Category: Art

The Apprentice’s Manuscript

So things kept happening to get in the way of my properly apprenticing to Ollam Lanea (rainstorms, commitments, a pandemic), so when we finally were able to set a firm date, I lost my mind a little and decided to make her a gift for The Occasion. I decided to make her a book. Not any book — a book that contained two of her pieces, two of mine, and some other important items. Since I chose poems that incorporated our languages, I decided they had to be properly glossed. This is literally my third piece of calligraphy ever, my second with a proper pen, and I learned to bookbind over the summer by half-watching a dozen random YouTube videos. And because I knew Lanea would get a kick out of it, instead of documentation, I wrote a library catalog entry. I told you I lost my mind.

The Book

The Catalog Entry

Teach Folcadáin Bó Caitlin MS Ripton A.i

Date Inconsistently dated to both ~800 and 2021 (?)
Title The Apprentice’s Manuscript
Content The present volume contains 4 poems and some additional back matter (a short verse and a single sentence). Two poems, On Kings (ff. 2r-8v) and Song of Amergin (ff. 24r-29v) have been glossed by the original scribe. The glossing of On Kings indicates that the scribe was familiar with the language and attempted to keep a poetic translation in the gloss. However, they also excluded words that were the same in both texts, making it difficult to reconstruct the gloss’s original form. Inaccuracies in the glossing of Song of Amergin indicate that the scribe was not familiar with the language; E. Meredith (2021) has suggested that the scribe was attempting to combine two texts with only the vaguest understanding of Celtic languages.

Contents:
ff. 2r-8v: On Kings
ff. 9r-15r: On Returning Home
ff. 18r-22v: You Call Yourselves Bards?
ff. 24r-29v: Song of Amergin
f. 31r: Gawain and the Green Knight (?) excerpt
f. 32v: Back matter

Decoration: 5 illuminations, of a horse between three lozenges (f. 1r), a bird (f. 16r), a raven on a pall between three Brigid’s crosses (f. 17r), a great black dog (f. 23r), and a golden winged shoe (f. 30r). There are additional small decorations throughout, most significantly a decorated O on f. 18v.

Languages English, Modern
English, Old
Irish, Old (?)
Physical Description Materials: Pergamenata, Noodler’s Eel Black, Koh-I-Noor watercolor, FineTec gold and silver.

Dimensions: approximately 90 x 70 mm. No indication of trimming.

Foliation: ff. 32. There is one modern foliation sequence in the manuscript in pencil.

Layout: written in one column of four or eight lines to a page. All four-line pages contain glosses in a different language.

Script: Half-uncial. While the hand has similarities to the Book of Kells, as do some of the illuminations, the number of errors and uneven lines indicate an inexperienced scribe deeply in over their head.

Binding: Rebound in the first quarter of the 21st century by an enthusiastic amateur using green silk thread, cardboard, linen, leather, and PVA glue.

Origin, provenance Unknown; bears indicators of both 8th/9th-century Hiberno-Saxon traditions (especially Northumbrian) and 21st-century Nacirema techniques from Piscataway Nation territory.

Progress Pictures

Calligraphy in progress: printed text above with a page drying, ductus and practice below, and perg placed on top of the lined practice sheet.
Finished pages kept in order, with other pages drying and the text I was working from to the right.
Punching holes for binding into the folios with a guide. This page also has one of my favorite corrections.
Finished binding, with the first folio visible.
Binding glamour shot.

Fiffaru, the Disaster Lyre

This is the story of the Five Calamities of Fiffaru, the Disaster Lyre.

In 2019, my friend Mattheus Dupuy showed up to a local practice with a Germanic lyre. He let me noodle on it, and I instantly fell in love. After letting me borrow his lyre for a bit, he offered to help me build an Oberflacht lyre using instructions from Michael J. King — my first woodworking project! In a day of woodworking, we managed to get the crosspiece cut, the body shaped, and over half of the soundbox hollowed out. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the router slipped and cut a large curve in the back before we noticed. This was the First Calamity. After talking about hollowing the whole thing out and slapping on a backpiece, we broke for the day.

The half-hollowed lyre, with the hole near the bottom solid section.

The lyre sat in my garage for nearly two years. With the plague marching the lands, I didn’t have access to the tools to finish it, and over winter I didn’t have a warm space to work on it, either. Then warm weather hit, vaccinations were imminent, and I felt the need to get this sucker done. I had an electrical drill, a coping saw, and pure stubbornness. I had neither a workbench nor wisdom. Despite this, over a weekend I managed to get the majority of the body cut out via strategic drilling and very difficult sawing. Unfortunately, as I started to hollow closer to the lyre’s arms, the lyre cracked where the two arms met. This was the Second Calamity.

Right before it cracked (yes, I was using a cardboard box to drill into)

I decided to peg and glue the headpiece when this happened, to provide stability (since I didn’t have a proper dowel to peg it with, I sliced up an old bamboo knitting needle). I spent a long time trying to find the best glue for the job, but I couldn’t find any recommendations, so I settled on standard wood glue. After finishing the headpiece, I glued the break, clamped it all tightly, and left it for a week or so.

Because I had limited tools and the structure had already been compromised, I decided to simply even out the hollowing and not even attempt to make the front and back boards flush with the frame.

The finished frame and soundboards, ready for gluing

I used wood glue to attach the soundboards, pressed the whole thing with some handweights, and let it dry.

Around this time is when I discovered the Third Calamity: mismatched holes. I had planned for a six-string lyre. Mattheus gifted me a bridge of bog oak for six strings, as well as a horn tailpiece, which I drilled for six strings. But I did my math wrong, and drilled only five holes in the headpiece, with no space to cram in a sixth. Luckily, I could skip one slot on the bridge, and I was able to fit a seventh hole on the tailpiece so that the strings could still be roughly equally-spaced. Thus, the lyre became a pentatonic lyre by accident.

This was not the only issue involving the pegs. I didn’t drill the whole way through, as I didn’t want them to be visible from the back; however, I made some of the pegs too shallow, and the leftmost one in particular had trouble going in. So, I decided to deepen some of the holes — and promptly went through the back on the leftmost. I managed to not do that on the other four, but this was still the Fourth Calamity.

Before stringing, I wanted to apply a finish. However, I couldn’t find any reccomendations for a finish that were newbie-friendly and non-combustible (hi, linseed oil!), so I decided to just use a mix of mineral oil and beeswax, which I already had on hand for wooden chopping boards.

Finally, it was time for stringing! I had purchased a bunch of guitar string sets, so I chose the best selection of nylon strings from those. I was a little at a loss for how to attach the tailpiece, but other lyres I had used employed either fishing line, fake sinew, or plastic-wrapped wire. I had some of the latter available, so I strung it up, but upon tensioning the strings this snapped, being sliced through by the horn tailpiece (the Fifth Calamity). I tried a few fixes, then took some files to the holes and smoothed them out. I no longer trusted the wire, though, so I wrapped part of the tailpiece holes with silk thread and fingerloop braided a tie. It held.

Fiffaru’s final form!

By this point, I had decided to name the lyre Fiffaru, which translates to Five Calamities (from fif and fær, which pluralizes to faru). Despite being the Disaster Lyre, it sounds pretty good! While I don’t have a performance video of this, please enjoy the first recorded noodling upon it:

 

Overall, I’m quite proud of Fiffaru, and its name is rather tongue-in-cheek. This was my first woodworking project, and my first instrument! At the end, I have a pretty beautiful instrument that sounds nice and will hold up well as it’s dragged to events, and because of the calamities I now have a dedicated pentatonic lyre. It’s an overall win!

Finally, in addition to the plans from Michael J. King, I found a few additional websites useful:

First Calligraphy

Layout and practice

I was so excited to do calligraphy for the first time! I calligraphed a beautiful scroll blank by Adelaide Halfpint inspired by the Ormesby Psalter (1250-1330).
While I had practiced a similar script (Batarde), I practiced the script from the Ormesby Psalter for this scroll, meaning that I learned a new hand for my first calligraphy! I used standard scroll text, as I didn’t want to hyperfocus on my own words the first time I calligraphed something.

 

Scroll being presented in court. Photograph by Kolfinna Valravn.

 

2020 Secret Shiremate Gifts

In December 2020, Korrin Valravn arranged a “Secret Shiremate” exchange for our shire. I was excited to receive Ollam Ruaidhri an Cu, a lovely man, dear friend, and fellow bard, as my secret shiremate. We had four exchanges, and in no particular order, I wanted to share three of the things that I made (the fourth were cookies, and there is no evidence left of them).

Ollam Ruaidhri is a generous and crafty person, so I wove multiple yardages of inkle weaving, for him to use or gift (or both) as he saw fit.

The final bands are silk in shire colors (white and green), a semi-symmetrical narrrow weave in wool, a wide and long asymmetrical weave in wool, and a symmetrical weave in wool. I used some of the same wools in all three woolen weaves, which was a fun way to demonstrate the different effects you could create based on warping patterns.

In the survey we had to fill out, Ruaidhri also indicated that he did not have a shire token (!!) and that he liked practical items that fit in a pouch. Obviously, the answer was that he needed handkerchiefs with the shire populace badge.

The handkerchiefs are hand-hemmed linen embroidered with silk. I tried two different techniques for these to create both an outlined and a filled-in badge.

Finally, Ollam Ruaidhri has a wonderful dog named Zeus, so I had to do a small illumination of the lovely fellow. I adapted folio 19r from the Aberdeen Bestiary.

Here are some progress photos:

A Poem and a Card

Wrote a poem! Did my first calligraphy! Threw in some illumination from the Book of Kells!

I was sick so the poem wasn’t as dramatic as I wanted it to be and the whole thing was late!

Text:

To Cuan, king of      considerable worth:
Your bard begs you     a brief moment
of time, attention,     tolerance, and reprieve.
A report of a birthday     reached my ears–
so a chronicle I conceive     for the King of Atlantia,
a poem of his prowess,     praising his might
with words of wisdom     to warn and advise,
extolling the integrity     of one .viii. times a king.
But unbidden, an illness     attacked my form,
muddled my mind     and mystified my pen.
Now my reason returns,     revived and hale,
But the moment is missed!     Mournfully thus
I weakly write     a wish, with all goodwill
of a belated birthday     from your King’s Bard.

“Millcross” Knotwork Embroidery

The finished embroidery, out of the hoop.

In fall 2019, I wanted to improve my embroidery, so I drew a knotwork design that I decided to fill using a combination of satin stitch and split stitch. While the knotwork has finally been completed, I still have yet to decide what I’m going to sew it on to.

 

Ballpoint pen sketch on linen with first attempt at satin stitch.
Figured out that outlining first helps support satin stitch!
Satin stitch looking much better thanks to outlining.
Millcross base finished; millcross outline and small knotwork in progress.

 

Main embroidery 3/4 complete.
The main embroidery was finished in May!
Almost done with the border!
The final product!

 

Urnes-Style Scroll

I picked up scribal in the fall of 2017, and although I was unable to attend the following Twelfth Night, I desperately wanted to enter the New Scribe Contest. Based on Her Majesty’s whims (Viking persona and a love of horses and the color red), I decided to do an Urnes-Style Horse and Grasping Beast Scroll. I was honored that my scroll was selected as the winner!

Because I wanted a challenging design (and I could not find any digitized exemplars of period illuminations that fit my concept, as Nordic manuscripts are rare before 1100), I decided to base my design on Urnes-style knotwork (c. 1050-1132). I used three artifacts as inspiration: 

I decided to adapt one of the Urnes-style grasping beasts into a horse, based on Her Majesty’s whims. The color choices were also influenced by an Urnes-style scroll found online dated 2007; I could not find the name of the original artist.  I used gouache and pencil on pergamenata.

As my third scroll ever, this scroll had many firsts for me: 

  • first entirely original composition for a scroll, 
  • first completed illustration of knotwork of any kind 
  • first attempt at freeform knotwork, and 
  • first scroll on pergamenata.
Sketch

 

Final Scroll

 

Scroll detail

First Scroll Blank

I painted my first scroll blank in 2017, the same year I joined the SCA. The elements were an amalgamation of elements from early 15th century manuscripts (I believe I pulled from BNF MSs. Français 117-120, which was made between 1400 and 1425, with some modifications to the illuminations in the 1460s). I then entered this scroll into the Twelfth Night scroll blank competition in 2019.

Photograph is courtesy of Tannis Baldwin, as I am awful at remembering to photograph my own items!