inspired award scroll. I hope you enjoyed the progress photos and reading about my process.

In the same court in which that scroll was presented, I was honored with two awards, the Sovereign’s Order of Excellence and the Order of the Maunche. You can watch that portion of court at timestamp 44:22 of this video on the East Kingdom’s YouTube channel.

1000 Tanka – Current count is 816. There are just under 3 months left. I’m writing two poems per day, and I’ll need to write at least 3 for 20 or so of the remaining 84 days to hit the mark.

Awakened from sleep By a sudden hard downpour Rain against shutters

Interrupted dreams fading As the storm batters my mind

Language – I had been using two programs, but this past month I mostly used Duolingo. I need to get back to using Rosetta Stone daily as well. Also received some advice on getting practice with a native speaker, though I don’t feel ready for that yet.

Consort’s Champion – The Sovereign’s Champion and I have decided to start a series of bi-monthly Facebook posts, Meet the Artist Mondays, to spotlight Artisans of the East. That link will take you to the first post. In the next few weeks, we’ll get a wiki page set up for the series so that those who do not use Facebook can also read the posts.

Coming up:

Travelling Outfit 2.0 – The project is coming out of time out and I’m going to race to finish it. This will mean fixing the sleeves of the hitoe, making the red kake-obi, and creating a kosode. I’m racing because I will need it for an event next month. Also, I’ve discovered through the book that I acquired that the kosode’s length should be about a foot past floor length. (It’s tucked up for wear/walking) I do not have the yardage for that, so that will be another little thing that isn’t quite right with the outfit, but it will be as close as I can make it.

I have two events this month, and one next – in person events. At Bjorn’s Retreat on the 14th I’ll have the great privilege of standing in court as Champion for the first time. And then on the 28th, Coronation. And for September, Harper’s Retreat where I have volunteered to teach two classes, Introduction to Japanese Women’s Clothing (working title) and Pilgrimage and Power – The Travelling Outfit. I’ll be working on those handouts for the next few weeks. I’ll also be attending a virtual event in September, Falling Leaves, where I’ll display my finished kosode.

Now it’s time to get to work, there’s a lot to do!

A Tang Inspired Scroll

On July 11, Lady Phaedra de Vere was inducted into the East Kingdom’s Order of the Silver Wheel for her service. With Þorfinn Hróðgeirsson’s words, I created a Tang Chinese inspired scroll for the occasion. This was my first scroll for the East Kingdom.

Gouache on Pergamenata

This was the most difficult scroll I’ve ever completed. I failed twice in its making. I lost faith in myself and my skill at times. But with the help of dear friends I kept going, and in the end it came out beautifully. And the recipient is very happy which is the most important part. What follows is the timeline of events leading to the completed scroll with progress photos.

Thursday, March 18 – I receive word that a dear friend is to be inducted into the East Kingdom’s Order of the Silver Wheel. An image forms in my mind for the scroll. I see the recipient, resplendent in her Tang garb gazing into a pond that reflects the moon as the silver wheel she is being awarded. Her heraldry is a white lily, so I muse that including white lilies might be nice.

Friday, March 19 – I reach out to the Tyger Clerk to volunteer to create the scroll.

Sunday, March 21 – Instructions for how to officially volunteer for scrolls are provided. In my excitement, I misunderstand the instructions and started happily working on the scroll. I reach out on the SCA Scribes and Illuminators group on Facebook to find a calligrapher. I have a few offers and recommendations from that group. The post is briefly shared to a group the recipient is in. I fret that the surprise has been blown.

Monday, March 22 – A translator that had been recommended reached out to me. Information was shared and as they know the recipient, and agreed to compose an appropriate poem for the occasion. I order two each of two different premounted scroll blanks. I reached out to someone who offered help with research and composition. And I am indebted to Taylor Chen for their assistance. I’m in luck that my initial idea can be done in a decidedly period fashion. My artistic consultation provides a plethora of research options and a crash course in Tang culture and art. I create a webpage for my scribal work so the Scribal Office can see my past work, and fill out the forms to be an official East Kingdom Scribe.

Thursday, March 25 – The scroll blanks have arrived! Oddly enough, the slightly smaller scroll blank is my preference. It is backed in silk while the slightly larger is backed with paper. (I somehow fail to notice that the larger is paper for the ground as well.) I also like the darker contrast fabric framing the cream silk around the paintable area more than the solid white one.

Luckily I will be able to use my new lightpad with either, and that relieves some of my stress knowing that I won’t have to freehand the whole thing. I need to start sketching soon, as the image/painting needs to be complete before I can send it to the calligrapher. I’m terribly excited (and a little nervous) about the whole project. I think I’d like to get the illumination (painted) portion of the scroll finished no later than the end of April so there are 2 full months available for the calligraphy.

March 27 – After an email from the Tyger Clerk, I realize that I was working on the scroll prior to having the official assignment. It causes me some anxiety that I had made that kind of mistake, but is sorted when I then receive the official assignment email.

March 28 – I confirm the official assignment. The scroll is due July 4th, so I relax my end of April deadline a little to May.

April 1 – Last night the person writing the words sent the first draft of the poem. It’s amazing. And beautiful. And so well researched and constructed. They’ve taken the generic scroll text I came up with and created a poem in an ancient Chinese style IN CHINESE. I am in awe of this individual’s talent.

April 2 – I’ve essentially finished my research phase of the project. I have a curated selection of period images and a couple from later but still within SCA period as well as a modern painting or two. The later period examples (circa 1500) are for style suggestions, and a cheeky but hopefully subtle inspiration from paintings of the goddess of the moon. The modern painting details lilies. I have a Tang reference image, provided by Taylor, but the modern one shows a detail in use of colour that I think I would like to emulate. I’ve also done an initial sketch of the scroll, full size. I’m encouraged by it. I’m going to alter the figure’s stance to emulate a Tang image of a court lady, the farthest left from Zhou Fang’s Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair With Flowers. I plan to have the figure holding a long handled paddle fan. I aim to complete at least one sketch per day until I have the final image.

April 3 – Second sketch done. This is more a line drawing than a sketch. I think I have the proportions right, the angles all look good. The pond is discernably a pond. The lady actually looks like she’s looking into the pond. I stretched the silver wheel “reflection” just slightly and tried to match the angle of the water to good effect. There’s this beautiful line created through the composition from the moon through the figure’s gaze and into the pond’s reflection that just makes me SO happy. This is not the line angled through the piece, that was to mark off the space for text. I spend just a moment wondering how to detail the hands before sketching the long-handled paddle fan in. It’s perfect. The next iteration will detail the hair.

April 11 – Third iteration complete. I based the hair on the recipient’s wig called “Steve.” I share a picture with the person who helped me with research. They suggest that the leaves of the lilies blow in the breeze as the figure’s scarf is “fluttering in the breeze”. I make the change and it gives the image a wonderful sense of movement.

And then I could not art for a month.

May 14 – I “complete” the final line drawing. This is the version that is ready for transferring onto the scroll. It does not yet have the patterns for the fabric details as I’m mulling those over.

May 15 – The calligrapher may have an issue.

May 23 – The wordsmith wants a little time for rewrites. Not a problem as I no longer have a calligrapher to write his words. Herein starts a mad scramble to find a new one. Spoiler alert, I don’t.

May 24 – I briefly lose my mind about the project. I consider redesigning to a late period English style. I seek advice from a friend who helps me break everything down and be much more rational about the whole thing. I owe His Lordship Roibeard mac Neill mhic Ghille Eoin a great debt. He asks for progress reports in return.

May 25 – Baroness Audrye Beneyt begins her 25 minutes for 25 days challenge. I use it as a prompt to get the scroll completed, sort of.

May 30 – Practice image created on scrap silk using ground Chinese ink.

Image transferred to the scroll blank. I first taped the line drawing to the lightpad and then the scroll blank over that. It was traced directly onto the silk with freshly ground ink.

And then I stared at it for days. And I mixed the paint colors.

June 7 – I let the wordsmith know I’m unable to secure a replacement calligrapher. I ask if they mind if I do it. I’m confident I can copy the characters legibly.

And then I stared at it some more.

June 10 – The recording session in which the recipient is awarded her silver wheel happens tonight. She was very surprised.

June 11 – I add fabric details to the line drawing and tape down the practice silk to cardboard. I did not take photos of progress on the practice silk.

June 12 – Base paint layer of white added. Green added to lilies. That halo of white around the moon is a portent of things to come. Cue my anxiety over how much the paint is going to bleed. I’ve painted silk before, but not quite like this. The nagging doubt I had about how well the “prepared” scroll blank was actually prepared seems warranted.

June 14 – Skin, hair, moon and flower in the hair painted. Minimal bleeding.

June 16 – Water, lower skirt and wheel painted. The bleeding of the paint is slight, but it has me very worried. I paint the band at the bust and want to cry. But I think it’s still salvageable.

June 18 – Painted in the large color block and the paint bled very badly. I reach out to a different friend to see if it’s as bad as I think. She confirms what I already know.

Baroness Audrye’s Challenge ends, and instead of a finished scroll, the scroll has to be started over. Fail one. I attempted to use the paper scroll blank and found very quickly that it would have the same bleeding issues. Fail two. At least fail two was quick and relatively painless.

So I changed the proportions of the image just slightly, lowering the moon and changing the pond bank on the right side and transferred the image onto pergamenata. I also correct a mistake in the skirts that I found after zooming in to see the fabric details on the lower skirt. Because of the resize I left the lilies off as they would need a bit of redrawing to fit properly, and since I was redrawing them, I decided to pull them more in line with the period images as I think they look very western. In the end, I decided to leave them off entirely.

June 19 – First layers of paint added to the scroll.

June 21 – Another layer of white base on the figure, moon and wheel. Flower and water painted.

June 23 – Silver added to the moon and wheel. Large color block is painted. The perg has gone wavy on me despite being taped to my lightpad. The scroll is in an “ugly phase” and I worry that I’ve created another failed attempt. I go to the art supply store and buy all new brushes.

June 24 – Lower skirt painted.

June 25 – Repainting the lower skirt, moon, wheel and flower. Detail at the bust painted.

June 26 – Gold details added. I also used a brush with just a little water to “erase” a bit of paint from the figure’s shoulder. Pattern added to underdress. The scarf has been given another coat of white. The fan is given another coat of white, this time on top of the gold of the handle/support to create a sheer fabric effect. Tiny black details added to the gold in the lower skirt.

I add white and black details to the headdress and begin the black outlining with the headdress and moon.

Black outline and details added. Makeup and face details painted.

June 27 – Necklace painted. The illumination part of the scroll is complete.

June 29 – I am not a calligrapher. I have always “drawn” any calligraphy I’ve done. I have no experience with Chinese calligraphy and barely any practice in Japanese calligraphy. I know that my brushstrokes will not be in the right order or even direction, but I know that I can copy the characters and they will be legible. First, practice. I can’t get the detail I need with a traditional brush. I practice the calligraphy with an archival brush pen and then with an 18/0 round brush and gouache. My lines are more fine and clear with the paint.

June 30 – The calligraphy is complete and with it, the scroll.

The first person who got to see it was the wordsmith. The two people I took into my confidence so I could ask for artistic help were given sneak peeks. I take the best picture I can of it and send that off with the words to the appropriate place.

July 1 – I create a scroll holder out of foam core boards, copy paper and masking tape to protect the scroll until it is delivered.

July 11 – The scroll image is shown in court. The recipient loves it.

July 12 – Scroll delivered to the Vox.

Big lessons learned:

(1) ALWAYS zoom in as far as you can on your examples. There are some small changes I made in the finished version of the scroll that would have been made into bigger changes earlier in the process if I had zoomed ALL the way in.

(2) It’s good to have someone to talk to about a secret project.

(3) Practice. I already knew this one, but we can all use the reminder.

(4) Always have a backup plan. And a backup to your backup. The final scroll was my plan C.

(5) Invest in your tools. They really make a difference. This project was made so much easier with new high quality brushes and a great lightpad. My ring light was also invaluable.

Taking a Break

From blogging. I’m taking a hiatus until I have my super secret project finished. All active projects are still in progress, but you’ll have to wait a while on an update.

Struggling

Content Warning: Discussions of mental health.

In the information on my splash page I state, “I fight anxiety and other challenges.” Right now those other challenges, and the anxiety, have me struggling. And it’s all been a little too much. My projects are suffering. I’m suffering. And I’m entirely overwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing things. But it feels like dragging myself through mud filled with broken glass. I’m slowed to a painful pace in everything I do. And everything takes so much more energy than it should.

I’m going to have to let as many projects as I can sit idle for a while, though not many can.

Saishi – The first is my Japanese Hair Accessory class. I’ve postponed the class for a few months. I’d like to get some more research done before I feel comfortable speaking to actual people on the subject.

Bardic War is entirely done. Which is a huge relief. Unfortunately the recording of the Original Poetry warpoint seems to have disappeared from Facebook. I did record my portion, just in case though. More on that in the next section. The best news is that the East/Atlantia alliance won the war!

Laurels’ Challenges are essentially done. Helping to set up pages for entrants was fairly quick and easy. I will need to meet with each of the Laurels for the challenges I entered in about a week. You can find my entries here. The recording of my performance for Bardic War is also available on that page.

Consort’s Champion of A&S – I have a discussion later this week with the Consort’s Bardic Champion for a potential joint initiative.

1000 Tanka – not a project I can stop, nor do I want to. Writing poems is often very cathartic for me. They serve as an outlet for my emotions and creativity. I find writing them helpful for my mental health. So this stays. Current count is 626.

The writing desk sits Patiently waiting for me To pick up my brush

There are more poems to write, Another story to tell

Samurai Training – this is also something I will not be giving up. Physical health is vital to mental health. I’m still struggling with my injury, but I get stronger every day.

Language – it seems that I’ve moved to a Monday through Friday schedule for this. Unit 3 milestone today and then off into unit 4.

This blog. Not something I want to give up. I may not get the posts up exactly when I want to, but they will go up.

Secret Project – I have one secret project that I can not put down that is the source of a lot of my stress. I talked it through with a wonderful friend this morning and have a clear plan for my next few steps. But this project tests the limits of my skill and that has had me paralyzed with fear for over a month.

Listing it out you may not wonder why I’m still so overwhelmed. Perhaps it has something to do with not being willing to make some projects idle? But there are also things on my plate that are not SCA/Heian related projects. I have responsibilities to my family that can not be put down. There’s also still a pandemic going on. And I’m still reeling, months later, from both the death of my companion parrot and the loss of my job. Both have me in tears daily. I wish I was exaggerating.

So, yeah, I’m struggling. And I’m still doing my best.

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