Monday, January 27, 2014

Susana Dorkus - Order of the Willow

I was given a scroll assignment recently and decided to try my hand at "the real stuff".  I purchased some calf skin vellum and proceeded.

The scroll Assignment:

Recipient: Susanna of Ayreton
MKA: Lauren Elder
Home group:  Ayreton
Willow: For her skills in costuming
From the Court of their Majesties Cellach and Vukasin in their Shire of Wurm Wald, January 25, 2014 at Festival of Maidens.

I began searching for inspiration.  I came across a book in the British Library - The Taymouth Hours.  I decided to use this as a basis of inspiration and do the scroll as if it were an open book with opposing pages.

Here are a couple of the many pages which were used to inspire the scroll.

To further customize the scroll I searched the recipients FB library for some good photos.  Here are a few images of Lauren.

Left: Susanna of Ayerton (AKA Susanna Dorkus)
Right: Honorable Lady Phillipa Montgomery


I have seen Susana in one other dress not depicted in any of her Facebook photos.  The images on her scroll would be an amalgamation of the styles she has worn.

To begin with I did the basic layout to determine what space I would have to work with for the text.  My original intent was to allow for space for the Royal seal and signatures at the bottom.  Later I would find that the current King does not care for the use of seals.  I altered the scroll slightly the day of the event as you will see later.

The ink I used was created by the Honorable Lord Ian the Green.  Please check out his blog for much more information on inks and ink making:  The ink I used was a 12th century style oak gall ink.  This was my first experience using oak gall ink on velum and I must say I loved it.

As you can see I had to use painters tape to hold the vellum down.  Now I understand why the period scribes always had some sort of item in the non-writing hand.  I had to constantly use a pen knife to hold the velum flat while I was writing. It posed a new challenge not encountered when using modern materials.


Once the calligraphy was done I sketched in the design a little darker to begin the inking of the outlines.  (I am not a calligrapher and don't ever anticipate being accused of being one.  I do think my pen is getting better but has a long way to go!)


Basic outlining done, again using the oak gall ink with a metal tipped dip quill pen.

Basic coloring would be done using three colors:  red, blue and a light ocre.  The paints were a gift from Dame Jocelyn Lutterworth.  She indicated that they were Maimeri brand gouache paints.
The red I planned to use was lighted slightly to make is more of a dark pink.  I was hoping that the overall tone of the image would be slightly more feminine that way.  Not sure if that came out in the finished work or not.  When I stand back and look at it, is simply looked red.  :-(

I began doing solid colors using only the red, the blue and the ocre.

Once done I came back in for a second coat for some minimal shading and then added more detail on the characters.  Overall I was very happy with the result with one exception.  I hated the look of the willow badge.  I painted over it a few times but nothing I did made it better, just more paint.  I really wish I had more time to scrape that off completely and rework it from scratch.

Note:  The image on the bottom left was supposed to be a woman sword fighting with a large sewing needle.   There is also a pair of scissors in front of a stash of material.   Apparently I didn't pull that part off so well as two people had to ask me what it was supposed to be.  Bummer.

Lastly I added the white work using a slightly thicker brush and watered down white gouache.


At the event when I found out that the current King/Queen preferred not to use the Royal seal.  I then added a few decorative lines for their signatures to help fill in the space and balance out the overall look.  I think that had I known that the seal would not be used I might have designed the layout a bit differently but overall I am rather pleased with the look.

The following three photos were taken at the event as the scroll was presented.

These images are the property of Diane Peterson-Dover and are displayed here with her permission.

Overall I am rather delighted with my first experience using vellum and oak gall ink.  I really look forward to my next project using the two.  If you are a budding scribe and have not yet tried using the period materials I HIGHLY recommend it.  The ink flows differently but erases very easily.  A simply pen knife removed some mistakes with absolutely no trace.  On artificial velum or Bristol board mistakes are a nightmare to remove.  Dealing with the subtle shapes and textures on the surface of the velum was a challenge but was also a joy.  As a medieval anachronist I felt a lot closer to my craft when using what I knew to be period materials.