Runestone scroll – May 2019

This is my first runestone that was based off the Uppland Sweden standing runestones. It’s based off of one that I can’t find online, but is in the Dover press ‘Viking Designs’ book, and I can find the rest of the ones on the page, so I’m assuming it’s just not digitized yet. If it does not actually exist, it’s at least very much in keeping with the style, so I feel it’s ‘close enough’.

Here’s the finished scroll –

Now to tell the story…

The award write up I received, told of a brave viking warrior who has joined our society in the last year or so, and has made every effort to better himself in the art of war. It was suggested that he would enjoy a scroll with runes on it, which immediately my mind went to carving him a stone.

I passed the award recommendation to fellow Silver Brooch Sisuile Butler who had told me a few weeks earlier that she loved writing words. (Music to the ears of most scribes!) While she worked on the words, I got to work on the stone.

I had planned to raid the stash of flagstones that Leanne and I had bought a few years ago for such projects, but due to scheduling and such, it was easier to just go get another batch of them from Home Depot. (Plus, now I have my own stash, just what my scribal closet needed…) So one of the many rainy days of April, I went over to the local Home Depot and grabbed two bags of soaking wet stones. Had the weather or light been better, I’d have picked out the perfect set, but given the conditions, I went with two sets and hoped for the best. Once home I set out all the stones I had acquired and found one that would stand up on one side and look about right for the job.

Then I started researching which design I wanted to put on the stone. My initial goal was a man fighting monsters, but the people on these stones are pretty strange looking and few and far between, so I had to go with creatures fighting creatures. While browsing through “Viking Designs” I found one that matched what I was looking for:

I then spent a few days trying to find which stone this design is from, but eventually gave up.

Next was the challenge of how to transfer the complex design to the stone. I had originally planned to freehand the design, but since this was more complex, I decided to transfer it onto the stone. I did a few trials using various chalk and carbon methods but they wouldn’t stay on the stone or didn’t show up well enough. I eventually found an article on the web suggesting that you paint the surface and then transfer the design to the surface, then carve the design onto the stone, so I tried this on a piece of scrap stone and it worked wonderfully!

So I painted the stone white, and transferred the design using homemade carbon paper, this didn’t leave dark enough lines, so I went back over all the lines with a pencil. I then inscribed the lines on the stone using a knife. It was difficult to see which lines I had already inscribed, so I used an orange marker to keep track. Once all the lines were done, I washed the stone with soap and water. While waiting for it to dry, I tested the colors I had to see which would look best on the different lines. The colors were chosen as they are similar to colors that the original artists would have had access to, and what has been found in archaeological investigations of the stones. I transliterated the text from English characters into Younger Futhark Runes and wrote it onto the stone in two lines, since there were many more characters than would fit in one line. I cleaned up the edges with a pointed q-tip and called my courier to come and get it, as I was not going to the event this time.

I hope one day I will have time to actually carve the stone, I did a trial of it for this project but I didn’t have enough time to really do it well, so I decided to just go with the paint, but I do now know that I have the tools to actually hand carve the entire thing.


Scroll disaster averted

So you know how you aren’t supposed to leave things until the last minute? I’m bad at that rule. I picked this source a few months ago, I even picked the page – Something about it just called to me and said, do this one for Katla, even though it’s not Norse, I think she’ll like it. I printed out a few pages and tucked them into my practice notebook since I haven’t done calligraphy in many months, figuring I’d need all the practice I could get. Then I failed to act on this pre-planning.

Fast forward to the weekend before it was due, I still hadn’t started and I didn’t have words. So I started emailing my wordsmith friends and they were busy, so I brainstormed and plotted and eventually gave up and asked Matthias Grunwold if he’d be up for it, thankfully he was.

Monday night I tried to work on it but just couldn’t concentrate. Tuesday I got the layout done and penciled in all the lines. I even got a little of the painting done. Wednesday night my brain was fried, so I said no. Thursday was no better, but I got the colors blocked in. Friday I had friends coming over for dinner so I had to clean the house and cook. But after they left, I sat down and did the calligraphy with basically zero practice. It came out pretty good, I’m glad that muscle memory is a thing. Most of the errors were from me being tired. So this picture is when I called it quits at midnight on Friday, having attempted to start outlining and realizing that was a bad plan.

So I got up nice and early and went to start working on the illumination. I put my hand down on the calligraphy to steady my hand and smudged the ink that had been drying for the last 7 hours! Panic sets in, I consider scraping the whole thing, I come up with contingency plans, I text friends, I generally freaked out about this mess I made.

Then I took a deep breath and said, I know how to fix this, let’s just try to fix this and see how it goes. Worse comes to worse, I can hand in this terrible mess with an IOU since I sort of know Katla, and at least she’s local. I got out my pounce and poured it all over the page, making sure to evenly coat all the calligraphy. I let it sit for a good half hour to absorb the ink. Then I shook the pounce off the paper and took a picture – you can see where the wet ink is because those are the letters where the white pounce is sticking to the ink. (picture taken at 8:15 am)

Smudged scroll with pounce to dry the ink

I then carefully continued to work on the outlines, adding the details that make it look good, it started to take shape and the pounce fell away as it dried the ink below. Maybe all was not entirely lost – this picture is from 9:06 am, you can better see the smudge damage here since the pounce is mostly gone now.

Around this point my husband who was going to the event is like, er, so I was going to leave soon, how much longer are you expecting? And I respond that I’m supposed to be leaving the house at 10 am to get to where I was going that day. I pick up the pace and start shading and highlighting like mad. Around 10:15 or so I am done painting, but now I need to do the thing I was most dreading, erasing my calligraphy guidelines. This would be the real test to see if my pounce plan had worked. I started from the outsides where there was no ink and things were ok, and then I went to the areas where the ink seemed the driest, and things were ok, though I had to go very slowly so I could stop at the first sign of any smudges. When I got up around the area where the smudges were, it wasn’t perfect, I definitely caused a few fresh tiny smudges at that point, but I got the pencil lines out for the most part. This is what it looked like post erasing, at 10:30 am –

All erased, time to try to scrape off the offending ink!

I got out my blades and started scraping. Sadly the blade I like the most (penBlade #15) has become too dull for this task, so I had to switch to one of pointy kind that always make me super nervous. But things went well. I was more conservative than I normally would have been, but at this point I had a pretty decent looking scroll and negative time to work. Here’s what it looked like when I stopped at 10:37, the the on the fourth line down could use more work, but the ink there wasn’t fully dry and so I didn’t push it. (Katla, if you want I can fix it at a later point, or you could ask one of your local scribe friends, they should be able to fix that quite easily now that it’s had some time to dry)

Post scalpel scraping. Nearly all traces of the earlier mess are gone!

So I printed off the cut sheet, packaged it up with a backing board, mat and archival bag and took one last picture before jumping in the shower to get ready to leave, I managed to only leave an hour later than planned, which considering my morning, I decided was doing quite well.

I hear that the packaging may have not gotten to the recipient, but hopefully someone ended up with that ‘scroll case’

Viking Scroll – WV18-045

I received this scroll assignment the evening of September 25th, I quickly skimmed the email and said, oo! this would be a good candidate for a runestone!

Æsa feilinn and I had gone to home depot in the early spring and purchased a flat of slate tiles so we’d have some in reserve for future projects. I tucked one away in my closet for the eventuality, and now was that time.

Generally I outsource my viking words, I’m bad at words to begin with, and doubly unsure about poetry, but there wasn’t time. I started looking at various sagas and what not, seeing if there was anything I could easily crib, but it was taking too long. So I went to Wikipedia and did a bit of research into old Norse poetry styles and decided that I wanted to go with Fornyrðislag, which is an alliterative form, with short lines, done in stanzas that can stand alone.

So taking the information I had I came up with these lines:

Freydis Egilsdottier, Fierce Forester
Hearth Warmer, Horse Giver
Leader of lessons, leeward protector

Forger of Family, Favored Friend

Wilhelm, Warrior Warlord
Vienna, Eastern Embroideress

Givers of Gilded Gears
Honored Officiates, Orientalis
Done on the 27th day of the Harvest Moon, AS LIII

I then transliterated it into runes and figured out the spacing that would work on my slate rock.

The pictures come from the ‘Picture stone G-264′ at the Gotlands Museum in Visby Sweden. The horse theme comes from a story in the award write up about the recipient making hobby horses for an event, so it seemed appropriate 🙂

Laurel Viking Swag for Thyra

So one of the fun things about non-writ peerages is that you never know what the recipient is going to wear, I mean, yes, you go to their house and steal their clothes and bring it to NY.. but sometimes they do silly things like keeping wool garb in a ceder chest (after it had been attacked by moths in the past, so totally a good idea). But regardless, we couldn’t find the viking dress we had planned to bring for Thyra to have the option to wear.

But one of the great things about non-writ peerages is interpreting their in case of peer letters. One of the things that Thyra asked for was viking styled award regalia, namely a viking swag. Naomi and Leanne asked me to make a medallion for that and then it morphed into me organizing the project, which was a great deal of fun.

Firstly I needed beads. This is not in my skill set, and really probably should never be in my skill set, but that’s where these projects become fun projects – Collaboration time!

It just happened to work out that Birka was the weekend before the event, so I had a great opportunity to meet up with some of the most talented glass lampwork bead makers in the East. I contacted them ahead of time and explained the project and everyone was excited to participate and bring beads to Birka.

I started with Mistress Elysabeth Underhill because when I think lampwork, I think her. She couldn’t go to Birka this year, but sent me the beads through the mail – img_20180128_142234718.jpg

I asked her for suggestions for who else to ask and she suggested I talk to Mistress Elizabeth Elenore Lovell, Mistress Tola knitýr and of course Mistress Iulia Agricola.

Beads from Mistress Elizabeth Elenore Lovell

Beads from Mistress Tola knitýr

And I met up with Mistress Iulia Agricola at Birka, at her store and we chose a bunch more to fill out the swag. She donated some and I bought the rest-

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I was busily designing a medallion to hang off the swag. We knew we wanted a rose inside laurel leaves, but the style and ratios were up to me. I grabbed my handy dandy rose template from the Pennsic Traceable Art project. (which ack, the hosting is going away, someone save this site!) and then went on to the dreaded and searched for laurel wreaths. After being wholly overwhelmed by the variety I picked a simple one since I was going to be carving this into wax.
rose laurel
I then went looking for my kit of wax carving tools and wax. Into the basement! Oh god the basement. Oh look, all these reminders of art projects I’d love to work on if I only had more time to spend on them, but everything is so disorganized and stressful and aaaaaaaaaaa. I couldn’t find the wax. So I ordered more wax. Wax showed up. I found my knives and started working on trying to carve the wax. My knives weren’t really working well on it, and then I found my wax carving tools and things started to go better. But I was running out of time and lost wax casting has one big problem with it – if it doesn’t go well, you have to start over. I figured out a good work around for this, making a silicone mold of the wax mold so you can make another wax to work with to make the mold, but I really didn’t have the time or energy to do this this time around.

So I went back to what I know, soapstone molds. Except that the soapstone we had in the house was full of inclusions and grit and was awful to work with. After an hour and a half of just trying to carve out the round shape for the medallion, I said no. I am not doing this. I packed up my stuff and headed to Master Rozi’s in the morning.

When I got to Rozi’s she asked how things were going and where I was with the project and I explained and said I was totally open for any suggestions she might have as I was rapidly running out of cope. We could engrave, we could etch, we could carve a wooden mold, we could do any number of techniques. I had all my tools and materials with me so there were lots of options.

She told me about the medallions she made for Mistress Tola knitýr. [Here’s Rozi’s Blog post on that] and showed me this simple way to make a copper pendant for a viking swag. It was great and we had copper! So I cut out the shape that we needed and we buffed it up to make it less sharp. (Note to self, I really want a bench belt sander, so fast, so awesome!)


We then took this tag and put it in a vise and folded the tongue around a nail. Rozi laughed at how much easier this was with two people and I said, yeah, you have these apprentices that you could put to work helping with things like this :). I transferred the design to the copper using a sharpie and free handing the design. The center line is there to keep things lined up.


And here’s where the work gets fun and I forget to take pictures.. Someday I’ll be better about this, but probably not until I set up a rig to auto-take the progress pictures.

I started to enscribe the lines with the tools I had with me, and improvised tools that we made from things around the shop until I remembered that David has a ton of metal stamping tools for leather working. He had had other plans for the weekend but came over with his tools in quick order to help. He also brought his chasing and repousse tools that he bought from the Livonia Smithery at Pennsic. I had been contemplating learning this skill set but hadn’t gotten around to it and so I excitedly picked up the tools and went to work, figuring it out as I went along. It just clicked and I went forth and made this awesome thing.

IMG_20180212_201103049.jpgThis picture is awful (mostly lighting, but also it’s just a crop from the larger picture. I may send Dave over to Thyra’s house to get a better picture some day) but it shows the final item. The lines were all tapped into place and then I used various punches and random objects to dish out the shapes. I then put in some texturing using the leather punches.

I would definitely do this again, I had a great time with this art form and reading up on it and watching youtube videos fills me with glee and ideas. It looks like there were also a lot of things I could have done to make it easier to work (primarily having something that holds it in place and allows the metal to move properly.) But I have the basic technique down, so it’s all tuning from this point out. I definitely want to make more copper pendents like this for various awards since it’s so pretty and also great for early period personas. Plus it was pretty easy and fun to make the pendent.

But I was not done yet.. there was still the putting the whole thing together part of the project. So Thursday before the event I went over to Leanne’s to help her with the vigil food and to string the beads. She added a sheep to the horde and there were a few other copper items that I had gotten from Ygraine at birka to add to the swag. I couldn’t find heavy weight thread and was concerned about it getting tangled while being presented in court if they were going to put it on her, so I initially strung it on wire, which was sometimes done in period. I thought that stringing would be a quick and easy thing to do.. Ha. yeah I was wrong. I think I put it together about 15 different ways before I found one that made me happy, and had everything dangling how I wanted it. Then I made handpies and hedgehogs for the vigil.

Friday before the event I realized I needed something to connect the swags and attach it to the brooches during court. I started with some pretty aluminum wire that was coated to look like copper but it was way too soft and bent out of shape very easily. I needed real copper wire. I contemplated driving over to Home Depot but Dave stopped me and reminded me that we had extra romex in the basement. He went down and rescued it for me and I twisted it up into the swirlies that I wanted to make. They aren’t great looking, but they were a last minute solution to a problem that I hadn’t even thought of when I started the project. I hope to make some more in the future, this time planned ahead.


Here’s the finished swag. It came out very well all things considered, and it very much captures Thyra’s serious and silly nature. I hope to make more things in this vein. I’ve been wanting to explore these metal work techniques for years and this was a good push to make me get my tools out.

Quick little cup Silver Brooch scroll

So I had a quick turn around assignment (9 full days) for a viking who makes mead for his area and is a well respected artisan. I contemplated making him a paper scroll that looked like a rune stone, but decided in the time available I couldn’t do that justice. So I started contemplating a real runestone, perhaps made of a plaque of wood.

Then I went to Panteria. First thing Saturday morning I went wandering around the merchants just to see who was selling what. I came across a group selling all sorts of cups and feast gear named Plunder Sisters. There I found a simple turned cup that looked like it was newly made out of perhaps pine. The grain was nice and the workmanship good and it was about the right size for the scroll. I purchased the cup and put it in my bag. Now to design the scroll!

My fellow scribal buddies and I sat around in the dark discussing words and design ideas. Ring givers, mead maker.. gods, mead, mead of poetry… there may have been some mead drinking involved too. The next morning I went back to the merchant to get the details of the maker and it turns out the maker is a guy named Alistair and it was his first event, and first sale! Perfect.

Once home and in possession of an internet connection that could handle pictures I started looking up various runestones and other viking images in art concerning mead making. I quickly found an interesting image of a ritual concerning mead making that would work

Wikipedia has a nice high resolution version of the picture – 

I took the central image from here and wrote out text that is based on the runestone inscriptions that have been found in similar locations. They are nearly always short and to the point. My wordsmith, Aesa feilinn Jossursdottir based the words on the Risbyle Runestones found near the western shore of Lake Vallentunasjön in Uppland, Sweden, dating from the Viking Age. I then asked Ávaldr Valbjarnarson to translate this into runes.

I had initially planned to paint the cup, but then I wasn’t sure if the paint and tung oil finish would play nice together, so since I didn’t have a lot of time to experiment (we’re at 2 full days now) I decided it was safest to inscribe using my hand chisels.



I rubbed it with two coats of tung oil finish and rushed it off the courier who was going down to the event, with about an hour to spare!

If anyone knows how to get in touch with Alistair from Plunder Sisters, I’d love to send him a link to this so he can see how it turned out.

My scribal portfolio now has a home!

I finally figured out how to link my portfolio to the main page of the blog, so now it’s up in the title bar, hopefully that will be obvious enough for anyone looking for it.


A new plan on my scribal education –

I’ve been trying very hard to try something new each time I have a new assignment, which is great and keeps me excited, however it makes it difficult to get progressively better at one thing.

So my current plan is to work from a single time period/location for a awhile, see if I can make noticeable progress in a particular segment of the scribal field.
I chose to focus on two particular manuscripts – This Bible on Gallica from 1150-1200 for the script and this Untitled document from Gallica 1175-1200 mainly for the illumination. I chose to go with these two rather than one or the other because I really like the script in the first one, but it has very limited illumination. The script in the second document is similar to the first but is a bit more gothic than I wanted to work with for this project – however it has amazing illuminations in designs that would work rather well for SCA scrolls. As they appear to be pretty closely related to each other in time and place, I feel it’s ok to mix them together.

My daily scribal practice is entirely based on this Bible. I’ve copied out the first page and zoomed in and have very close images of the hand as it was written in context. From this I am developing a ductus for this exact hand. To help with my particular issues doing scrolls, I’m copying text from a Latin text and writing it in my practice journal. This has two major benefits – I get better at copying things I don’t know how to read and by using latin, it’s easier to see how the letters were supposed to look together. By doing this practice in Latin, using a book that has the English translation on the mirror page, I’m also picking up a bit of Latin as I go along, which makes redacting hands from primary sources easier as I am starting to recognize words and know what the letters are supposed to be from context.

So the first scroll from this intensive study :

img_20161104_193042923I hate my spacing, both the line spacing and the letter spacing. The changes in the size of the hand was somewhat intentional, however the execution was not as I had wanted it.  For once though, I’m not going to beat myself up too much as I did this scroll while burning up with fever and shaking through chills and coughing fits.The fact that there is nothing horribly wrong with this scroll is a miracle. I should have realized my limitations and sent it out to have the calligraphy done by someone else, but I felt better in the morning and thought I’d be ok to do the work, but no, I just got sicker. Turned out it was full blown pneumonia. But I got it done, and it looks better than some of my work, so that is somewhat a win.

I have a few funny pictures of the illumination – this is from when I was getting sick but not quite as sick as I was when I did the calligraphy – It was easier to do the painting lying down since the position kept my hand from shaking too much from the fever and it kept it easier to brace for when I’d go into coughing fits.

Luckily I had already done most of the illumination in the weeks before, so there wasn’t too much to finish in that vein once I got sick.

I did not go to the event to see it given out. I hope it was received well. I also hope that it doesn’t play Trojan horse, bringing this virus into other people’s houses.

A scroll based on a page of the gorleston psalter

So my latest assignment (and I promise to update the blog with the last six month’s worth of assignments soon.. I promise) was a Silver Brooch for a 14th century Welsh persona. Based on the write up, she’s an avid embroiderer who helps out with elevation garments and enjoys researching primary sources to use for embroidery designs.

As soon as I heard 14th century I immediately thought of the trap manuscript (Luttrell Psalter) and just as quickly said, NO WAY AM I DOING THAT TO MYSELF AGAIN, or at least so soon… And then remembered that there were a bunch of psalters from that time frame with equally awesome illuminations – particularly my favorite, the fox preaching to the geese.

So I looked up fox and geese and psalter and google came back with the Gorleston Psalter, which is not actually the manuscript I was thinking of, but is equally cool. And best of all, since it’s not the Luttrell, it doesn’t have those god awful flat feet in the calligraphy! It’s more of a proto-gothic, leaning heavily towards the gothic style. Which, while way more angular than I like doing, at least seems like something I could some day get good at, as opposed to the Luttrell hand of doom.

I emailed back and forth with Mistress Briony to get some more clues on what the recipient would enjoy and found out that she has a love of bunnies. Perfect! This time period is crawling with bunnies!

I browsed through the Gorleston Psalter, noting all the interesting and fun themes I found along the way as I totally plan to use this source again – it’s like a saner version of the Luttrell! And eventually I honed in on one particular page, 70v, which has a monk working at a scribal desk for its initial capital. I decided I could pretty easily make that into a woman working at an embroidery frame, which would be appropriate for the time period and recipient, and started looking for other elements to put together to better personalize the scroll.


I found some great bunnies in the line extenders –



and lots of fun bunnies all over the place!




I went with this one as it balanced well with the rest of the design I wanted to use:


I put all the pieces into a graphics program to see how I can best put the pieces together, after many iterations, I decided I liked this one best-


I had a slightly shorter lead time than I usually have, or at least it felt that way since it was in that post pennsic month where time has a hard time existing in linear form. And to make the situation more stressful, my main scribal support network were on a cruise. So I was on my own, and decided to do the part I hate most, the words, first.

Given the space concerns, I needed to make the text pretty small, but still personal. I ended up with 97 words, which fit pretty nicely. I actually ended up squeezing more space out of it, thus I kinda wish I had added another sentence, but my draft versions just fit, so that was the reason I didn’t make it longer. I’ve had too many occurrences of just barely getting all the words onto the scroll. This time I was going to play it safe.

The first thing I did was trace the main elements of the design onto tracing paper and then overlaid it with another piece on which I did a first draft of the calligraphy, more to see how it would fit and how many capitals I’d need to do and where I could put the sentence spacers. It ended up making more sense to only use one of the spacers as the signature lines would end up taking up the bottom space.

Once I felt that the words would fit, I started practicing the hand and the words on scraps of perg that I had left over from other projects as I’ve found that since I normally practice on paper, I’m always nervous on perg – so I need more practice on perg. Thankfully I’ve finally convinced my head that the perg isn’t really that expensive, particularly in comparison to other scribal expenses, so I can use the scraps for practice –


I still don’t have the discipline to get my angles consistent and I’m still not great on keeping my letters within the proper lines. It’s like it’s a test where you have to fill in just the circle, no more, no less  – and for some reason my hand always slips, no matter how hard I concentrate. But it’s getting better with daily practice. I have very little desire to ever do full gothic (I don’t like how it looks) but I do hope to get better at this looser style.

Leanne and I brainstormed some hands that might fit my natural tendencies better like humanist, but I like the cartoony style of the 12th-14th century.

But anyway on to the actual scroll –


Ignoring for the moment the shapes of my letters (too round, I know) the two other issues are word spacing and line spacing. The line spacing is the stupidest mistake – for who knows what reason I started on the wrong line – DESPITE LABELING THEM- and then got slightly confused on the fourth line down. There is nothing to be done here other than beat myself with a heavy book. But I swear I do this every time… It’s so frustrating.

My word spacing issues come from my perennial fear of running out of space. I over compensated this time, smooshing everything in together. I think more vertical guidelines would have helped with this – but also doing more drafts at full size on the tracing paper so I can be more confident that my words will fit on the page.

As for the illumination, I think it came out pretty well. It’s very hard to tell from this picture because of the lighting (zooming in helps), but there’s white work on everything and it really adds a great dimension to the piece. I like the natural graceful shape of all the shapes. I measured and drew most of it by hand, and then traced over that to get the more natural lines. I decided to keep the slightly listing border design (the words are justified, but the border isn’t, it’s at like a 10 degree angle to the words) as that was how many of the borders were presented in the original, and I could see why the scribes had chosen that option – the text was the more important part and this was the easy way to make the border fit in around the capitals.

I used Holbein Gold gouache, mixed with WN Alizarin Red gouache to get a range of gold shades to make the gold on gold work look better and feel more three dimensional. The rest of the highlighting and shadows were done primarily using whitework, which sadly isn’t showing well in this photograph.

This was one of the first scrolls I’ve done entirely with gouache instead of using my WN watercolor pans, I’m not sure if it made much of a difference. I do think that the gouache is better for the flat background colors, but I think I much prefer the pans for the shading layers and details as it’s easier to get a consistent layers of paint with the watercolors. Mixing up colors with all the different shades I might need is hard to keep track of and not contaminated with other colors – though that’s mostly because of 20 years experience with high quality watercolors. I’m too used to being able to just mix on the fly.

Which style is more period really depends a great deal on which time period. The difference between gouache and watercolors is primarily the binders and amount the pigments are ground down. Looking at earlier period manuscripts (pre 1300’s) it seems like the technique is closer to the watercolor theory of layering lots of very light coats of pigments in a thin binder. But starting around 1300 you start getting images that look more three dimensional and involve layers of more opaque paint on top of one another. This is much more in line with the gouache techniques and I think also the tempera techniques, though I haven’t played with tempera in many many years. This change in techniques allows for the later full color borders with intricate bugs and flowers that appear lifelike. That is technically possible with the watercolor technique, but is significantly easier with the gouache style of painting.

A sister scroll to the last gothic one..

Oh Luttrell Psalter, you are so sneaky, with your pretty pretty pictures and your nice clean calligraphy – you make it all look so easy… like anyone could do that… But no, don’t be fooled, this manuscript lies to new scribes. It whispers “oh don’t worry, it’ll be fine, look at my nice crisp lines and my pretty little s’s, this won’t be hard” when really it’s a deceptively difficult manuscript to copy. Talking to various other scribes, this is a common trap that new scribes fall into, particularly ones who are more comfortable in illumination since it has such pretty pictures, but it is possible to do, particularly once you accept that yours is not going to look quite as perfect as the original.

This is the second scroll I’ve done from this manuscript in the last few weeks, and I figured the first one’s calligraphy was hard because I just hadn’t had enough time to properly learn it, so I figured the second one would go better since I had already put in so much practice time on the first. The second one did go better, but I think I need a few more years worth of practice before I can do this hand justice.

For this scroll I used folio 13 reverso (the back side of page 13) :

I chose this particular page as the person the scroll was for is a thirteenth century harper, and King David and his harp leaped to mind, plus I love this page.


Here’s my version, a bit simplified:my_work 2016_3_4

Now look back at the previous post, that’s supposed to be the same hand – so yes, I’m making definite progress, but man is this hand hard… I’m going to set this manuscript aside for a little while and go back to my good friends in the proto-gothic world where I can actually feel a little bit of confidence.. But! My spacing and vertical lines look much better. They still need work, but way better than last time.

I try my hand at a gothic calligraphy style


Silver Wheel for A&S Champs, yes, I spelled Championship wrong… And I got carried away on my s’s – I really enjoy doing gothic short s’s now that Karen taught me a trick to them (don’t think of them as s’s, which is basically what to do with long s’s as well..)

It’s based on the Luttrell Psalter folio 53r, Here’s the whole thing online at the British library – and here’s the book opened to the page I did –

I mostly traced this one (the vines and leaves are all free hand, along with the diapering and whitework), but I’m doing a second that is entirely free hand since the images are really easy to free hand and then I can work them into the design I want more easily. I chose to trace in this particular case because I had procrastinated too long and needed to get the shapes on quickly so I’d have time to do all the layers I wanted to do.

Part of the reason I was rushed with this one was that it’s my first with metal leaf, and that took quite a bit longer than I had expected. I used Mona Lisa’s Silver Leaf from their gilding kit, which I highly DO NOT recommend. Firstly the directions are terrible, and secondly, the ‘silver’ is tin, which is fine, except that it doesn’t cut nicely so it’s really hard to brush away the extra that’s not supposed to be there as when you brush it, it rips across the part you do want. I now have plenty of the much better quality stuff to try, but I thought it might be a good idea to start with the cheaper option to see how it went, and as usual, it was miserable.

The calligraphy was all done Thursday night before it went to the event Friday afternoon, which wasn’t my original plan, but as said, the timeline got pretty compressed due to the silver, and then not realizing quite how much illumination I had bitten off until I was well into the process. (Yes, I do the illumination first, Yes, I know this is crazy, Yes, I sort of regret it for this one due to how the lines worked out, but that was also somewhat due to the compressed timeline for the calligraphy as I didn’t have time to do extensive drafts of how I wanted the calligraphy to fit into the scroll.)

It’s not terrible. Ok, it’s pretty terrible, but given how much Gothic and I do not get along, it’s pretty good. The three things I struggle with the most in scribal are 1) word spacing, 2) Verticals being vertical, 3) Getting my feets correctly on the baseline. (Yes, I’m sure there are lots of other things wrong as well, but these are the ones I’m most working on right now). So the big difference with this scroll was that I used Vertical guidelines for the first time, and it’s something.

1) Word Spacing. Within the word, and between words, it’s still not great, but this is probably the best I’ve done so far in terms of my words all being appropriate distances from each other, and the internal spacing in words is pretty decent. I think the vertical guidelines helped the most with this aspect, mostly as they created a grid that I could use to see how far the letters were from each other, and I could count on them to be regular.

2) Verticals being Vertical. This was the reason I used vertical guidelines for the first time with this scroll, and I suspect they helped, but I’m kinda amazingly oblivious to the guide lines, it’s like my hand just desperately wants to slant all my letters every which way and is revolting against the guidelines. They aren’t terrible, but being gothic it’s really obvious when they are slightly wrong. I really need to practice this ALL THE TIME.

3) Feets. Thankfully this hand has mostly flat feets, I’m especially terrible at getting pointy feets to end up in the right place.. but even with flat feets it’s really hard to remember what I am doing – mostly from a serif perspective, I really love adding little serifs, and this hand has very few serifs. But these feets were also supposed to be square, and that was very hard to do without having practiced enough. I suspect my feets would have been considerably better if I had given myself enough time to actually properly learn the hand and not been rushed.

I kinda want to animate my letters as they have definite personalities.. my Ys are so often drunkenly sliding under the table, while my V’s have too much confidence and my As are desperately trying to hold everything together but failing since their mates dislike them for thinking they are perfect.

You can also definitely see me getting more tired and sliding back into prot0-gothic, but it looks okay. ish.

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