A palm leaf scroll for Countess Marguerite

I jumped at the chance to do a troubadour scroll with Anna for Countess Marguerite, who has so inspired me in the SCA. Really if it weren’t for her, I probably would not be playing.

And while we had the option of doing a normal scroll for Marguerite, I knew we had to do one for her alternative persona Megha. So I contacted Baronessa Imiglia Venture for help in researching as she used to play an Indian persona. She pointed me towards a wonderful resource called JAINpedia where I was able to look at extant pieces from all over Asia. It also has the information on where one can find the pieces, which also lead me to the Victoria and Albert museum’s website as they also have an extensive collection.

V then emailed me back and said, you know what would be awesome? A palm leaf scroll like I got for my Kings Order of Excellency. And she linked me to the woman who had made hers for her, Lady Kananbala who documented her process beautifully. And we were off and running. Donovan was in town that night for fencing so he picked up V’s scroll so I would have it to study and I started looking for images for the design.

I wasn’t having a lot of luck searching for a good image that wasn’t of a god or other mythical person, so started googling around a little and hit upon this website of a man who sells Indian miniature paintings.  Perfect. So many pictures of people telling stories, singing songs and dancing!

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After trying lots of images on for size, I kept coming back to this one, but it was the wrong style and time period. No matter. I can take the postures and general image and transform it into a more historically accurate picture!

I decided to base the text pages on the design of this manuscript, which could be easily adapted into the palm leaf manuscript format.

Then I found these adorable dancing women and decided I had to use them for the signature page. I sadly am not able to figure out quite where I found them, and google image search isn’t helping.. But I love them so very much. They were also of a slightly too early period, so I had to transform the style a little to help it match the rest of the document’s 1500’s mughal look.

dancing girls

At Birka I went looking for brass bells like V’s scroll had, but couldn’t find any… but I did find some little glass mushroom beads, a golden rose trinket and three cat trinkets to match her whiskey kitties.

When I got home from Birka I started working on the layout and the individual pages I’d need for the scroll. Then I saw the weather forecast with a major blizzard for the 26-28th of January.

2015-01-26 15.55.14I spent all Sunday making a sheet of blanks for Anna to fill in with the words for the scroll and then had intended to get it to her by Monday night, but the snow started early and my rental car is not capable of handling even a dusting of snow. Donovan was planning on visiting Marguerite to do some fencing drills Monday night since their practice had been cancelled, so I enlisted him to drive the blank over to Anna on the way to Marguerite, but then he decided the snow was coming down too hard to make the trip and so the blanks waited at my house until the roads were cleared on Wednesday and Anna could come pick them up.

I took some of my winter confinement to work on the scroll casing, using my new cabinet scrapers to bring the maple boards I was using for the case to a glass like finish. I was very impressed with the sheen I was able to raise on them, and then I accidentally marred them a bit later in the week so I had to use some fine sandpaper to bring them back to perfect, but I had run out of time to make them shine perfectly again.

I sketched out the designs on tracing paper, taking the elements that I wanted to use and getting them into the format I needed. I worked on the layout and tried to figure how best to work the different designs I liked into one document, some did not make the cut, mostly based on time allotted and trying to get things to fit into a logical layout.

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I finally was able to leave my house on Thursday (1/29) to travel to Rozi’s house to borrow some power tools to drill the holes in the wood and work on my East Kingdom Exchange present, that was also due on 1/31… While out, I stopped by Anna’s house to pick up the scroll blank that now had the completed text on it.

Friday (1/30) after work I finished up the EKE present and did my performance review for work then started working on putting the scroll together (7pm). Well, first dinner. Then scroll. I started work on the scroll really around 8pm. I sketched the designs in on the blanks I had made, I found an adorable elephant to hold up the cup. 4x5 original

I started painting around 10 pm. I started with the dancing girls because they were my favorite, I then moved on to the elephant with the cup.

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I’m not really sure why I put them all in leopard print, but it looked pretty neat so I continued. The platforms they are holding are where the king and queen were to sign (and I need a picture of that because it looks so great with their signatures in place) Picture from Kathy’s post on the scroll! 

Then I started working on the frontispiece miniature, which I’m not totally happy with how it came out, the faces ended up a little wonky, but by this point it was around 11:30. I finished up the figures and then asked Anastasia for suggestions on what do about the audience. I mean they have to be performing for someone! We discussed various options, kings, queens, populous, trees, animals – wait, what about cats? I went to JAINpedia and typed in cats, nothing. Lions, er, indian heraldic lions are really weird looking.. Oh wait! what about tigers! It’s eastern! it’s heraldic! I can make them match her kitties! I typed in Tiger and got this goofy looking tiger, but hey, it’s midnight and I can totally freehand draw that! So I added in three tigers watching the performance, and then to balance that, a blue, crowned mushroom, with a tiny maker’s mark mouse peeking around it. (seriously, check out the extant tigers, my goofy ones are totally period) (Also I totally apologize for the faces on my miniatures, but it’s not a style I am familiar with and it was very late at night. The dress on the other hand is based loosely on Megha’s bardic outfit from 2013)

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At this point it is around 1 am. I found a pretty floral design to put in the blank spot of the text (which I accidentally started to erase the pencil lines before the paint was fully dry and then had to fix, patience is important, even at 1 am):

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I erased the rest of the pencil lines from the scroll and then started to cut the pieces out, with an exacto blade and a ruler, in the middle of the night. It is a miracle I did not cut myself. Then I decided to press my luck further and carve a mushroom on the front of the wood scroll holder (I had intended to paint, but I couldn’t bear to cover the beautiful wood grain). Once again I performed a minor miracle in not injuring myself. I applied butcher block oil to the wood and the design came alive on the wood.

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Kathy had donated a bunch of trim to the common house a few weeks ago and when I saw the red and gold ribbon I immediately grabbed it for this scroll. I cut the holes in the panels using my tiniest gouge (still no blood!) and then laced the scroll up, including 3 blank pages for Megha to add her own poetry should she feel moved. Then I sewed the little mushrooms, kitties and rose to the bottom.

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I quietly walked downstairs and placed the scroll in Anastasia’s basket and went back up stairs, where I realized, oh no, the cut sheet! And ran back downstairs to put that with the scroll so Donovan wouldn’t kill me. Then I decided I’d better pack for the event since my ride was coming in about 6 hours, and then fell into bed.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me make this wonderful scroll. It was an honor and a privilege to get to make it for Kathy.

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