Art From a Year in Seclusion

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Scribal Art

When the lockdown started over a year ago, I thought that I would have an abundance of time to work on Scribal arts. Although time was clearly abundant, much to my dismay, creativity and energy were hard to find and keep. I am delighted to have six finished items to share with this group: two backlog scrolls, two custom scrolls for Baronial awards, a fun little contest entry, and my first non-traditional scroll – a runestone carving done in soapstone. The runestone is my featured scribal item. I have included the other items as if they were on my display table in the background.

A Runestone for Sophia

I was delighted to receive a request to create a Court Baronetcy scroll for Sophia Francesca Bruno. Affectionately known as Bead Momma, Sophia’s dedication to the art and teaching of glass bead making deserved a unique recognition. I had been wanting to create a non-traditional scroll for some time now, and decided this was the perfect opportunity. She would get a Norse-style runestone carved in soapstone.

Obtaining the Soapstone

Sourcing the soapstone proved to be challenging. I would have preferred to purchase my stone as a rough piece and shape it by hand, but the local art supply stores did not have anything large enough that I could use. Ordering stone from an online vendor was prohibitively expensive. After much web searching and phone calls, I found a marble and granite counter top supply business within driving distance that would sell me a couple of pieces of soapstone in a soft grade that I could cut and carve at home.

The soapstone slab that I purchased was 17 inches by 12 inches by 1 1/8 inches thick. It weighed a little over 15 pounds.

Preparing the Soapstone Slab

Because the slab was prepared to be used as a counter top, it had a lovely satin finish on the front side. This would be perfect for the design and text. The slab had been cut from a larger piece as a measured rectangle and the edges had some saw marks. The back of the slab had fiberglass mesh applied so that the counter top adhesive would grip the surface.

Due to the limited amount of time that I had to work on it (due for May Crown Court) I had to use modern tools to cut (handsaw), shape (coarse and fine metal files), and remove the fiberglass mesh (power sander and sand paper).

Design and Calligraphy

The size and shape of the stone slab determined the final shape of the runestone and the amount of space I had to work with for both design and calligraphy. I did a lot of research looking for serpent-themed runestones on which to base my design. My inspiration for the design of Sophia’s scroll came from the Holmfast Swedish runestone, one of the few that are known to have been carved for a woman.

Holmfast Runestone from Sweden with twin-tailed serpent and inscription commemorating a woman
Holmfast Runestone from Sweden

The scroll text that I was given was short, per my request. I chose Elder Futhark to represent the English language ceremony text on the stone. I drew the twin-tailed serpent to fill the space as well as accommodate the measured length of the text from the practice paper. I enjoyed the process of creatively sizing the text and filling the space with serpentine design elements.

I added a double ring motif to hold the small kingdom seal in a carved depression, with four small flames to represent Sophia’s bead torch and three student torches. The design was transferred to the stone by using white tracing paper and a ball point pen.

I carved a few runes into a small practice off-cut of the soapstone slab using a dental tool that I have for creating soapstone molds for pewter casting. It looked great, but, took much longer than I had to spend on the entire project. The clock was ticking relentlessly towards May Crown and so I had to make a compromise. I put a fine point carving tool into my Dremel and carved the design in a single day, taking breaks of course between work sessions.

The Finished Runestone Scroll

I’m very happy with how it turned out, and pleased to have signed it in the traditional fashion “Annaka made”. I’m looking forward to delivering the completed runestone to Sophia after its display stand is complete.

Runestone Court Baronetcy Scroll for Sophia Francesca Bruno

Two Backlog Scrolls in the Russian Style

When I discovered that our former Baron of Blatha An Oir had never received a scroll for his Hastae Leonis, I volunteered to create one. My other backlog scroll inspiration came from discovering that a person I greatly respect for her talent and generosity had never received her Pelican scroll. The Pelican scroll was created just prior to the lockdown, and had to wait to be delivered until it was safe to do so. Both are gouache on archival watercolor paper.

Pelican Scroll for Rannveig skrifari

Pelican scroll for Rannvieg
Pelican Scroll for Rannveig

Hastae Leonis for Aleksii Konstantinovich Chernoi 

Hastae Leonis scroll for Baron Aleksii
Hastae Leonis Scroll for Aleksii

I enjoy perusing the scroll backlog whenever I have some spare time and scribal inspiration. It is so rewarding to message the backlog coordinator with the words, “You can take another one off the list.”

Two Custom Baronial Scrolls

I had the honor of creating two Baronial Scrolls for Francis de Northetone: a Panther’s Torch given for feast hall decor and ambiance, and an Albatross, which is a third-level service award given for many years of event team leadership and service to the barony. The Panther’s Torch is a customized version of a standard charter, shown with its inspiration of feast hall banners and other decor. The Albatross is an original, 18k gold leaf and gouache on watercolor paper, shown with its inspiration, a page from an early 15th century French Book of Hours.


Panther’s Torch

Entry for the First Shelter in Place Scribal War

In March of last year, I signed up and donated funds to offset the cost of An Tir scribes to participate in this contest. Our An Tir team chose a lion theme. Contestants were given two 2.5-inch square pieces of parchment on which to draw their line drawing and a painted version of the same design. Winners were decided by popular vote. While I did not place in the top finishers, it was a fun project. My inspiration was “Bold Fortune” from Paolo Forlani’s Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi (Venice, 1565).

Bold Fortune, Venice 1565
Inspiration for my scribal contest entry

Striving for a Pacific Northwest sea theme, I managed to include giant kelp, a heraldic sea horse, a scallop shell, a salmon, and gave Bold Fortune an An Tir checky sail for her windsurfing adventure on the back of a sea lion.

This concludes the Scribal Arts portion of my exhibit. Comments and feedback are welcome.

Research Paper: Introduction to European Women’s Short Cloaks of the 16th and Early 17th Centuries

The purpose of this paper is to introduce the short cloak as worn by 16th and early 17th century women. The paper begins with a brief history of the short cloak prior to the 16th century. It continues with an overview of short cloaks by selected geographic region, comparing visual characteristics from period art and period tailor’s patterns, for both women and men. This paper was accepted for the Dragon’s Laire 2021 Scholars Assembly, and I did a presentation on this subject at Dragon’s Laire Candlemas. A download link is provided at the end of this section if you would like to read my paper.

As I continued my research, I focused on Polish and Hungarian styles of 16th century women’s short cloaks in preparation for making one for myself. Please see the next section of my exhibit for information about this project.

In the Polish / Hungarian Style – A Fur-lined Short Cloak

While gathering information for my research paper on short cloaks, I knew that I needed to learn how to work with fur. I was fortunate to be able to take Charles de Bourbon’s Fur Master Class and to complete a class project that gave me the foundation skills and knowledge to begin my fur lined cloak project.

Learning About Working with Fur

Our Master Class project was to create a fur trimmed bycocket. I had a plain light grey wool bycocket that I made several years ago from a wool hat blank. I ordered some natural rabbit pelts and found one that was the perfect colors for the trim. I learned how to match color and quality when piecing fur from a single pelt with this project. There are four seams in this fur trim: center front, center back, and in the transition from white to grey on each side. I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Rabbit fur trimmed bycocket
Grey bycocket trimmed in rabbit fur

Creating the Short Cloak

I chose an olive green wool for my first short cloak. This was designed to be a practice piece, before attempting a silk cloak and matching gown as shown in many upper class Polish and Hungarian women’s portraits. In the style of the Austrian cloak patterns from period (see my research paper for details and images) and several Polish women’s portraits that featured short cloaks, I chose a semi-circular shape with a small collar. The cloak was entirely hand sewn. Functional arm slits were created and closed with ball buttons to match the cloak. This portrait is one of my favorites.

Hungarian Fur Lined Short Cloak
Hungarian Fur Lined Short Cloak

Creating and Adding the Fur Lining, Facings, and Collar

I chose rabbit pelts for this project. Rabbit was used in period for middle class fur lining and trim. For me, during the lockdown, it was readily available online and relatively inexpensive.

For the lining, I chose mixed natural rabbit pelts, as would have been available to a middle class Polish woman. For the collar and facings, I chose dyed rabbit pelts in a simulated cheetah pattern, as many Polish and Hungarian women’s short cloaks were faced (and possibly lined) with spotted exotic animal fur. For this short cloak, I used 14 mixed natural pelts and 4 simulated cheetah pelts for a total of 18 pelts.

The pelts were laid out by color and size, with the darker grey pelts along the bottom and front edges. The mid-range color pelts were used in the middle, and the lightest ones were used along the top and neck edge. I don’t know if it was done this way in period, but I feel it is aesthetically pleasing to use a gradation of fur color, rather than a random color piecing.

Pelt layout by color
Pelt layout by color

Each pelt was cut to size with a small sharp knife. The pieces were all sewn together by hand using small stitches and silk thread. Pieces ranged in size from about half of a pelt, to small wedges of less than two inches in length, to achieve the circular shape of the cloak. Hand sewing and piecing was a very long process, taking months of work in my spare time.

Sewing fur pieces
Placing and sewing the fur lining pieces together

The fur lining was assembled in four larger pieces, so that it could be easily handled and attached at the sides for the arm openings. Each piece was lined in linen and the edges were bound. The facings and collar were also lined in linen and the edges bound. The lining pieces were hand sewn into the cloak. The collar was attached at the neck edge, and finally the facings were sewn on at the front.

When I tried on the cloak, I was surprised at the weight of it. The collar seems to work well when worn underneath a ruff.

Trying the cloak on for the first time
Trying on the cloak for the first time.

Finished Appearance and More Work To Do

I am pleased with the lining and the collar, but not with how the front facings turned out. This was due, I believe, to a significant difference in the length of the fur on the four different pelts that had to be attached to make up the required length of the front facing, compounded by how it hangs over the curve of my bust. Even though I carefully cut only the skin, it appears that the fur of the two top pieces was cut as well. It was not, this is just how it separated. I will be taking the front facings apart in the next few weeks and re-piece them based on fur length and texture, rather than just color. I am also planning to reduce the width of the facings at the bottom for a more period-proportional appearance.

This concludes the Research, Costume, and Accessories portion of my exhibit. Comments and feedback are welcome.


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10 Replies to “Art From a Year in Seclusion”

  1. Your scribal work is amazing and I love the fur on that bycocket! Great exhibit – well done, and I’m making a note to read your research paper at a later date (when I have a bit more free time and am not trying to get through as many exhibits as possible before the weekend!)

  2. Annaka,
    Your scribal stuff is AMAZING! All the pieces are beautifully personalized for each recipient (I LOVE the piece you made for me – thank-you), and the bits you picked for the Scribal War piece are so fun! Your scribal versatility is inspiring and after my own heart. Hoping your creativity and energy have returned or will return soon. Myself, I started the lockdown doing all the things and sort of lost myself in late summer – things are coming back around – but oh so slowly.


    1. Thanks so much, I really enjoyed creating your scroll. Master Sven made a stunning metal stand for Sophia’s stone which u just picked up this morning. I’m so looking forward to delivering it to her soon.

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